Sunday, September 5, 2021

Welcome Robbie Hipkins to Craig & Jay's History of Anything!

 I welcome my son, Robbie Hipkins to Craig & Jay's History of Anything. Robbie is a senior in High School and is an aspiring actor and writer. His first post is Bubba and His Path. I hope you enjoy it!

A Lost Moment In Time: Bubba & his Path

 By Robbie: I can recall many fond memories from my formative years of a dog named Bubba. Bubba was not like most dogs of the modern day. Throughout the dog's entire life he lived and strolled with leisure around a certain quartet of houses where my father lives in North Carolina. I can distinctly remember the first time the dog came barging through the garage door like I was the intruder and this was his house! Indeed, it really was his abode. My dad didn't know it, but he came with the house! The dog lived a life of repetitiveness. His day would consist of going back and forth between four different houses. While visiting these houses he would get his daily dose of food from each of the suckers that lived there. Afterwards, he would most likely go hunt a squirrel or two, or collapse on the floor of whatever house he chose where he would let out a big fart; that would cause people to sometimes, on rare occasions, feel dizzy and faint!! 

 I choose to call this little snippet, Bubba's Path. Bubba, as long as I have been a resident at Hillside Drive, had always been there. It was as if he were a permanent resident that belonged to this street, and if removed would cause chaos and unbalance. I used to think: what is going to happen when the great Bubba finally dies? Could it be that Bubba is beyond death? That's impossible, I used to think, he has to die. He is an old dog! Probably as old as me and I am only a teenager! Finally, one day my question was answered. After almost a week of not seeing Bubba, my family and I began to get worried about what happened to the dog. We were told by our next door neighbors that Bubba had to be put down, because of the amount of pain he was in. At first, this made me cry, and it still does a little to this very day. The great Bubba of Hillside will no longer take his path around the quartet of houses on Hillside Drive. He has taken his final journey. Time has stopped ticking in his world. However, the memory is not gone. For as long as there are those alive that remember Bubba, he will not easily enter into the realm of oblivion. Nevertheless, one day, after living memory passes there will be no one to remember him; a big, friendly black dog with a full belly who left his mark. On that day, the only memory of Bubba would be if one happened to catch a glimpse of a ghostly canine strolling down the street, forever on his path.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Elements of Time: Ripley's Comic Digest # 1

 By Craig: I have been collecting things since I was a small boy. My twin brother Jay was the same way. We collected baseball cards, stamps, coins, running medals and ribbons and of course, comic books. I can remember the excitement of waiting for the next issue of The Unexpected, or the House of Mystery to be released. We would ride our bikes to the next town where there was a small bookstore and check to see if the latest issue had arrived. We would also canvass the local flea market (Rietta Ranch in Hubbardston MA) and sometimes find old back issues of comics for a nickel or a dime. Some of these comics were in rough shape, with detached staples or simply missing the covers completely. We did not care. We were interested in the content inside of them. We would read anything that we could get our hands on that was interesting to us. Sometime during the summer of 1979, Jay and I found a table at the flea market that had a box of old comic books that peeked our interest. Inside the box were two old comic digests from the early 1970s. One of them was Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery and the other one was Ripley's Believe it or Not! Of course, we had to have them and I do not even remember how much we paid for them. A quarter a piece perhaps? We were only 10 years old and in those days, a quarter was worth a lot more than it is today, especially for a kid. I can remember the day well. We brought them back to our house and took turns reading them. 

At some point, I don't remember when, the Boris Karloff digest disappeared. It must have been years ago, as I do not recall having seen it since I was a kid. My brother Jay kept the Ripley's digest until his death 3 years ago and it now resides with the rest of my comic books on a bookcase in my bedroom. As you can tell from the image above, this comic is well read. In fact, it is so well read that it appears that we almost devoured it! I picked it up just recently and read it again. The back cover is gone, swallowed by the ravages of time, or perhaps my brother mixed it with his oatmeal and ate it. Surprisingly, I still remember most of the stories in the book. There is the tale about old Simon who carry's his weighted sins in a large bag on his back. He is the subject of ridicule by the townspeople who throw rocks at him and mock him as he passes through. He is eventually murdered by a scoundrel named Langley who believes that Simon is carrying gold and silver in the bag. What Langley does not realize is that he is now destined to carry the bag weighted with his own sins. Another tale tells the story of Mary Walker who is murdered by two men in 1631 and convicted on the testimony of a ghost! Then there is the story of a French officer named Steingal who is warned of his impending death in battle by a dream. The last few pages of this story have been torn out of the digest. Did my brother add those to his oatmeal? I can still see my twin brother pedaling down the road in front of me, sometimes standing in the stirrups as he coasts down a hill with his wavy red hair blowing in the wind. He turns around and smiles.  

