Post 468: miscellany

foot 1972

Why not? So I took a photo of my left foot!


beethovenstrasse backdoor showing rathaus 1971

Kaiserslautern, 1971: You can see the Stadt Kaiserslautern Rathaus from the Beethovenstrasse apartment. It is a concrete (pun intended!) expression of the Kaiserslautern slogan of the time, “Was neues in West ist.” [“What’s new in the West.] A handsome, imposing building, it was built on the site of a castle overlooking the town. The citizens of Kaiserslautern are justifiably proud of this striking and modern building. Even after nearly half a century, it’s “lookin’ good”!


I had good grades in school so got to take Project English, an honors curriculum in which we studied the Transcendentalist writers of the 19th Century. It was heady stuff for 11th graders, and we were spoiled for life with the idealism and Puritan certainty of it all. I know. I’ve talked with classmates who’ve confessed to still having their copies of Emerson’s essays and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. It matched well the Zeitgeist of the 1960s.



We had an excellent teacher for the class, but he fell ill. The substitute teacher (also very good) got to cover a section in which we learned about evanescence. To demonstrate the concept in a memorable way, she placed a rosebud in a vase on her desk. The rosebud had just one purpose: to evanesce! But it didn’t. 🙂

On the other hand, half a century later, I remember the experiment and the meaning of the word. Our teacher made the point, even though the rosebud experiment was a failure.

Post 462: “Are you up!?”

I noticed in Facebook my friend Ralph’s birthday was yesterday. I looked at my brother and said, “That’s odd. I thought Ralph’s birthday was July 10th…!” After a pregnant moment, I thought out loud, “Oh! This is July!”

What can I say? I’m nearly two-thirds of a century old and the inexorable process of entropy has robbed me of some of my, um, “mental acuity”! 🙂

In 1971, I think it was, Ralph and Deborah came to Kaiserslautern on a visit. They’d been great hosts when I visited Paris, so I wanted them to have an equally memorable visit to Germany. One day trip we made was to Heidelberg, where we climbed the hill to Schloss Heidelberg.

ralph tim deborah doug Schloss Heidelberg 1971

The foot scene above is from the climb to Schloss Heidelberg with Ralph, Deborah, and army friend and Beethovenstrasse roommate Tim. We were strong. We were fun. We were playful. We wanted to have a different way to remember our day trip to that city. I believe Deborah proposed the idea above. My big foot is in the foreground. Counter clockwise, the feet belong to Ralph, Deborah, and Tim.

Then, on a trip to Paris — the one Tim was able to take with me — Tim, Ralph, and I stopped by an Alsatian bar (best beer!) Ralph liked for ambience and product. Low light, slow ASA 100 black and white film — this was 1971, I think — and this surreal scene revealed itself to us all.

alsatian brasserie tim and ralph paris 1971

I also took a photo of the proprietor, a happy Alsatian who insisted I take his photo, too. He was an institution there and a camera ham, so the proprietor’s photo turned out heroic: “Noble barman at the helm of his bar, awaiting the next onslaught of thirsty patrons demanding perfectly pulled draughts of tasty Alsatian beer…!”

I suppose I could post the proprietor’s photo with no issues, but I am hesitant to post anything with recognizable people without their permission.

Anyway, the point and purpose of this entry today is to honor the birthday of a well-tested friend, someone responsible for many of the happiest times in my life, if not a few of the more horrific…. Given my age, he must be a real antique by now!

Ha! Just kidding, Ralph! I love you and cherish our friendship so much I hope I die before you so I don’t have to know a world where you aren’t there, waiting to ask that famous (infamous) question that always lead to adventures of a life time, “Are you up!?”

Post 459: 69th Signal Company (Photo)

Between July 2, 1970, and November 30, 1972, I was a motion picture photographer assigned to the 69th Signal Company (Photo), Kleber Kaserne, Kaiserslautern, Germany. All military units seem to have their slogans, expressions of their pride and esprit de corps. The 69th Signal’s was: “If it’s photo, forget it,” and “Our best is none too good”.

Mostly, though, we were seriously good at what we did, and the slogans were satirical commentary on the goofiness of these slogans. We collected them during our travels to other units, and they were a source of a chuckle or two!

The 16mm Arriflex camera in this photo is  like the one I used.

The 16mm Arriflex camera in this photo is like the one I used.

Twice, we motion picture photographers took tours of the Munich factory where Arriflex motion picture cameras are made. That was extremely instructive and fun. We enjoyed the chance to see how our cameras were made, and to let the men responsible know how much we loved to use their cameras! Besides, they served us breakfast…with beer! What gracious hosts! 😉

When we weren’t on assignment, the photographers hid out on the soundstage. If our first sergeant looked like he needed a detail to clean up or buff floors, we made sure we had busy work (finishing captions sheets to include with our exposed film, loading film magazines, unloading film magazines, heading out for the morning or afternoon break at the PX snack bar…) to avoid such nonsense.

