Ed Briggs

Jan 172020
 

I spent the first two weeks of September 2019 traveling in Iceland and flying my drone. I flew at every opportunity, accumulating many hours of footage. Iceland is a great place for drone photography, partly because it is so scenic and also because you can fly almost anywhere except in the national parks. My drone is a DJI Mavic 2 Pro with Hasselblad camera, shooting 4k video. I hope you will enjoy flying with me!

Jan 132020
 

A second group of videos from Iceland, made from flights with my camera drone. This was done in September 2019, my third visit to the country. However, this trip lasted over two weeks and included driving the “Ring Road” all the way around the island, plus many side trips as well.

Talk of War

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Jan 102020
 

Now again in early January 2080 we hear the talk of war: threats, grievances, incidents, mobilizings, bombings, murders, and always the justifications.

With all this from today’s news in mind, I was listening to “The Green Fields of France” by the Celtic Thunder. I decided to share. I suggest you listen to the music first, then review the words below.

 

Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside,
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun,
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen,
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
Well I hope you died quick,
And I hope you died clean,
Oh Willy McBride, was is it slow and obscene.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind,
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined,
And though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart you’re forever nineteen.
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some old glass pane,
In an old photograph torn, tattered, and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.
The sun shining down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance,
The trenches have vanished long under the plow,
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing down.
But here in this graveyard that’s still no mans land,
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand,
Till’ man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation were butchered and damned.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.
And I can’t help but wonder oh Willy McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died,
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause,
Did you really believe that this war would end wars.
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing and dying it was all done in vain,
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again,
and again, and again, and again, and again.
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did the play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down,
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest.

Jan 092020
 

We made our third trip to Iceland the first two weeks of September, 2019. This time we drove all the way around the island and more. This time I took my new camera drone and flew many times each day. I learned a lot on these flights, and even more in editing the video footage after returning. I will be posting portions of this video as I have them ready, about 8-10 minutes worth at a time. These represent selected highlights from literally hours and hours of source footage. I still get absorbed in the wonder of this strange land. A land where every turn of the road presents something new and different.

Dec 252019
 

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland. Over a million people live in our county, distributed around in just over 500 square miles. By contrast, the island nation of Iceland covers some 40,000 square miles but has a population one third the size of Montgomery County – some 360,000. Our county averages about 2,000 people per square mile, but Iceland averages one person for every 10 square miles.

Then there’s the matter of sheep. There are 2,280 sheep farms in Iceland. That means there is a sheep farm for every 150 people in the country. There are more sheep than people in Iceland by a long shot. 

The sheep population jumps up every year in May when the new lambs are born. Soon afterward, most sheep are released to roam the wild hills and valleys and high mountains. All summer they feed and fatten and grow their wool. The lands they roam are public, so the grazing is free food for all.

In the summertime, the farmers work their fields gathering up hay for the coming winter. Then in September, all the farmers in various communities work to gather the sheep into one place where they have a sorting facility built. This process is called RĂ©ttir (corral) and can take up to a week, since the sheep are scattered all over. The sheep are fast on their feet and widely disbursed. They are rounded up by people riding horses and assisted by sheepdogs, with others on foot where the terrain doesn’t allow riding.

Finally gathered down from the hills,  you have them all in one place: fat happy lambs, ewes and rams. In the sorting corral, they’re identified by their earmarks and sorted to their owners’ pens off to the side. The owner then decides, which sheep are going to be sold and which are going back to the stables for the winter. 

It’s a hard but happy time in Iceland. A time of meeting and kidding and dogs and music and drinking and children playing and young men competing and young women working hard but looking good at the same time. It’s a community event, everyone helping, no one slacking or cheating.

I was fortunate enough to witness one of these events in one small Icelandic community in 2019. The following are some of the sights and sounds I recorded. 

Dec 232019
 

In May of 2019 I met with eleven other swimmers in Hurghada, Egypt. We boarded a yacht which would be our home for the next seven days. I have done such swims in Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Spain, and other places. But the Red Sea was different. The waves and currents and challenges of swimming were the same, but the sea life was beyond my experience. The five minute video which follows provides an in-water look.