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Existentialism, Martin Heidegger & Sein Und Zeit

By Craig: I am a cynic. I find it hard to believe anything without proof and even then I am dubious. I am currently plugging through Martin Heidegger's Sein Und Zeit. It is a book about 'existence' and 'the state of being.' I can only read so much of it before laying it down and picking up something else, but, nevertheless, it is fascinating. What is time? How does it relate to existence and life? I have been asking myself this question since I was a little boy.

If one turns on the news today, it is fraught with danger, warnings and other unpleasant things. It is mere observation of events that are existing or not existing relative to the temporal state of ones own existence. One own existence is an aberration. A fleeting moment in time. Macbeth said it best and I quote:
              Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and                 then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This is nihilism in its finest moment. But, thankfully, nihilism in its true, pure, and unfettered form cannot ever exist. Even as I examine the words that I just typed, it dies before it ever has a chance to live. The reason for this, is that existence itself is based on awareness. Without awareness or consciousness nothing can truly exist. Matter itself becomes irrelevant and meaningless just as the words that I just typed and the contradictions that I just found by reading them. Are we not all contradictions? Each day we plod onward toward a future that will one day be swallowed up by time's perpetual and infinite corridor, yet we continue to move along the linear plane as if we had some stake in it. The future, as a term and concept, is meaningless and at the same time isn't. How can this be? Infinity makes time meaningless. It is the one constant, the numerator and the denominator divided by zero.

"Where am I going with this? I do not know. I am still waiting for Godot to meet me at the tree of existence and tell me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Lost moment in time: Rudolph Zallinger & the Dumpy Dinosaurs

By Craig: I have always had a fascination with things prehistoric. When I was four years old my parents bought me and my twin brother Jay a Marx Dinosaur playset for Christmas. The dinosaurs came in three colors; mint green, white, and chocolate brown. I can remember memorizing the names of the dinosaurs and setting them up on the coffee table in my grandfather's den. Usually we would split them up, sometimes I would have the green ones and my brother would have the white ones or the brown ones. We would form them up in battle lines as if they were human armies. The anachronistic cavemen that came with the set would never fare well. They would almost always be the first victims of the battle. Sometimes, however, the dinosaurs themselves might speak and instead of fighting would band together to form a civilized society. The Tyrannosaurus Rex would team up with the Hadrosaurus, Stegosaurus and Dimetrodon to form an alliance against the killer canine that would take the form of my grandfather's dog Charlie. One day, the mint green Tyrannosaurus disappeared and my brother and I searched high and wide for him to no avail. Then, one day the following spring we found him in the tall grass in the back yard. He had become the savage victim of Charlie's canines! Or perhaps it was our dog Coco that chewed him up. It must have been an undignified and humiliating experience for T-Rex to be reduced to an unrecognizable mass of plastic by the teeth of an evolved mammal!

One day my father brought home a book Willy Ley's "Worlds of the Past" illustrated by Rudolph F. Zallinger. We must have been 5 or 6 when we received it and my brother and I devoured it. We were enthralled by the illustrations. There was Elasmosaurus with its long neck and sharp serrated teeth looking like the top of the food chain in the ancient Cretaceous sea. Pteranodon's flying like birds over a choppy sea hunting for food while a Mosasaur waits for a chance to snag one within its crocodile like mouth. Two Tyrannosaurs fight over the bloody carcass of a freshly killed Hadrosaur while volcanoes erupt in the background. Then there is the massive Diplodocus that peers behind him, possibly sensing the approaching danger of a pack of Allosaurs. All of these illustrations left vivid imprints in my mind and nearly a half a century after first seeing them they are still there.

