Avante Garde Things – Real, Not Trends

Yes, this is another recycled post from about 3 years ago which I feel good enough to re-post with a couple of additions. Inasmuch as I am officially a “retired landscaper”, we will not be seeing more pictures of myself and friends on the job.  My last one was about 2 years ago, here in Louisville.

For a landscaper, any intensity of interest towards something Avante Garde might seem unusual. But these are the bizarre personal complications our Maker has decided to afflict some of us with. The inspiring nature of art needs to be a part of any grade school and especially junior high school curriculum. Artists hang out way out there in their own whimsy, dedicated beyond the norm to present a weird brand new world of wonder for we admirers to sensually and mentally take in. They perform these works selflessly and most often wordlessly.


My good fellow blogger Frances the other day lamented the curse of “trends” in gardening, speaking to an irritation I can cop to as well. Here is her rant – fairegarden -and I sincerely implore people to check it out – for the colorful explanations of her angst as well as her usual stunning pictorial abuse of her very own garden. It made me consider the qualities of art and, really, everything – and it also made me consider those things which move me most.

I have a very real fascination with what I consider to be current  ‘Avant Garde’ artists. I also like the connoisseurs of those artists who blog, review and attempt to describe their heartfelt relationships with wild ideas. A restless pursuit of new things can be an addiction – at its worst we become unseated from our table, off chasing the current butterfly. At best – and these are the moments we cherish – we discover something new, uplifting and which cracks open a window into another world entirely. The sheer differentness of utilizing normality to express meaningful connections in new and unique ways shows us our own potentials in their amazing variety. It reveals, too, a depth which is so fortunately unfathomable at its highest expression.

Here is Ernst Reijsiger and Mole Sylla last Summer at a workshop in Amsterdam using classical elements of beat, instruments and the rest but putting it into a stew of cross cultural and uniquely human celebration:

Nor does the stark ability of an artist in his or her moments of great achievement mean any less simply because of the era. Our discovery makes it contemporary in all the important ways, be it the Avant Garde qualities of Antonio Gaudi or the painted styling of Hieronymus Bosch. The unattributed photo below illustrates an incredibly stark imprint of time and place on the part of the artist. In its enlarged state, perhaps you too can find why and how I found myself utterly riveted by it.

A partially-excavated Sphinx looms in its unfinished excavated form and quite broken splendor over the relatively tiny bodies of workmen or perhaps passing Bedouins who had used it as a shady rest stop for Centuries. The contrast of modernity – which is the picture itself – mix with the grandness of scale and the breath of living subjects amid the ruinous nature of Time.

Clicking to enlarge this picture reveals far more than the compressed visual here. Indeed, all of these are prone to enlargement, although I have scaled back the monster shots which take up so much bandwidth, to Annette’s relief.

Less than a pursuit of genius – which is another level of inquiry and surprise – I glory in little discoveries of felt presentation which move me in mysterious ways. Needless to say, among the Avant Garde of modernity, architects and builders tend to rule over a region of art and accomplishment like few others – and I include landscape design artists such as Isamu Noguchi who make indescribably evocative and massive sculptures out of land and the products of Earth itself.:

Below is what was a landfill in Sapporo, Japan before Noguchi changed things:

More Personal – My Private Enthusiasms:

An absolute favorite artist of mine is a lady named Helen Nock – website here – who plies at garden furniture construction, sculpture, iron work, roofing tile salvage and who puts together gloriously beautiful and impractical pieces over in merry Olde England and with whom I share yuks on Facebook. Her overall body of work is absolutely and utterly unique:

Michael Eckerman of Santa Cruz, California is an artist in stone – among other mediums – website here – who constructs structural landscape elements using a bizarre variety of forms and materials. In the case of this landscape retaining wall, hard by a driveway, his love of surfing and the ocean display an uncanny sense of motion and force. Nor is this the only case where Michael works with nature to provide breathtaking works of landscape and interior home art.  His work has to be seen to be believed:

In closing, I can hardly think of a more interesting sampler of sound and depth than Joe Zawinul and his usual collections of the best musicians on the planet:

Random Pictures of Interest – Yawwwwwwwn

Strictly eye candy – hopefully enough to keep everyone entertained……… 😉

I am running extremely whimsical with this. In a way, I am just showing pictures from my Mighty Massive photo file system which have not appeared here before. New blood, as it were.