Soundstage at the 69th Signal Company (Photo), with "busy" photographer in chair.

Soundstage at the 69th Signal Company (Photo), with “busy” photographer in chair.

Sometimes busy work that was more fun came up, and one tried to be available for that: picking up the mail, abusing the Wednesday afternoon PT requirement by organizing 10 speed tours of the area (and stopping for beer and heavy German meals at different Gasthofs), and escorting fellow company members with bad attitudes and incarceration in their future or past to and from the lock up in Mannheim.That gave us an excuse to sign out a Jeep and wear a 45 in a cool holster, for example…!

Remember, America! You paid for this! On the other hand, the 69th Signal Company (Photo) was disbanded at some time after I was there. Kleber Kaserne (or the buildings) still are there, and the link gives a bit of history on the installation. I lived in the building (shown in the small photo in the link) with the bell tower. There was no clock in it at the time, but it since has been remodelled and a clock reinstalled.

Post 456: a walk in the Pfaelzerwald, south of Kaiserslautern, 1971

I was in the US Army between 1969-1972, stationed in Kaiserslautern with the 69th Signal Company (Photo). I lived with a couple of my army buddies for a short time in an apartment on Beethovenstrasse, our way to relieve us of army routine and to immerse ourselves a bit in the local culture.

While in that Beethovenstrasse apartment, I had friends visit from Paris — Ralph and Deborah — who’d hosted one of my army buddies and me or just me different times at their home in Paris, then Strasbourg.

I suggested we take a walk in the lovely Pfaelzerwald, south of Kaiserslautern. It was during that walk Ralph discovered the possible home of German elves.

Ralph examines a mound in the Pfaelzerwald for evidence of little people habitation...!

Ralph examines a mound in the Pfaelzerwald for evidence of little people…!

In case a little person popped up, we surrounded our friend to defend him against abduction into the dark hole…

Scary! Has to be occupado!

Scary! Has to be occupado!

Fortunately, Ralph leaped back in time. Highlighted in the circle, pointed to with an arrow, is my proof of little people — elf! — habitation of this mound!

elf house up close elf highlighted

OMG! I see more and more faces in the mound and above it, not just the one I highlighted! Ralph was in great peril, much greater than we realized at the time!

Whew! I think the German government put a bounty on elves shortly after this photo was taken, and it now is safe to walk in the Pfaelzerwald.

Shinji Kasahara, victim of the dreaded peace sign!

You learned elsewhere that I was a US Army Motion Picture Photographer in the early 1970s, stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

In that job, I travelled to many places in Europe to film NATO exercises, missile firings, joint German-American Volksfests, “hometowners” (short films of individual soldiers doing their army job, that got sent to a television station in or near their hometown), and miscellaneous “stuff”.

These films my teammates and I made we shipped to an army facility in Alabama to be processed, which sent a print to the Pentagon to be critiqued. The print of the films and the Pentagon critiques came back in a few weeks to the 69th Signal Co. (Photo), my home company, for us to view and learn where we did well or needed improvement. Arrival of the critique prints was a great lot of fun!

We had general rules of what not to show in our films. No one drinking alcohol (unless at a Volksfest!), chewing gum, or smoking. No horseplay. Nothing that reflected poorly on the US Army, such as out-of-uniform soldiers. (We were, in a sense, making propaganda films for the US Army, of course.) AND, the biggest bugaboo: NO ONE FLIPPING THE PEACE SIGN! This was the Vietnam War era.

Watching Shinji Kasahara’s latest video, a 29 minute visit to Seattle, with lots of his cats edited in (his main video output is wonderful cat videos), I had a flashback:

Scene from Shinji Kasahara's Seattle visit video: On the streets of Seattle.

Scene from Shinji Kasahara’s Seattle visit video: On the streets of Seattle.

Watch the woman coming up from behind!

"You cow! You just ruined the shot!"

“You cow! You just ruined the shot!”

I couldn’t believe the woman flashed the peace sign! In my army days, that snippet of action would ruin a scene, necessitating reshooting it or making sure the caption notes we enclosed with the undeveloped film included reference to the unplanned peace sign in scene such-and-such! Not to note the peace sign got a bad review. To cover for the peace sign meant extra time CYA-ing oneself in the paperwork so the Pentagon reviewers didn’t get the idea you purposefully staged the peace sign “incident”. LOL!

Over 40 years after my time as an army motion picture photographer, I still got a chill when the woman flipped the peace sign!

I’m sweating now thinking of it. I could use a few Japanese cat videos to relax. Hey! Shinji Kasahara makes great cat videos. He’s Japanese! Maybe you’d like a taste of them, too:

…or, for the more adventuresome with 29 minutes to spare, here’s the infamous Seattle peace sign video:

There! I feel cool and relaxed again thanks to Shinji Kasahara and his cats!