My brother Jay also enjoyed the work of Zallinger and even procured a copy of his "The Age of Reptiles." The original is in the Yale Peabody museum in Connecticut. He also was able to somehow acquire a Zallinger autograph which I now have and proudly keep in my library. In the last 75 years since Zallinger was painting his prehistoric murals paleontologists have come a long way in determining what the dinosaurs were really like. Zallinger portrayed them as slow, lumbering creatures that plodded along through the Mesozoic like present day Americans after gorging on cheeseburgers and super sized fries and soft drinks. The thinking now is that they were not at all slow, torpid creatures, but very energetic and even acrobatic!

I still have my copy of Worlds of the Past and every now and again open it up and get almost as much enjoyment looking at it today as I did 45 years ago. The crayon marks are still visible from when either me or my brother decided that it was a good idea to scribble in the book. One day I will pass it on to my son, who will hopefully pass it on to his kids and eventually the original owner along with the memories will be long forgotten in the dark recess' of time.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Lost moment in time: Lepidodendron & the Hubbardston Library.

By Craig: I say the word often. Sometimes I might go a few months without it rolling off my tongue, but it always comes back. It has always been like that. At least since I first saw the word when I was about 8 years old. I must have struggled with it at first. L-e-p-i-d-o-d-e-n-d-r-o-n. Numerous syllables and not a word that an average adult would know, never mind an 8 year old. But I was different. I had an obsession with certain things that I found interesting. I had to know all about something, or learn as much as I could about the subject that interested me. In this case it wasn't so much the word Lepidodendron as the artists rendition of what Lepidodendron was.

When I was in third grade our class would walk to the library next to the school in Hubbardston Massachusetts. I would immediately gravitate to the science or history section. There were a number of books that interested me and I would find myself flipping the pages of these books and immersing myself in the pictures and captions below them. I was particularly intrigued with one book in particular. It was called The Forest. It was one of the books in the Life Nature Library, a series of books written for young adults, or merely any lay person interested in a subject and wanting to get a better understanding of it without diving into too much technical jargon. Perfect for me. I am not a scholar and never will be. I get bored with one subject and eventually turn to something else. However, I always find myself going back to the same things. Case in point...Lepidodendron.

So, what is Lepidodendron? The casual reader probably doesn't have the foggiest notion what it is. I bet if my 8 year old self could return to his classroom of 1976 or 1977 and ask any of the teachers if they knew what Lepidodendron was I would get some puzzled looks. In the golden days of fossil hunting, strange stones were found in the coal beds that appeared to show the fossilized skin of an ancient reptile. However, it wasn't long before it was determined that the scale like fossils were not anything from the animal kingdom. They were the fossilized impressions of ancient trees that lived in the Carboniferous Era some 300 million years ago. Hence the name Lepidodendron. Literally meaning "scale tree." These trees were prolific and dominated the ancient swampy forests of the Carboniferous sharing their world with giant dragonflies and other primitive life. Lepidodendron trees rose to heights of nearly 100 feet and though prolific for millions of years, they eventually died out and became extinct sometime during the Triassic.

I must have checked The Forest out of the Hubbardston town library dozens of times in the 6 years that I attended elementary school. One of the images that I clearly remembered from this book was an artists depiction of a Permian forest with the scale like fallen trunks of Lepidodendron in the foreground and a rainbow arcing across the ancient sky. I must have studied that image every time that I borrowed that book. I left grade school in 1980 and forgot about the book. However, over the next 35 years or so I would occasionally find myself saying the word Lepidodendron. Sometimes it would just roll off my tongue for no apparent reason, and I wondered why it would just pop into my head at random times. Walking across a muddy Okinawan field with the Marines in 1987...Lepidodendron. A few years later in 1993 working on a train signal...Lepidodendron. In Paris on my honeymoon in 1997...Lepidodendron. The birth of my son in 2003...Lepidodendron. At the bedside of my terminally ill twin brother Jay in 2018...Lepidodendron. Just now...Lepidodendron. Am I the only one who does this?