Wife Carrying Contest

 Posted by at 12:43 pm  2 Responses »
Sep 082018
 

There are many Scandinavian festivals that include wife carrying contests. The one I have attended is the New Jersey festival, held annually in Budd Lake on Labor Day weekend. The video shown here is mostly from the recent 2018 festival, with a few clips included from 2015. Wife carrying is said to date to the days of the Vikings and to their practice of selecting a wife and then carrying her off. Several types of carrying are practiced, which you will see. The principal ones include 1) piggyback, 2) fireman’s over-the-shoulder, and 3) Estonian style – where the wife hangs upside down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist. You will also see variations. 

The wife carrying course is rectangular and about 250 meters in length. It has 4 obstacles, consisting of car tires, hay bales, a wooden staircase, and pools of water. The winning man receives the woman’s weight in beer. The couple does not have to be married, thus any willing woman will do for the carry.

The Wife Carrying World Championships have been held annually in Sonkajarvi, Finland, since 1992.

Please enjoy! (You may wish to view full screen. Make sure your sound is turned on.)


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Sep 052018
 

There are those who live their lives with no moral struggles. To them, nothing is right or wrong. Things are simply desirable, or they aren’t. Self interest makes the choices. The laws of man or God may get in the way, but only as barriers to get around. 

Most of us aren’t able to live that way. Most of us have a nagging conscience raising questions of right and wrong. This can be a burden or a blessing . . .  depending. Most of us struggle to develop our standards of right and wrong, and struggle even more to follow them.

I was reminded of this at a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. A wonderfully clean and healthy place. A great place to live if you’re a cow or calf or human child. A place where Amish buggies come driving in to buy milk and eggs, delivering children to enjoy ice cream and animals.

The folks who run this farm work hard, love one another, live modestly, help their neighbors, study their Bibles, and go to church on Sundays. And like most of us, they consider the rightness or wrongness of their words and deeds. So as I read the polite request bullet-pointed in a list on the wall, I smiled but did not scorn it. It said:

To many, such a sign will seem quaint and belonging to an earlier time. When I first read it, I had that reaction. But then, the very next day, I read about the funeral of Aretha Franklin in Detroit. There was much discussion of the mini-skirt worn by one of the singers, and whether it was appropriate for a funeral or not. Many considered it “immodest attire.” And former president Bill Clinton was accused of gazing at the singer in an inappropriate manner by a Fox News panel. They called it “leering.” So the sign I read in rural Pennsylvania is more current than it appeared.

I grew up in a small town in east Tennessee. Most people were either Baptists, Methodists, or Presbyterians. Most went to church on Sunday. Local ministers took turns preaching in our schools. Revival meetings were common, and you could listen to preachers preaching on the radio almost non-stop. They preached against a variety of sins including drinking and dancing and women wearing shorts. Kids were forbidden to play sports on Sunday afternoons because it was “the Lord’s Day.” On the campus of my own “Christian college,” couples were forbidden from holding hands while walking together. I can say this for sure because I was once caught doing it.

In my lifetime, norms have gone from this to now having a President whose third wife used to pose for nude photographs, who has spoken on television of grabbing women by the genitals, and who has paid hush money to silence women about alleged affairs. We now have explicit photos and video free-for-all on the Internet, explicit how-to articles on sex available in women’s magazines at grocery checkout counters, and all sorts of revealing dress and language on television and in public places. One cannot but admire the fortitude of religious communities that have maintained their norms against such times.

But it all seems so arbitrary, so relative, so ambiguous. How short must shorts be to qualify as “short shorts?” How low must a neckline dip down to be an “inappropriate low neckline?” I can hear teenage girls asking these questions, and mothers having a hard time explaining. Then there are the other religions that insist on covering their women from head to toe, even the eyes. For them this is necessary to “maintain pure thoughts and actions.” For them, the Amish country norms are far too liberal.

Just where did the conscience of human beings come from? The religions think God gave us our conscience, all built in and set up. But if this were so, how come the definitions of right and wrong vary so greatly? And why do they vary so much from age to age, person to person, and religion to religion? Some people have a taste for broccoli, and others don’t. Are views of right and wrong like that? Are they that variable and individual? Are there things that are universally good or evil, and if so, what are those things?