It also gives a chance to plain have some fun without too much hyped-up thematic discipline, so it’s even cooler. The pic below is my brother Mike posing with our very own Mother, often referred to as “Mom”.  They both seem reasonably happy, so why not etch that rare moment on historical online Eternity? 🙂 I lied, of course. Truth is, we spend most of our time laughing.

Anyways, sashay with me through various and sundry pictures, none of which match.

(left click all images to enlarge – sometimes twice for real detail)

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Here’s a hole in the wall at the Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

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Modernistic planting, somewhere.

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Let’s face it. You don’t see Dry Water every day…………


A highly-suspicious plant.

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Some interesting Iron Work a very good iron man did at a project of ours.


Here’s some iron work of Antonia Gaudi’s. Now THIS is a gate!


This fountain always tickles me.


The Portland Japanese Garden is inspiring, quiet and beautiful. Even the fish agree:



Yew Dell Gardens in Fall. Dude could use a haircut and a shave.

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Here’s that big Singapore fountain at night:


Now, this is a river.

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Multnomah Fall just outside of Portland.


I always loved traveling this stretch of road between Reno and Portland, Oregon. It was about 540 miles – which is a grind no matter how scenic – but this approach to Mt. Hood not only meant I was getting into more treed areas, it also meant I was within about 60 miles of home. Even in Summer – with the snow nearly gone – Mt. Hood was like a relaxing sight.


Here’s a flower!

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Dealing with the desert – you can find some strangeness, for sure. Here is a mulch only a lizard could love. The good news is it grew up nicely.


And the desert can bloom – don’t let anyone tell you different!


Prune This!!!!!!!!!! 😉

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This is a lot of moving water. 6,000 gallons a minute, to be exact.




Making Bubble Rocks can put you in some tight spaces.

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And some are tighter than others:

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I always have liked what we did in making this little creek.


I absolutely love this picture. I shamelessly add it here, not knowing where I got it. I hope the author does not mind.


“Sobering” applies to this military cemetery in Louisville, I’d think. It is amazing quiet here. Speaking as a veteran, I often wish more of us would visit these places. You’d be amazed at how many connections you have here and elsewhere.

Cave Hill 009

You know you’re up early when this sight greets you on the drive to work. Of course, then again, it could be lunch time in the Yukon in December. 😉


Would this be called a “Green Building”?

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Here’s something you DON’T want to see when you get low on gas.


Those nutty Barcelonans will do anything for a laugh.

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An interesting landscaping idea?


Here’s Louis XIV and an escaped horse in downtown Louisville.

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This is what it’s like driving from Reno, over the mountain to lake Tahoe in Winter.

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A patio and landscaping project in Portland.


You don’t see rocks like this every day. Nor woodwork, for that matter.

HPIM1274An interesting Architectural feature from the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden.


The Truckee River as it courses through the midst of downtown Reno, Nevada. This shot is at the head of the fabricated kayak run, designed for competitions. Yes, it is in the middle of town.


A luxury swimmin’ hole we helped construct in the woods near Lake Tahoe. We did everything on top – just not the pool itself. The paving, rocks and all that are ours,


Another fountain, now that I am the Fountain Maven at my new blog at Pond And Fountain World………nothing special, just quite unique.

And unusual.


Anyone seen my Narwal?

nosey Narwhal

The Class of 1966 – Musings Now From Distant Years

In August of this year, my high school graduating class reluctantly faces it’s 50th Reunion. I’ll qualify “reluctant” by saying not all are hoping it never happens. Far from it. We have some humorous people among us who relish the wonders of rediscovering our inner beauty with new faces and fresh new approaches. The fact is so many of us would not miss it for the world. In many of our cases, the new medium of Social Media – be it Facebook, Twitter or simply the internet in general – have allowed quite a few of us to actually get to know each other yet again, in an entirely new light complete with children and grandchildren, passions, and many of our diverse interests shared publicly. We have consistently been impressed with the creative energy of our peers as well as the richness of their family lives. We have also shared emotions.

