Images of the Twin Towers in Cinema

Reposted from Sept. 11, 2011.

Twin Towers in movies

Before 9/11, the silhouette of the twin towers of the World Trade Center were one of the quickest ways movie makers had of establishing that we were looking at the NYC skyline.  Here’s a beautiful collection of WTC skylines edited by Dan Meth from more than 30 years of the movies that I found on Mediaite.

Twin Tower Cameos from Dan Meth on Vimeo.

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A Motorcycle Ride to the United 93 Memorial on a Rainy Summer Day

This has nothing to do with the media. It’s a brief story about a ride I took on my motorcycle to the United 93 Memorial on a rainy June day back in 2004. It was written shortly after I had recovered from a fairly serious illness, and I was happy just to be back on the road. I’ve taken to posting every year on 9/11.

Me and my old KLRTook a short ride last Saturday. The distance wasn’t much, under 200 miles, but I went through two centuries of time, ideas, and food. Which felt really good after having been ill for the last month-and-a-half.

Headed out of Morgantown about 7:30 a.m. on I68. Stopped at Penn Alps for breakfast. Nice thing about being on insulin is that I can include a few more carbs in my diet these days. Pancakes, yum! (Penn Alps, if you don’t know, runs a great Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast buffet on weekends that is well worth riding to. Just outside of Grantsville, MD.)

Then off on the real purpose of the trip. Up US 219 toward the Flight 93 Sept. 11 memorial. The ride up north on 219 is beautiful; I’ve ridden it before. I always like when you come around the bend and see the turbines for the wind farm. Some people see them as an eye sore; for me they’re a potential energy solution and a dramatic sight. Chalk one up for industrial can be beautiful.

Continue on up to Berlin, PA, where I take off on PA 160 into Pennsylvania Dutch country. I start seeing hex signs painted on bright red barns, or even hung as a wooden sign. Not quite cool enough to put on my electric vest, but certainly not warm. Then it’s heading back west on a county/state road of indeterminate designation.

Now I’m into even more “old country” country. There’s a horse-and-buggy caution sign. Off to the left there’s a big farmstead with long dark-colored dresses hanging from the line, drying in the air. They may not stay dry, based on what the clouds look like.

The irony of this ride hits pretty hard. I’m on my way to a memorial of the violence and hatred of the first shot of the 21st century world war, and I’m traveling through country that is taking me further and further back into the pacifist world of the 19th century Amish and Mennonites.

A turn or two more, following the map from the National Parks web site, and I’m on a badly scared, narrow road that is no wider and not in as good of shape as the local rail trail. (Reminds me why I like my KLR!)

It’s only here that I see the first sign for the memorial. No one can accuse the locals of playing up the nearby memorial. Perhaps more flags and patriotic lawn ornaments than usual, but no strident statements. And then the memorial is off a half-mile ahead.

The crash site is to the south, surrounded by chain-link fencing. No one but families of the victims are allowed in that area. Off a small parking area is the temporary memorial, in place until the National Park Service can build the permanent site. There’s a 40-foot long chain-link wall where people have posted remembrences, plaques on the ground ranging from hand-painted signs on sandstone, to an elaborately etched sign on granite from a motorcycle group. The granite memorial is surrounded by motorcycle images.

The messages are mostly lonely or affirming. Statements of loss, statements of praise for the heroism of the passengers and crew. But not statements of hatred. It reminds me in many ways of the Storm King Mountain firefighter memorial. Not the formal one in Glenwood Springs, but the individual ones out on the mountain where more than a dozen wildland firefighters died several years ago.

It’s time to head home. When I go to join up with US 30, it’s starting to spit rain, so I pull out the rain gloves, button down the jacket, and prepare for heading home. It rains almost the whole way back PA 281, but I stay mostly dry in my Darien. The only problem is the collar of my too-big jacket won’t close far enough, and water dribbles down inside. It reminds me that riding in the rain, if it isn’t coming down too hard, can be almost pleasant, isolated away inside a nylon and fiberglass cocoon.

I’m home before 1 p.m.. I’ve ridden less than 200 miles. But I’ve ridden through a couple of centuries of people’s thoughts, actions, and food. And I’m finally back on the bike.