A few years ago Jay received a box of books from someone, and in it there just happened to be a few of the old Nature Library books including The Forest!! I had not seen this book in nearly 35 years and suddenly here it was again. It brought back a flood of memories and when I opened it up I was 8 again. I found myself sitting alone at one of the tables in the Hubbardston town library. It was then that I realized what it was about Lepidodendron that caused it to stick in my head. It was extinct! For millions of years it had been forgotten as if it never existed. Then one day the fossils that were found brought it back to life. One day Lepidodendron will disappear again. This time for good, just as humankind. the earth, the sun and the whole galaxy will one day vanish into the recesses of time's lonely corridor. It is an unsettling thought, but I must have imagined something like it when I first stared at its lonely and forgotten life in the pages of  a book some 40 years ago. Now I remember. One day I too, like Lepidodendron, will be forgotten. I find myself looking up from the page at a blank space on the wall and then casually looking back at the fallen trunks. Lepidodendron... Lepidodendron...Lepidodendron...

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Lost Moment in Time: Walter Johnson & the Baseball that Circled the Globe

By Craig: I watched some of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros which finished up recently. To be honest with you I just couldn't get into it. First of all the games are on way too late for me. They don't start until after 8:00pm and sometimes don't finish up until after midnight. I am an early riser. I am often awake at 430am and going to bed after midnight does not fit into my schedule. Second of all, I find it hard to get into watching any professional sports these days. I don't know if it is all the money involved in it, or if it is the arrogance that some of the players present that turns me off. Maybe it is a combination of both. Not to say that these problems didn't lurk around in the past, but all the same, sports has lost its mystique with me.

The World Series did, however, bring to the surface of my mind something that I had not thought about since I was a child. My grandfather was a huge baseball fan and especially a lover of the  Boston Red Sox. However, he had a vast amount of knowledge about the history of the sport in his head that he enjoyed passing on to me and my twin brother. Some of the things that came out of his mouth, however, were totally absurd. He was a master storyteller and we would sit there for hours listening to his stories or “dreams” as he called them. He would always start one of the tales off with the phrase “I had a dream!” He would then start into the tale which was most of the time something that he would think up on the spur of the moment, but sometimes he would insert real historical figures into the tale. He would also tell us that the tales were real life events that actually occurred at a remote time in his past. During the summer of 1976 we were staying at a cottage at Wells Beach on the southern Maine coast. My grandparents came to visit us one weekend and of course my brother and I were thrilled because it meant that my grandfather was there to tell us his “dreams.”

I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was almost eight years old. My brother and I started collecting things the previous year. I think it started out with bottle caps. We would scour the roadsides looking for them and were always thrilled when we came across a rare one that we had never seen before. Our collection grew and then we found comic books and baseball cards. This was back in the day when a kid could ride his bike down to the corner store and buy a comic book, pack of cards, a candy bar and a drink for under a dollar. I can remember one day I opened up a pack of cards and found one that was different from the rest. It was a black and white image of an old ball player named Walter Johnson that played for the Washington Senators in the early part of the 20th century. I had never heard about him, or the team that he played for which did not exist anymore. I took the card to Maine with me and showed it to my grandfather. His face lit up and I knew that another yarn was going to come from his mouth.
"Walter Johnson," he said. "Was the greatest pitcher to ever play baseball."
We were sitting on the porch at our cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He pointed out at the sea and told us that Walter Johnson's arm was so strong that he once threw a baseball clear across the ocean and it landed in Ireland. I can remember thinking to myself that this was quite an impossibility, but at the same time imagining that it really did happen. However, my brother and I were quite unprepared for what he told us next. He told us that Walter Johnson could throw a baseball so fast that he once threw one at such a rate that it went into orbit around the earth. "Believe it or not." he said. "It is still traveling around the world over 50 years later." He told us that some times on a clear night you might see it streaking across the sky like a meteor.

I can remember looking up at the sky and searching for it, not really believing that I would see it, but at the same time hoping that I would. Even today when I look up on a cool crisp evening and see a meteor flashing across the heavens, I think of Walter Johnson's blazing fastball, and my grandfather's absurd but magical tale of an impossibility fit only for the realm of mystical imagination.