At the same time, we lament the losses of friends who meant so much to us. It is a function of age that we encounter mortality on a recurring – if no less disappointing – basis. We all know the stab of pain we feel when yet another of us shuffles into the next world. We honor them with stories and memories from our past and prove and extend their immortality as we ruefully smile at the shared silliness and excesses back when we were helplessly thoughtless and probably at our most appealing. They still enrich us.

Susan Coffey, with the undoubted help of the indefatigable Sharon Hagerman, Larry Masters, Nancy Russell and suspicious other characters as yet unknown to me have decided I could contribute this piece as something worth entering in the silent auction which was such a resounding success in our other reunions. I confess I am intimidated as hell by the threat of producing work for this crowd whom I expect is anxiously awaiting my failure but not in a nasty way, ironically. Ha ha, anyway, it is my own private tension. Perhaps most readers of this are wondering at my doing something like this. I assume it is likely unexpected to many who have not followed me in recent years. Face it, I was a highly Non Intellectual high school quasi-student, know more for sports, laughs and flirting than scholarship and the cultivation of memory. That is an unfortunately proud legacy, in fact, a childishness which has stuck like glue to me and which I secretly hope never to leave behind.

Having said that, I certainly look at this project as something fairly serious and I absolutely relish the challenge.

Lord love a duck, we have all been through some incredible times.

Thus armed with qualifiers, I’m going to begin with a statement which comes from that era and which I feel has always more or less defined our group as placed inside the world’s “Whole Shebang”:

September of 1963 was one hot deal. My earliest memory was pre-admission ….I remember myself practicing football in weather that would shame Las Vegas. It stayed in the high 90’s with unendurable humidity during our 2 practices a day in August as classmates Steve Bare, Danny Howes, Roy Kennedy, Tom Higdon, Wayne Catron, Sam Tandy, Bill Smith, Larry Adkins, Sam Estes, Larry Moorman and others I probably should recall all lined up for Coach Ralph Genito’s uncompromising torture chamber. A group of 60 plus eventually made its way downward to just 31 players in a reprise of the Bear Bryant “Junction Boys” film. That Genito played for Bryant was readily – and painfully – obvious.

What eventually transpired was a very successful season, which led to even better seasons by the time this group graduated. This brutal introduction made for a supremely tough bunch of lads. I believe the eventual total record during our time at Senior High was along the lines of 34-6, if memory serves. Each season also saw OHS ranked at Number 1 in the state at various intervals.

When school commenced, we had already been there, is what I am saying. Of course, so had the marching band members, among many others in the various clubs and organizations which reached out to incoming sophomores.

I so remember my initial sense of finally walking the halls at Senior High at what seemed a vast, unending stream of friends and total strangers passing hurriedly by from class to class in an incredible maze of personality, style and vocal tone.  My own experience very much included choosing faces of strangers as symbols of my own strangeness – every single day I literally and silently recorded new faces for my entire high school sojourn. Every trip down a hallway represented an experience of seeing people for the first time.

As freshmen at Eastern, Southern, Foust and Western Junior High Schools, each and every one of us had looked forward to finally “getting there” to the Big O – Senior High. It was a virtual and shared Rite Of Passage. In many ways, we all felt the same nervous energy and curiosity. The sight of our friends provided us a comfort zone which we regularly relied on in our strangeness. There was no Hubris to be found. We arrived as the “tourists” in a gaping maw of high school energy, the smallest and perceived youngest of them all. As Captain Beefheart so eloquently put it in his song “Ashtray heart”:

“It was a case of the punks! Right from the start!”

Honestly, how were we to know that what we entered then would set us up so incredibly well for our futures during the upcoming turmoil and amazing churn which was and always is American history? The lessons experienced in Crystal Edds’ or Louise Brodie’s English classes had ramifications over which I have long wondered at their persistence. The Math classes of Mr. Puckett’s resonated hugely for Jim Nation, Jim Gilmore, Denise Hilliard, Susan Parish, George Dejarnatt, Jimmy Walker as they patiently picked their ways through intellectual puzzles which led to eventually terrific and successful careers as achievers, Moms and Dads. Speech and debate classes so overlooked by so many led to some eventually marvelous political awareness on the parts of so many who embraced them then. We had a virtually world class chorus. The Rose Curtain Players presented near-professional dramas.