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UPDATED – Media Stories From Hurricane Harvey

Getting news out from Hurricane is a massive effort.  Here are a few stories about those struggles:

  • UPDATE – How Houston Chronicle is covering home-town flooding / Why Local News Matters
  • News can arrive through mobile phone video transmitted over network television.
    Phones can go where TV cameras can’t.
  • Reporters don’t check their humanity at the door when they are covering stories. They can’t help becoming part of the story



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“Let Freedom Ring…” ‘I have a dream’ speech was 54 years ago today

“And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

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It’s not a surprise when Trump reverts to form (or any politician for that matter)

A tweetstorm I sent out this morning in reaction to an NPR podcast. Please note that this is a rant on how we cover politicians, not about the president in particular.

But today was a bit disappointed. Ran decent story about Trump rally in Arizona. /2
8/23/17, 8:50 AM
Reporter expressed surprise that @realDonaldTrump pivoted back from “serious rhetoric of Monday’s speech to rambling campaign rhetoric. /3
8/23/17, 8:51 AM
How on earth can Trump reverting to crowd-pleasing off-script speech be a surprise? /4
8/23/17, 8:52 AM
Trump can present a speech written for him in a serious tone. Shown this on several occasions. This is not new nor news. /5
8/23/17, 8:54 AM
But neither is the fact that he returns to his campaign-style speech patterns afterwards. This is absolutely predictable. Not a surprise/6
8/23/17, 8:55 AM
Reporters – The best indication of what a politician will do in the future is what he/she has done in the past. /7
8/23/17, 8:57 AM
Politicians reverting to form is not a surprise. It is expected. /8
8/23/17, 8:57 AM
Hey, @UpFirst, I love you guys. And I realize I’m making a big deal out of something small. But this actually is important. /9
8/23/17, 8:59 AM
No matter how you feel about @realDonaldTrump, he is who he is. And when he reverts to form, it is not a surprise. /fin
8/23/17, 9:00 AM
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When Nature Puts On The Really Big Show – Total Eclipse on the Prairie

Total eclipse of the sun this afternoon in Kearney, Nebraska.

Total eclipse of the sun this afternoon in Kearney, Nebraska.

The total eclipse of the sun in Kearney, Nebraska this afternoon was absolutely stunning.

You could see hundreds of copies of the eclipse courtesy of the pinholes in the tree leaves on campus.

You didn’t need any fancy equipment to see the images. Just look down and see the pinhole images provided by the trees.

Panoramic photo of crowd for the eclipse today on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.

Lots of high school and college students showed up, as did people from the community.

Lots of work by volunteers and catering staff to get that many people fed!

The university had plenty of people to give tours on campus, so I spent my non-watching time working on getting hot dogs into buns and wrapped in foil, ready to serve.

Your author at the eclipse.

Twenty minutes and 17 seconds to totality.

What a great day for our community and university.  We had thousands of guests on campus today.  Making the Great American Eclipse Watch Party work properly on campus took a huge effort by staff, faculty and volunteers.  Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.Hope everyone else had as much fun as I did.

And one final note….

There’s been lots of talk lately about what makes science be science.  That discussion goes way beyond the competency of this blog, but I would note that one big thing science can do is make predictions of what will happen.  And we can judge the quality of the science by the accuracy of the prediction.  Here’s a tweet from historian Michael Beschloss highlighting an article from the New York Times in 1932 that mentioned today’s eclipse:

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The story of stolpersteine lives on

Last week I finally got to writing a blog post I got the idea for back in January from a series of e-mails I exchanged with my archaeology professor Dr. David Gradwohl.  The post looked at the ongoing story about Anne Frank, recent archaeological research in Poland, and the stolpersteine (or stumbling stone) memorials to those murdered during the holocaust.

Then this morning a Facebook post from Prof. Bonnie Stewart at Cal State – Fullerton gave me my second look at these stolpersteine in less than a week.  The story from NPR’s Code Switch blog looks at how last week’s white nationalist/ne0-nazi protests in Charlottesville, VA looked to someone currently living in Berlin.

NPR reporter Maggie Penman writes that Germany has managed to find a way to both remember Germany’s role in World War II without seeking to glorify its Nazi past:

Often the argument for preserving Confederate statues and allowing Confederate flags is that we should not forget our history. In Germany, Nazi buildings are extremely hard to come by — nearly all have been destroyed. Yet Germany certainly has not forgotten anything: There’s just a recognition that remembering and memorializing are two different things.

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Remembering Anne Frank – How her story lives on long after her death

Anne Frank, 1941

It was 75 years ago this summer that a young Jewish girl named Anne Frank started keeping a diary in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.  During the course of her diary, the teen ager would be forced into hiding in a small, secret apartment over a jam warehouse.  On Aug. 1, 1944, she made her final entry, just days before her family was discovered by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps where Anne, her mother and her sister all died.  But Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived, and so did Anne’s diary.

