One would think that the above spectrum is a pastel rendering, but it's a natural spectrum, the rainbow colours consisting of the three primary colours merging to secondary colours. The components of white light.
It appeared yesterday afternoon, cast by the sun rays at a given angle through the edge of a glass table top, which for about a minute, obviously acted as a prism.
I took the photograph at close range, from about twelve to fourteen cms distance, with an IPhone.

It looks like a pastel or opaque colour rendering because it was cast on the large dark grey blue tiles of the terrace. This makes it rather special, because although the projected rays of colour are naturally transparent, they completely dominate the dark surface as though the colours were opaque. If the surface were white, the colour values would be exactly the same, although they would appear less vivid.

This, for a water-colourist, seems magical. Because obviously it's impossible to obtain such total strength of primary and secondary colour using any transparent colour media on a dark surface.

This 'magic' may seem trivial to many people. Making such an allusion could be regarded as wasting time on banalities. No doubt there are experts who can, in so many words, explain how this surprising, complete, depth of projected, coloured rays that are nevertheless transparent, occurs vividly on dark surfaces.
One is also reminded of when Leonardo Da Vinci referred to the phenomenon of cast spectrums in his famous note books, ascertaining that their existence doesn't depend on human visual acknowledgment. Even the greatest of geniuses can be endearingly simple.

Yet seeing this little, momentary magic also came as another reminder of how beautiful our environment is. Is it not refreshing to gaze and ponder on such minute magic, just for a moment, and put aside the mind numbing madness of the epoch in which we live?

Text and images © Mirino. September, 2018


A reference, also to recommend the moving, documentary film, The Vietnam War, by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. It brings it all back, the terribly cruel, long drawn-out war, the demonstrations, Woodstock, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, etc. A monumental period in all respects. Again a divided world, a divided America. There are similarities. The tragedy of human nature is that often certain lessons never seem to be learnt.

Yet despite what was frequently thought to be a grave error of judgement, an exaggerated phobia regarding communist expansionism, the evil which had to be contained at all costs, an impossible war of which neither side could ever really claim victory, a war where one nameless hill of no strategic value whatsoever could nevertheless cost the lives of many hundreds of US marines and Vietnamese. Despite the frustration, the vindictiveness, the atrocities, (Mỹ Lai) the endless anti-war demonstrations, that finally even Vietnam veterans took part in, throwing their hard earned medals over the specially built, protection barrier in front of the White House; the long sequence of so many lies rendering the war meaningless and immoral; and finally the incurable, consequent trauma, known as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

In spite of all that, the USA came through the hell of the Vietnam war more mature and resolute than ever. The same would apply to Vietnam, of course, and their war would last thirty years.
Notwithstanding the blind hate, even after a day of heavy fighting, some US soldiers even praised the Vietcong fighters for their courage and skill. 'They were great soldiers'.

Ho Chi Minh was originally driven towards communism to gain the necessary support from the Soviet Union and China to be able to rid Vietnam from oppressive French colonialism. This led to what the French call La Guerre d’Indochine, which effectively ended the French colonialism, in spite of their efforts of 'pacification'. Ho Chi Minh's priority, however, was never ideological. It was primarily for the nation, for its reunification, independence and freedom. In the documentary a veteran Vietnamese supports this by stressing that they were not Marxists. According to him the priority was the defence and unity of their country. They were therefore fighting for Vietnam, not for communism.

Sometimes the US marines even had the impression they were fighting on the wrong side. The South Vietnamese government was at that time riddled with corruption. The people knew it. They hated their government almost as much as they disliked the Americans for having to collaborate with the corrupt leaders. The Vietcong were aware of this and were persuaded that the people of South Vietnam would eventually rise up and join them. This was a fallacy. The South Vietnamese army (ARVN) stoically remained loyal, right to the end. However, although most of them were reliable and brave, they never had the same incentive as the North Vietnamese fighters.

After Lyndon Johnson announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election, Nixon won the 1968 Presidential elections against Hubert Humphrey. Ever increasing pressure was on the new US President to end the American engagement in Vietnam. He connived with Kissinger regarding the best way to go about it, resorting to secret bombing over the border in Cambodia to try to prevent supplies reaching the Vietcong. Massive B52 bombing continued over Hanoi to force the North Vietnamese government to negotiate. These negotiations included the freeing of POWs. This succeeded, but the media got hold of, and published the Pentagon papers which revealed the many lies and coverups. Then there was the Watergate scandal which led to the impeachment of Nixon.

The antiwar demonstrations were now so intense that they helped to encourage badly inspired, treasonous mistakes like that of the then young, and obviously naive, Jane Fonda.
In spite of the promises, the Vietnam war was too unpopular, and unwinnable in any case. America had to withdraw. The South Vietnamese were finally obliged to fend for themselves. They did so with courage, but they were terribly out numbered. Inevitably Saigon also fell.
Most of the remaining Americans were evacuated, but for the Saigon Vietnamese, especially the army, evacuation was very limited.

The Vietcong destroyed the graves of the ARVN soldiers. For the former, 'winners could not accommodate losers', observed an intelligent, South Vietnamese woman who had lived through the whole nightmare. The page had to be turned to begin the new chapter of reunification.
After abolishing capitalism and nationalising industries under a socialist system, inflation rose to 700% in only one year. People began to starve. It was a total economic failure, worsened by the US trade embargo.
Hanoi wanted ‘normalisation’. Vietnam longed to be an accepted ‘part of the world'. After agreeing to the US demands, America lifted its trade embargo. Gradually communism gave way to a more workable, economic system. The Cold War had ended. The Soviet Union had become The Russian Federation.

An old North Vietnamese veteran referred to the war as  'A heroic song, but also a great tragedy’. Perhaps this would also make it an epic poem, that old enemies can read, and shed tears over together.

A beautiful, monument on which is inscribed all the names of Americans who fell, was erected in Washington. 58,220 names. The monument, consisting of two walls, just over 75 m long, of highly polished, black granite, was completed in 1982.
Heroes who should never be forgotten.
At first some veterans were reluctant to go to see it, but when they finally stood before the monument reading and touching some of the names of friends and those they had known, they were immensely moved.

They are all there, the fallen heroes, serenely together, for posterity. And the brilliant black walls also reflect the surroundings, the sunlight, the trees and the sky. Reflections of life, which naturally include life's end.
       A bronze known as The Three Soldiers was also created to complement the wall. 

A platoon lieutenant instinctively runs up one of those nameless hills under heavy machine gun fire. His small platoon below was given no order. He sees a shadow of someone coming up on his right, and turns to fire his M-16. He then sees that all the remaining survivors of his platoon are running up behind to give him support. Nineteen year old kids. Recalling this, the courage of those boys, moves the war-hardened veteran to tears. 

 Text © Mirino. Images used with thanks. September, 2018