The intellectual growth fed to our class by such a competent teaching crew has led to many accomplishments by high-end intellectuals, but it may have formed an even more important lesson plan for the less renowned among us. In the end, it is my belief that a good education supplies more than simple job qualifications. I honestly believe we were taught that absolutely anything is possible. The promises of a bright shiny future, which are the staple of Valedictorian and High School Principle’s speeches upon graduation led us to understand the subtle relationship of idealism and personal success. When they kicked us out into the world, 3 years after we entered, we joined the speedy maw of history, some in ways far more direct and immediate than others.

We eventually lost friends in Viet Nam, that great vacuum of turbulent idealism and counter idealism which sucked us up and tossed us around like dice in a cup in Las Vegas at unfortunately tender, barely mature ages. As a result, for some of us, our collisions with reality contained the absolute and most horrific “worst of Mankind” – War – death and destruction on a scale which was so incredibly hard to fathom. It killed James Conkwright, a person I am still delighted I was enabled to spend time with, (even if Tommy Jones and I once cheated him out of $8 in a poker game, a shame we both still talk about in a wry admission that we both miss him to this very day). The Viet Nam veterans in this class were numerous, a list I am afraid I cannot render. But, know that within 4 years of our matriculation at Senior High, we had men falling physically to wounding and death during a controversial war which sucked up numbers of young men like an out of control industrial vacuum. Nor does this begin to cover the psychological and spiritual wounds which many of us carry to this day.

We moved along, graduating from colleges, many of us already reading the future and just plain going to work, some of us even before graduation. We began the hard work of being citizens and many of us moved directly to the equally hard and rewarding work of being Moms and Dads. We mowed our own lawns. We had some beer. We flirted and searched for acceptable mates. We got married and bought homes.

Some of us traveled, unready to settle down entirely while so much mystery remained to be studied and seen. These were the restless ones, people sort of like myself, actually, to whom I always feel obliged to seek out to discover what they found themselves. Their captivating stories of their adventures in France, Tokyo, Saudi Arabia, or merely their fascinating inner journeys to psychological continents and planets of which we know little we let  speak of in poetry and art. Or they inform us in words we learn to value, in dimensions of time and space we had not seen before this. I am unaware of anyone who became a preacher or Priest, but I am willing to bet top dollar that we produced some.

It is my belief that the rudiments of our educations alone put us in an excellent vehicle to make whatever journeys we all embarked on. At the time of our experience, Owensboro High School was exceedingly proud of what their students were accomplishing. And, make no mistake, this piggy-backed on top of what had already been accomplished by others who went before us and resulted from the successful educators who led us to these moments. It was obvious to us all that a high quality of student and eventual citizen was not some weird anomaly from our school. We were – in the last analysis –  an extremely fortunate group.

We discussed values and often economics in our school. We were forced to study our histories in those classes we were so hilariously reluctant to attend. We studied higher mathematics, from Plane and Solid Geometry to Trigonometry to Calculus. We had Physics and Geography classes, Government, Chemistry. We were required to write out in long hand form and, of course, in some cases typed form, entire thematic choices for our Senior English subjects. We were made to pay attention whether we liked it or not. To this day, I respect the manner in which we were taught. It was a tough love in so many ways, added to which were the expectations of our instructors which were etched in rock. Those expectations as much as anything else were the engine which drove the bus.

It was a good, high quality education. We had an education which, in the very highest sense, kept our curiosity alive. This was the essential gift of our lives. Curiosity knows no age. It is as timeless as the memory of our first kiss.

Real Life

And we moved along with the river of Time itself. Our children matured, politics raged as some of the vital material of good citizenry. Controversy abounded as the best of us relied on the give and take of dialogue to try and reach clearly imperfect decisions. We oversaw so many social changes it frankly boggle the mind. The racial and gender-specific changes which occurred since our graduation, while bumpy as hell, have produced a far more egalitarian society.

We have watched the incredible birth and development of technology and the Internet. The global nature of life has become immediate. I regularly communicate with Israeli’s on a near daily basis. Got a question? Just ask. In 5 minutes now, we know the answer from another perspective, even if it comes from Mexico, Australia, Iraq or Israel.

Our careers have been recorded and, for most of us, they are also finished. The achievements here are frankly as off the charts excellent as would be the case almost anywhere. A recitation of special accomplishments by the members of our Calls of 1966 could occupy our time for literal days and weeks.