The book has become a standard part of how American young people learn about the Holocaust through the eyes of someone who could have been their peer.

My family and I visited the secret annex where Anne and her family hid in Amsterdam on Easter Sunday in the spring of 2008 while we were visiting our eldest who was on student exchange in Germany for the year.  Here’s an excerpt of what my wife, Pam, wrote about the visit:

“Easter Sunday we took the train to Amsterdam and visited the Anne Frank house. Erik had gotten us tickets on the Internet so we could bypass the long lines waiting in the falling snow.

“A videotaped interview with Otto Frank played as the queue filed through the last of the cramped twisty quarters. His words still resonate. He spoke of his daughter being a ‘typical’ teenager. I marveled that I never knew the ‘house’ where the Franks and others hid was actually quarters above a jam warehouse. It wasn’t important to Anne so she didn’t feel the need to mention it. I tried to imagine what life must have been like, especially for the children, never being able to go outside or make noise during the day for fear of exposure. Otto Frank spoke of what an ordinary teenager she was, and that’s what made her so extraordinary.

“Anne Frank was somebody’s daughter. She could be cantankerous and fight with her mother and sister and dream of kissing a boy. She didn’t get to grow up. She didn’t get to see the world.”

A pendant that appears to be almost identical to one that belonged to Anne Frank (Yoram Haimi, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Anne’s impact on the world has not diminished over the decades.  This last January a pendant was found by archaeologists at the Sobibor Polish death camp. The pendant said Mazal Tov in Hebrew, had the date July 7, 1929, and the location “Frankfurt A.M.” According to a database of people who were deported during the Holocaust, the pendant might have belonged to Karoline Cohn, a Jewish girl born in Frankfurt on that date.

The thing that makes this pendant particularly interesting is that Anne Frank had one almost identical to it – the only difference being that Anne’s had her birthday on it – three weeks apart from Karoline’s. Might the two girls have known each other? That’s a question researchers will try to establish.

Your blogger with Dr. David Gradwohl from a recent visit.

The story fascinated me because I’ve got a lasting interest not only in Anne Frank, but also in archaeology.  In fact, I double majored in journalism and anthropology (emphasis archaeology) as an undergrad.  So when I saw this story, I passed it on to my archaeology professor Dr. David Gradwohl, now retired from Iowa State.  While David grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, his lovely wife Hanna was born in Nazi Germany, and her family escaped to Lincoln in 1937. Here’s what David had to say to me about the pendant story:

Interestingly enough, I heard about this from a German acquaintance, Ute Müller, who has visited Sobibor several times.  On her most recent visit to that infamous site, she spoke with the Polish and Israeli archaeologists who were excavating the site.  They showed her that metal tag which they had just found the day before her visit!  She did some research and helped identify the owner of the tag, Karoline Cohn, a young girl who had lived in Frankfurt am Main.

Hanna Rosenberg Gradwohl saying goodbye to her grandparents, Hedwig and Benno Rosenberg in 1937.

O.K. the web gets even more tightly woven.  Ute Müller is the daughter of Hans Bruno Venema who, in 1942, was a boy living in Frankfurt in the same apartment house as Hanna’s paternal grandparents (Benno and Hedwig Rosenberg) and great uncle (Julius Speyer).  Hans Bruno remembered Hanna’s grandparents and great uncle, who were “deported” from Frankfurt in 1942 and sent to Theresienstadt.  Julius was murdered there.  Benno and Hedwig were sent on to Treblinka and murdered there.  In the letters we are translating/getting translated, Benno, Hedwig, and Julius mention the Venema family, and especially Hans Bruno’s little sister Bärbel who reminded them of Hanna, their granddaughter whom they would never see again.  As you know, Hanna was born in Germany in 1935 and escaped with her parents to Lincoln, NE, in 1937.

In 2015, Hans Bruno Venema sponsored the setting of “stolpersteine” in Frankfurt, in memory of Benno, Hedwig, and Julius.

So, what is a stolpersteine? We’ll let Hanna explain with her article published in the Omaha Jewish Press:

Since 1995, the German artist Gunter Demnig has been crafting and setting “Stolpersteine” in memory of civilians murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The term “Stolpersteine” literally means “stumbling blocks.”

Demnig selected this designation because in pre-World War I Germany, it was a custom for non-Jews, if they stumbled along a cobblestone-paved street, to say, “There must be a Jew buried here.”

A stolpersteine created to remember Anne Frank.

These memorials consist of concrete blocks, approximately four inches square, covered with a sheet of brass. On these brass plates, Demnig stamps the words “Hier wohnte” (here lived), the name of the victim, his or her birth date, date of deportation, and place and date the victim was murdered by the Nazis. If possible, the Stolpersteine are placed flush with the sidewalk in front of the last place the individual voluntarily resided.

Demnig set the first Stolpersteine in the city of Cologne in 1995. Since then, over 50,000 of these memorials have been installed, primarily in Germany, but also in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Norway, and the Czech Republic. Although most of the Stolpersteine have been set in memory of Jews, Demnig has also installed these memorials for other victims of the Holocaust.

On Sunday, May 17, 2015, Gunter Demnig set three Stolpersteine in Frankfurt, Germany, in memory of my paternal grandparents, Bernhard “Benno” Rosenberg and Hedwig Speyer Rosenberg, and my great uncle, Julius Speyer.

It is fascinating to me how often Anne Frank’s legacy keeps popping up in my research. Several years ago I wrote a post about the Anne Frank graphic novel biography published back in 2010 as well as about an updated edition of her diary.  (Earlier editions left out some of the unkind things Anne said about her mother and some details about Anne discovering her sexuality.)

These are stories that live on; they are not just history, they continue to be part of our lives today.

Thank you, Hanna and David, for letting me share your stories here.

UPDATE: I have another blog post on the topic here.

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


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Proceeding Home

At an overlook somewhere between Roanoke, VA and Sweet Springs, WV.

On Sunday of last week I I discovered in the parking lot of my hotel in Florence, Alabama that I had a leaky seal on one of my motorcycle fork legs with fluid seeping out.  I was in the middle of a 3,500-mile vacation ride with the leak starting the weekend before the Fourth of July when there was no place to go for help… Other than fellow members of the Iron Butt Association (IBA), an organization devoted to to safe long distance motorcycle riding.

I went online to ask for advice on a member forum and got good information about my problem (keep riding but get fixed ASAP).

But Scott Newlin, when he found out I was looking to get repairs in Roanoke, VA stepped in and really saved the day for me.  He’s the former GM of Star City PowerSports in Roanoke, the local Yamaha dealer which would likely be the first place I could get help.  Scott got ahold of the current management of the store, got them to order my parts by next-day mail when business restarted on the 5th, and got the already overbooked shop to book me first thing Thursday morning.

By three that afternoon I had repairs completed. And as a bonus, the shop loaned me a Triumph Tiger 800 to ride for the day with the Biker Bishop while they worked on my bike.

Triumph Tiger 800

My loaner Triumph Tiger 800. Thanks, Star City Power Sports!

When I wrote the original draft of this last Thursday, I was taking a break on my way back north and west, but I just wanted to take a moment to thank Scott, as well as Doug and Matt at Star City Power Sports.  They all went out of their way to help someone they didn’t know before. And I really appreciate it.

While there, I was also privileged to meet four-time Iron Butt Rally finisher Peter Withers, who was at the shop with the Yamaha demo rides team.   He asked me some questions about my bike and my involvement with the IBA.  Not knowing who he was, I gave some basic answers and then asked him if he had done any IBA rides…  Anyway, in addition to feeling kind of stupid, it was really cool to meet one of the really Big Dogs of long distance riding.

Much of my ride to the southeast took place while the biannual Iron Butt Rally was taking place.  The IBR is sort of a nationwide motorcycle scavenger hunt that takes place over 11 days where competitors travel somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 miles collecting photos of statues and other artwork depicting all manner of animals.

Earlier in the week I paced IBR competitor Andy Hall for about 20 minutes in central Arkansas while he was riding his heart out to a gold-medal finish in the rally. It was surprisingly easy to pick out Andy as a competitor on the road – he was on a Gold Wing with lots of extra lights, an auxiliary fuel cell, full electronics in the cockpit, and full gear despite the brutal heat. It was really fun to encounter one of the 100+ riders out in the wild.

I ended my trip with a stop in central Iowa to visit my dad, as well as my brother and his dear wife for day, and then the final run home.  My total mileage for the trip was just shy of 3,500 miles, not counting the 100 or so on the Triumph. It was a great time.

Blue Ridge Parkway Trip

My SPOT track from my 2017 summer motorcycle ride to the southeast United States. Click on the map to see an interactive version of it at the amazing website Spotwalla.

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