The religions usually speak of their sacred writings as defining what is right and wrong. For example, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is Moses and his ten commandments, given by God on a mountain and carved into tablets of stone. One of the ten says very simply, “thou shalt not kill.” But what do we make of that? What have Jews and Christians made of it? In its plainest, simplest meaning, it forbids the taking of another life. But over the years many exceptions have been proposed and carried out. These include euthanasia, capital punishment, assisted suicide, killing in self defense, killing under “stand your ground,” targeted killings by remotely operated drones, defensive wars, aggressive wars, and “pre-emptive wars,” a new term which seems a euphemism for wars of aggression.

Think of all the things that have been debated over the years from a moral standpoint: gay marriage, gay sex, premarital sex, breast feeding in public, contraception, masturbation, genital mutilation, pornography, inter-racial marriage, inter-faith marriage, human slavery, capital punishment, racial segregation, abortion, public nudity, private nude beaches, bull fighting, the torture of prisoners, the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, chemical weapons, and, of course, war itself.

Many of these discussions are far away from Amish country around New Holland, Pennsylvania. But it’s all part of the same. We’re all trying to figure out the right and wrong of things in life, and hope it matters.

Jan 302017
 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 29: Demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue during a protest on January 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Protestors in Washington and around the country gathered to protest President Donald Trump's executive order barring the citizens of Muslim-majority countries Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from traveling to the United States.

He is banning members of the Muslim religion from our country, but I am not of that religion.

He is building a wall to keep out Mexicans, but I am not a Mexican.

He will not allow us to shelter the suffering, homeless, and dying refugees of war, but I am not a refugee.

He intends to torture prisoners, but I will not be one of those tortured.

He may cancel the health insurance of 20 million people, but I have other health insurance.

He will do away with protections for the environment, but I do not have so many years left to live, and future generations will pay for this, not me.

He is moving to further restrict the voting rights of minorities and others who oppose him, but I am a white man from Tennessee and I will still be able to vote.

He will degrade public education, on which most families depend, while funding private education for the well-off. But I already have my education.

He intends to deport some 12 million immigrants, including many who were born and grew up here. But I am not one of those to be deported.

He will reverse the civil rights gains made by lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered persons, but I am not one of these persons.

He wants to make abortions illegal and even criminal, but I will not be needing an abortion.

He will reduce government benefits for the poor and vulnerable to benefit the wealthy and powerful, like himself. But I am not among the poor and vulnerable.

He wants more people in more places armed with more guns, so the “good guys” can kill the “bad guys.” This will increase our national murder rate even more than it already is. But I live a quiet life and am not likely to be among those murdered.

So, other than a terrible sadness for the plight of others, will he do me no harm?

Well, no harm unless . . .

Unless he is able to take away our freedom of speech, and of the press, and of religion, or from religion if we choose. Unless he can take our rights of travel and free association with others, and of voting and debating public issues, and of equal treatment under just laws. Unless we are left sold out and oppressed, with no truthful information on what is happening, to us and others in the world.

Unless he so divides and abuses and insults and provokes others who are not me, that some equivalent of a second American Civil War occurs. A conflict in which the military forces he now commands will be unleashed against citizens who oppose him, as in Assad’s Syria and Saddam’s Iraq and Franco’s Spain and Amin’s Uganda and Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany.

Unless his constant and unpredictable anger, and belligerence toward other peoples and nations, leads us into nuclear destruction. Which now does not seem all that unlikely.

His view of our America is a dark and gloomy one, a view that sees threats on every side and emergencies he must address where none exist. And now that he has gained this power he sought, my own view has turned dark and gloomy as well. 

If I were a man of power and prominence in the country, and he read these words, I would doubtless be marked for suppression or retribution.

But I am not a man of power or prominence. Just a very worried citizen.


Listen to a reading of this story:


[Thoughts and comments are welcome. Related articles may be found under the categories of “commentary,” “environment,” “guns,” and “religion.” To receive an email notification when new articles are posted here, click “Subscribe” in the menu bar above and enter your email address.]