Make no mistake – successful families are duly noted here. Indeed, nothing is more important.

The shame in my recollections is in the sparse reward I can offer such an immensely successful, still smiling and popular group. Nor are these successes surprising. We expected no less and so did those who taught us. Now we are somewhere else, altogether, aren’t we?

Things got real. And then it got really, really real. The 50th Class Reunion. I mean, how real is that?

We now find ourselves collectively approaching our 70th birthdays. This 50th Reunion surprises us – well, at least me, anyway. We seem to have arrived here on some amazing Express train – maybe on of those Japanese or Euro models that travel up to 300 MPH. As we collect ourselves and dust off the accumulated dust from our most recent 50 year experience, we pause as we consult the world as we now know it. Amidst the love and caring we receive upon this reunion – as we bestow the gratitude of decades to one another and to those others so intimately and objectively responsible for our journey’s fate, our wisdom comes to the fore as the gift given to those who age with the curiosity planted by teachers whose greatest accomplishments are a restless mind.

Carl Jung has an interesting take on this era we now share together. His quote:

“The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different.  A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning. I believe the approximate time between ages 56 and 83 offer each of us the opportunity to make the process of aging a positive and life-enhancing experience. Regardless of whether we find ourselves only approaching that “afternoon” of life, or deep within it, we need to learn and stay conscious about what we can do to live an ongoing life of quality and purpose.

Jung implores the aging personality to discover himself “while sweating the small stuff less”.  I believe we all understand the glimmers of wisdom in these remarks, even as we live in an age which too often is prone to devalue the elderly. I believe the combined wisdom derived from the experiences of one widely-informed, OHS-educated person such as every single man jack one of us offers a window into eternity all on its own. So many connections are made when we find ourselves dropping the pretensions of competing with younger people. For most of us, that sort of work is already done.

Our actualization is beginning, not finishing. We are far more able to tie together strains which avoided our intellects owing to a lack of interest or because of competing impulses and needs based on the stages of life which delivered us here. I feel this reunion takes place at a juncture for many of us which faces us with choices we never appreciated until now. We can now remember our private nightly dreams, for example. We are better able to verbalize our thoughts, worked out in precious solitude which is a right of our maturity. Our imaginations should be getting a boost and our recognition that so little changes in spite of the strident claims of media outlets so dependent on fear to sell themselves as somehow necessary.

Our paths are not finished, is what I believe. In fact, we face a richness of experience which only concentrated truth, memory and love can give. I am extremely proud to be able to offer my own experiences as an equal member of our OHS Class of 1966 tribe in relishing our experience together from not only the past, but also into a very colorful, disciplined and delightful future.

The Nature Of Genius – Werner Herzog & Ernst Reijseger

Once again I have opened up the archival Vault of Uselessness in this blog to give another look at some of the things I like most. As is the case in any blog, the selfish interest of the author is thematic – and, in this case, plain fun. I watched this movie again the other night just for giggles and it amazed me for a second time. The carcasses of ancient animals which had become glazed with stalagmite juice, basically “Quartzified” into stone, reminded again me of the sheer scope of this discovery.

Human art dating from over 20,000 – 30,000 years ago and just as subtle and beautiful as if it been accomplished by talented modern hands, displayed gallery-like on the walls of ancient caves, is only one of the fascinating wonders which Werner Herzog takes us through. His mix of music throughout the film is another glory of novelty. The best browsing of this post would be to begin the music video below and then read the text. Try that.

Reading Henry Miller some years ago, I never forgot his delighted discovery and his fascination with the term “Chthonic” – as if it had appeared to him as a magical key to describing ineffable events. This film and even its sounds are completely “Chthonic” and of a piece. It reminds me of nothing – they both stand on their own.

  1. concerning, belonging to, or inhabiting the underworld.
    “a chthonic deity”

To the archives, then……….(pictures enlarge by clicking).

For further investigation, here is the delightful Wiki entry for these incredible caves:


OK, this is a stretch for a simple landscaping blog. Just know this: I know that and let me say my piece. 😉  It’s never stopped me before, has it? This one deals with the Earth, having said that, and that’s my own area. Dirt rocks and so do rocks.

I recently went to the movies, chucked on my 3D glasses and watched one of the most stunning movie events I have ever seen. The film is called “The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams” and I cannot possibly recommend it high enough. It was directed by Werner Herzog and deals with an inside look at the astonishing Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, where artists as long ago as 32,000 years plied their art of cave-paintings, using the walls of this gorgeous, previously-hidden cave as their canvas and using the folds and 3 dimensional aspect of the terrain itself to provide depth, apparent motion and breathtaking artistic ability.


The extremely cautious French Government goes overboard in scrupulous preservation paranoia, and the film mentions this. Protecting the inside treasure is testified to when references to them shutting the cave off to visitors for a few months was felt necessary owing to “The breath of visitors is causing a mold to adhere to the walls.” This is a look inside – a rare moment in time and one which may or may not ever be replicated.

The cave simply reveals life at that time in a manner which nothing else possibly could. The genius is inside the art itself, of course, but the creative genius of Werner Herzog amplifies it, juxtaposing all this with modern perceptions of an era, seen from the best anthropological, psychological and paleantological minds of our generation.


Borrowing this piece of breathless excitement emitted by  a movie review in the New York Times:

“The cave was discovered in December 1994 by three French cavers, Jean-Marie Chauvet, Éliette Brunel Deschamps and Christian Hillaire. Following an air current coming from the cliff, they dug and crawled their way into the cave, which had been sealed tight for some 20,000 years. After finally making their way to an enormous chamber, Ms. Deschamps held up her lamp and, seeing an image of a mammoth, cried out, “They were here,” a glorious moment of discovery that closed the distance between our lost human past and our present.”

How cool is that?


The movie possesses so much depth and range of emotion and the hidden tension of discovery, that it nearly stands alone as an experience of brotherliness linking ourselves with our incredibly ancient past. I have to suspect this is an instant classic, no matter how uneven it might seem at its start. The punch is delivered as we advance, revealing all the incredible wonders this cave has to offer. Bear skulls, complete vertebrae of gigantic land animals, pictures of the rhinos, the Ibex, horses, lions, bison adorn these walls in graduated impact as the camera gets released later to fully explore.

Anyway – I guess you can tell I enjoyed the film!  😉

And here is where we return to the premise of this post. That Herzog has created a masterpiece I have little doubt. When you feel literally blessed and extremely fortunate to view a film, then these emotions tell us something very important: either we are nuts, or else this guy put together a magnificent piece of pure genius. I naturally choose the latter. As I said, the uneven beginning to the film requires a bit of patience. There is information coming in rather placid and somewhat pedantic ways, although there are indeed gorgeous pictures of the paintings and the access to them at the same time. The geological wonders alone are fantastic and impossible. Calcite galore, stalactites and stalagmites adorn the view – some literally impacting the paintings as well as such things as footprints of a bear as well as that of a child. The protective measures taken by the French is also droned on about at length – but – and here’s the thing:

It all makes sense and comes together incredibly effectively as we witness what a treasure this is. The drama of this discovery is served well by Herzog and the ineffable music streaming from the cello of the master cellist, Ernst Reijseger, which takes on an increasing urgency and even pathos as we discover this enormously ancient past of all of ours. The musical work of Reijseger is of a quality I have rarely seen before – it is clearly evocative and it seems utterly spontaneous as it impacts us concurrently with the images we behold and the verbalized statements from the long list of exceptional people. It courses through the film in a sensuous, even mysteriously sinewy way – somehow absolutely perfectly emotive and even responsible as we peer into who we once were. It is somehow totally fitting that we should answer the very height of their art with some of our own.

There is humanity here and a respect for our past. I mean a deep respect for our past. Oddities galore – it appears Neanderthal man was around as well as our own Homo Sapiens species evolved in the same neighborhood. Entire skeletons of the animals of the day appear, close up and personal.

I’m including aspect of Herzog and Reijseger’s traveling “Cine-Concert” which is entitled “Requiem For A Dying Planet” which toured to rave reviews globally. The reason I include this apparently non-related and somewhat disjointed piece is merely to illustrate the level of artistic genius this group operates at. Obviously, their goals are as high in terms of the stewardship of our planet – a message it would seem we could use ample measure of. I give you the “Requiem”: