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11:00 | 11-November-1918

A preface: I became interested in World War One history about 40 years ago, reading Elleston Trevor’s “Bury Him Among Kings,” a novel (undoubtedly my favorite of all time) with a title which referenced an epitaph mentioned below. From around high school on, I’ve read and studied and absorbed (and suffered through college courses) all I could about German history from 1815 to 1945. It’s endlessly fascinating (and disturbingly prophetic) study.

But it’s never really packed a personal punch. While many in our extended families fought in the Civil War, most were too young or too old for the world wars. One exception was our Uncle Louie Webb, who served in World War Two (and how I wish I could ask him about it!) and our Grandpa Pollock’s oldest brother Mearon Edgar, who was born in 1894 and is our father’s namesake. Edgar (as Dad called him) was a World War One veteran and he placed a small ad in the American Legion Magazine of August, 1937: “800th Aero Repair Squadron—Proposed reunion, Los Angeles, Calif., late summer or fall. Mearon E. Pollock, 306 N. Maple dr., Beverly Hills, Calif.” He was apparently the principal organizer of such squadron reunions up until World War Two. After the first war, he and his wife moved to Beverly Hills from Oklahoma. He was a barber with a shop on Wilshire Boulevard; she was a Beverly Hills public school teacher. They later farmed in Oregon and California, where he died around 1977. Interesting stuff, albeit a bit dry. The history of war should never be dry and dusty and divorced from our emotions. It should be as war itself: visceral, devastating, obscene to sight, offensive to smell, deafening to hearing. Hence the following post.

100 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the 440-mile line stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea fell silent. The war started 1 August 1914 just as German Chancellor Otto von Bismark once famously predicted around 1884, by “some damned fool thing in the Balkans;” in this case, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a city of agony in the 20th century). But on 11 November 1918, it was finally “all quiet on the Western Front.”

We remember all this today because as Polish poet Czesław Miłosz wrote, “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

But sometimes, the living forget those who can no longer speak and instead harness them in service of the political or the feel-good, using their severed limbs to pat ourselves on our collective backs. This rather florid inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, London, is an example of how remembrance can often be lofty, nebulous, nameless and faceless and sanitized and ultimately divorced from the nightmare reality of the war and how it was experienced by the men and women caught in it:

“Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day, 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, his Ministers of State, the Chiefs of his forces and a vast concourse of the nation. Thus are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give, life itself; for God, for King and country, for loved ones, home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world. They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

That was the official, sanitized, God-and-Country pablum version of the war. It’s fine as it goes, but the soldiers of the line saw things quite differently, and epitaphs like these tend to mute them, hide them from sight, rob them of existence.

So what’s a better way to remember then? How about starting with accounts left to us such as the prose and poetry of two British officers and a German soldier. It is their raw experiences which we should remember today, not “George V and his Ministers of State and the Chiefs of his forces” (who botched the entire affair so badly that it became an unprecedented slaughter), nor leaders gathered today at Compiegne, site of the signing of Armistice, nor the American leader shamefully cowering in his hotel in Paris, apparently afraid of rain.

Wrote British Captain Siegfried Sassoon in one of his best, sharpest, brightest harpooning poems of the “Chiefs of His Majesty’s forces”:

The General

“‘Good-morning, good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

“But he did for them both by his plan of attack.”

Siegfried Sassoon

British Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action just one week before the Armistice was signed, summed up his generation’s experience and wondered who would mourn them in extremely powerful poems:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”

Wilfrid Owen

The German Erich Maria Remarque, in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a book which was later burned by Hitler, added his own voice in prose:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

“A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.”

Erich Maria Remarque

Finally, it’s worth reading what is probably Owens’ finest poem:

Dulce et Decorum Est

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

“In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

“If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.'”

Wilfrid Owen

The old lie: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” roughly translates to “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.” As Owen wrote, dying like cattle in warfare conducted in the cause of nationalism or patriotism is never sweet. It is an obscenity. Just see the attached photos. You should not be squeamish; stare at them and memorize them. If you vote for war, support its waging or cheer for capital punishment, you should be able to look unflinchingly at the black and white images of the consequences of bloodthirst.)

As violent forces of chauvinistic nationalism rise around us, we would do well to remember not Kings and generals, but the experience and judgement of the many Owens, Sassoons and Remarques as the central lesson of this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018.

[Photo: First World War infantrymen whose faces had been mutilated in trench warfare. They were known as the “gueules cassées”.]

9 November: Schicksalstag

In the next few days, there will be much remembrance of the events of 100 years ago—the end of World War I. Not as much in the U.S., where World War I is like the Korean War, a largely forgotten conflict, even though 115,516 Americans died between 1917-1918, along with over 320,000 sickened, most in the influenza epidemic of 1918.

But for Europe and the world including the U.S. in spite of our isolationism, the end of World War One is momentous, remembered, and memorialized.

From the German perspective, several 9 Novembers during the 20th century were extremely fateful; in fact, today is known in Germany as the Schicksalstag, or Day of Fate.

100 years ago today, after German sailors began to revolt against orders by the Imperial High Command to sail out for a final, climatic battle with the British Royal Navy (which the sailors considered suicidal), Chancellor Prince Max von Baden somewhat prematurely published news that Kaiser Wilhelm II had abdicated. Also prematurely, State Secretary Phlipp Scheidemann, part of the leadership of SPD, announced the formation of a new German republic: “The old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. The new may live. Long live the German Republic!” Events afterwards gathered speed; revolution toppled all the monarchical regimes of the German Reich, and the Germans sued for peace on the western front.

These events gave rise to a rightwing article of faith in future years: the Dolchstoßlegende, or the Stab in the Back legend, which the National Socialists would use as a foundational belief. According to the German right, the German army was still in its positions on the Western Front, undefeated, until (mainly Jewish and Socialist) politicians back in Berlin, such as Scheidemann, overthrew the Kaiser and declared the Republic, thus “stabbing in the back” the German army and navy. In spite of the fact that the Navy had mutinied and was no longer a fighting force and the German army was actually disintegrating in France and Belgium, the Dolchstoßlegende helped the German right delegitimize the Republic and prepare the way for its destruction.

An attempt at that destruction was made 95 years ago today when National Socialists and members of other nationalist parties attempted a coup in Munich. In what is now known as the Beer Hall Putsch, NSDAP leader Adolf Hitler declared himself leader in Bavaria, but the march through Munich originating in several beer halls was stopped by Bavarian police. Sixteen nationalists and four policemen were killed, the NSDAP was disbanded and Hitler was jailed. After the party’s ascent to power in 1933, 9 November was celebrated as a national holiday to remember the fallen of the putsch; any mention of the 9 November of 1918 was forbidden, unless it was a repetition of the Dolchstoßlegende.

The Dolchstoßlegende and years of similar lies and antisemitism were part of what ignited Reichskristallnacht on this day 80 years ago in 1938. Jewish synagogues and property were burned and destroyed throughout the Reich; more than 400 Jews were killed or committed suicide. About 30,000 Jews and other “undesirables” were arrested. Many later died in concentration camps. “Crystal Night” was named for the large amount of shattered glass that littered streets around the country. A final humiliation came when Jews were made responsible for the damage and those who collected on insured damages were forced to sign over insurance payments to the Reich.

And finally, on this day in 1989 29 years ago, after decades of war, destruction, the Holocaust, the Cold War and much lost territory, the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall) was breached and East and West Germany were reunited. Because the actual reunification occurred on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the more formal date of 3 October 1990 is now celebrated as the official holiday.

Given that 100-150 million lives were lost around the world between roughly 1912 and 1989, 9 November is an appropriate day for a worldwide mourning.

Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

There’s been 31 years of Dave Robichaux and The Simpsons? Time flies. The Simpsons wore out its welcome long ago (tonight’s episode was a perfect example of why). But Dave is back and as good as ever. Yes, there is some formulaic stuff here, in the basic plot outline and catchphrases. But the writing is as always lyrical and impressive.

Being somewhat formulaic can be a strength; each of the Dave books can stand alone. You don’t have to have read everything from 1987’s The Neon Rain. You’d be missing a lot of good writing and storytelling, but it’s not required. Burke explains Dave’s backstory pretty much each book. Just concentrate on one of the book’s stories and have fun. It’s absorbing, it sometimes makes you flinch, and it’s always about the bottom feeders and sharks of the dark underbelly of the American aquarium, and it always makes for fun reading.

Robicheaux is no different. (Although … that title. What’s up with that? Have they run out of ideas for them? The titles have always been rather genius … In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, The Tin Roof Blow Down, Jolie Blon’s Bounce, A Stained White Radiance, The Glass Rainbow.)

I’ve never really been able to get into his other series, but I’ve been a friend of Dave for over 20 years now. It’s good to see him again. And he comes back in January with The New Iberia Blues, which has Dave colliding with Hollywood. Should be great absorbing reading and fun as always.

World War II After World War II

Ran across «this wonderful site with some incredibly detailed data and photos about World War II equipment and weapons» and how they’ve been used since the end of that war. It’s hard to believe, but WWII weapons are currently still in action in places like Syria and Yemen.

The site’s creator doesn’t have much explanation about either the creator or why it was created, other than this short blurb:

“There are obviously many websites on WWII weapons, and many on post-war weapons, but I have always been fascinated with WWII weapons being used after the war.”

World War II After World War II

But doesn’t matter. It’s absorbing reading and hope there is much more to come.

Beery Originalist Quotables

As the beery angry drunk Bratty “C’mon Just  Touch It!” Keginaw takes the Supreme Court in supremely retrograde and heavily misogynistic directions, here are a few Original Originalist quotes worth Originally quoting, from a few of our first Original Founders:

“The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 (Ratified by founding father and president John Adams and approved unanimously by the Senate)

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”

James Madison, Letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”

Thomas Paine, Excerpt from The Age of Reason

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

George Washington, Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

“No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”

Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress, 1:729-731

“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

“Denominated a Deist, the reality of which I have never disputed, being conscious that I am no Christian.”

Ethan Allen, Religion of the American Enlightenment

“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

The United States Constitution, Article VI, Paragraph III

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner or on any pretext infringed.”

James Madison, First Federal Congress, Congressional Register, June 8, 1789

“Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity.”

Thomas Paine, Excerpt from The Age of Reason

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated.”

George Washington, Letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

Amen.

Every Building

I’ve always loved maps and could spend hours poring over them. From the old gas station maps at my father’s Malco station in Roswell to Google Earth, there’s always something fascinating in maps and data and all that.

The New York Times recently posted«a map of every building in America» and it’s worth many hours of your time. Awesome stuff! Have a look.

“On this page you will find maps showing almost every building in the United States. Why did we make such a thing? We did it as an opportunity for you to connect with the country’s cities and explore them in detail. To find the familiar, and to discover the unfamiliar. So … look. Every black speck on the map below is a building, reflecting the built legacy of the United States.”

Golden stuff for map/data nerds like me.

German Roofer Finds Message from Grandfather

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12129102
German roofer discovers message in a bottle – written by his grandfather

A message in a bottle on the roof of a Goslar, Germany, cathedral was found by the grandson of the writer. An authentic lesson from history:

“On March 26, 1930, four roofers in this small west German town inscribed a message to the future. “Difficult times of war lie behind us,” they wrote. After describing the soaring inflation and unemployment that followed the First World War, they concluded, “We hope for better times soon to come.”

“The roofers rolled up the message, slid it into a clear glass bottle and hid it in the roof of the town’s 12th-century cathedral. Then they patched up the roof’s only opening.

“Eighty-eight years later, while doing maintenance work, 52-year-old roofer Peter Brandt happened upon the bottle. He recognised the letterhead of the receipt paper on which the note was written, as well as the name of one of the signatories: Willi Brandt – a shy, 18-year old roofing apprentice at the time of the note’s creation – was Peter’s grandfather.

“‘It was an exciting find,’ Peter Brandt said, given the improbability of discovering the bottle in the same roof his grandfather had repaired almost a century earlier. The letter, Brandt said, is from a dark chapter of Germany’s past. But its discovery offered an opportunity to reflect on the relative peace and prosperity of the present.

“Just a few years after his grandfather – who is not related to former West German chancellor Willy Brandt – signed the note, he enlisted as a soldier during World War II. He was later captured and imprisoned by the Russians. After returning to Goslar, Willi resumed his profession as a roofer but never talked about the war.”

New Zealand Herald

That the message survived the war shows that even amidst great destruction and degradation, something always survives. Humans press on, even if they have to leave their homes and try to find peace in hostile lands. Goslar’s mayor understands:

“The unemployment problems that Willi Brandt described have largely disappeared, according to Goslar Mayor Oliver Junk.

“Still, Goslar residents are moving to larger places to attend university or find work, said Ulrich Albers, head of the local archives. Stores and entire housing blocks stand empty in some parts of town.

“Three years ago, during the height of Germany’s refugee crisis, Junk made headlines when he proposed that Goslar take in additional refugees, citing the housing shortage in bigger cities. ‘It’s mad that in Göttingen they are having to build new accommodations, and are tearing their hair out as to where to put everyone, while we have empty properties and employers who are desperate for skilled workers,’ Junk told the Guardian newspaper in August 2015, referring to a nearby more populous city.

“Junk said he doesn’t regret that decision – and that the contents of Willi Brandt’s letter put it in a new perspective. ‘Every day, we’re discussing the many problems we have as a city that are allegedly very, very difficult. But with this letter from 1930, we can see that the many problems that we perceive aren’t really problems,’ he said.”

Ibid

As the line immortalized in Casablanca goes, “… it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Maybe not in the grand scheme of things perhaps, but I’m sure the problems Willi Brandt experienced on the Ostfront mattered to him … a great deal. And the problems he and others created on the Ostfront mattered to those they impacted even more.

Squeezed to Death

If you have to evacuate an airliner in a hurry, can you get out of your extremely cramped seat and row fast enough? Probably not. And then you have to dodge all the idiots trying to save all their luggage and personal electronic devices at glacial paces.

But it’s the ever-shrinking seat and row size that will probably be the deadliest problem if there’s a problem with the over-stuffed aluminum tube in which you’re squeezed because most of the country is too damn cheap to pay more than $29 to get from Dubuque to Miami. « At least one editorial » (which was probably ignored and forgotten faster than that flight took to get from Dubuque to Miami) sounded an alarm:

“Given how passengers have grown in inverse proportion to the spaciousness of airliner seats, anything like ‘expeditious’ evacuation of an entire airliner seems doubtful. … Under such constraints, can today’s jets be evacuated in the 90 seconds mandated by the F.A.A.? Not according to passenger advocacy groups like Flyers Rights, which has repeatedly and unsuccessfully petitioned the F.A.A. to use its rule-making authority to stop airlines from shrinking seats and passenger space. Not according to Representatives Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, and Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington, who have asked the Transportation Department’s inspector general to investigate F.A.A. safety standards that haven’t been updated in decades. Incredibly, it will require an act of Congress to ensure that the F.A.A. does something, because the agency has denied that seat sizes and body mass index are factors in emergencies. The agency has even denied that it has the authority to regulate airliner seat size.”

The New York Times

As always in this country, it will take a massive tragedy and lots of unnecessarily burned/maimed/dead people before we do something about this. Pity.

Of Manifestoes and Buildings and Truman and Stuff

[Edited two days later to fix some typos and unclear, stream-of-consciousness-type unclear phrases.]

During the recent effort to rename the Russell Senate Office Building, it would have been nice to remember that both Richard Russell, the building’s current namesake, and John McCain, the proposed replacement namesake, (while useful tools to poke the likes of President Orange Poopy Pants and the Supreme Court), weren’t total paragons of virtue all the time.

Where McCain is concerned, his virtues are many and have been told rather exhaustively this past week. As for his vices, well, two words should be highlighted when his legacy is recounted: “Sarah” and “Palin.”

As for the namesake guy, Richard Brevard Russell Jr., United States Senator from the Peach State of Georgia, well, his legacy needs a few more words than just two (although if you want to stick to just two, how about “white” and “supremacist”?). Let’s just look on the ol’ internettubesweb, shall we and see what we can see about ol’ RBR?

“Russell supported racial segregation and co-authored the Southern Manifesto with Strom Thurmond. Russell and 17 fellow Democratic and one Republican senators blocked the passage of civil rights legislation via the filibuster. After Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell led a Southern boycott of the 1964 Democratic National Convention.”

Wikipedia (ugh; sorry, lazy reference)

The “Southern Manifesto” was, what, exactly? Stay with me here. The Supreme Court ended “separate but equal” educational facilities and opportunities for different races in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka in 1954. This pissed off a lot of people (and they and their grandkids are still pissed off about it in 2018), so, in 1956, a bunch of pissed off Congress critters got together and said they supported the Constitution, just not certain parts of it, like the Supreme Court deciding on the Constitutionality of stuff that the Congress critters decreed.

The pissed-off Congress critters also supported, of course, the Only Amendments Which Count: the Second [genuflect when you say that] and the Tenth [look bewildered and take their word for it; be prepared to genuflect when they tell you to genuflect]. Therefore, they, the pissed off Congress critters, would Just. Not. Have. Any. Of. Brown v. Board.

So, like outraged teenagers who for the first time have learned about stuff like the existence of poverty or CIA assassinations or student loan debt or their university’s investments in repressive regimes such as South Africa or Israel or the U.S., they (stay with me here: “they” means the pissed-off Congress critters) got together and issued forth AN MANIFESTO, in which they laid down the law.

Here are the choicest excerpts, with my sarcastic comments in brackets:

“We commend the motives of those States which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means.” [I suppose that in the South it was lawful to throw yourself bodily across the entrance to schools and universities when negroes show up, so I give ’em that point.]

“We appeal to the States and people who are not directly affected by these decisions to consider the constitutional principles involved against the time when they too, on issues vital to them may be the victims of judicial encroachment. [Slippery, slippery!! Today: Miscegenation in Miss-ssippi; tomorrow: Legal cocksucking in Boston!]

“Even though we constitute a minority in the present Congress, we have full faith that a majority of the American people believe in the dual system of government which has enabled us to achieve our greatness and will in time demand that the reserved rights of the States and of the people be made secure against judicial usurpation. [We have a tripartite system of guv’mint, not a dual, dumbasses, but let’s not quibble over our greatness being derived from two or three systems. These pissed-off Congress critters are saying that even though a majority rejected their being in the majority in the Congress, they were certain that the majority supported their minority in believing …something something about the Tenth Amendment. As for “Judicial usurpation,” that term has been gradually replaced with the more down-to-earth term “judicial activism,” which now means “any court’s decision we don’t like, especially the ones about equal negroes, women in control of their bodies, brown-skinned immigration, prying guns from our cold dead hands, and … those other ones, like the ones letting queers live and shit, yeah, those.”]

“We pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation. [Now here, the pissed-off Congress critters were on to something. Under the rubric of invoking “Massive Resistance,” they noted that it was lawful for whites to take their children and their money to whites-only private schools in redlined housing developments, meaning Brown v. Board was pretty much dead from the get-go. As for the last clause in the MANIFESTO, the pissed off Congress critters failed to prevent the usage of the National Guard a few times to enforce the decision (damnit John F. Kennedy and, er, um, Dwight Eisenhower!!), then got all friendly with the same National Guard when it executed four dirty hippies at Kent State. [Sarcasm ahead] “Use your guns to kill the hippies, just don’t use them to make my precious pale son sit next to an icky black nappy-headed five-year-old negress in kindergarten show-and-tell.”[/Sarcasm]]

“In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our States and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.” [“Sons and Daughters of the South! This is a “trying” period as we seek to save the White Race from extinction through the diabolical use of court orders to force our chill’run to share their coloring books and colors with the Colored! Be on the lookout for: Agitators! Troublemakers! Fifth Columnists! Carpetbaggers! Miscegenationists! Thugs! MS-13ers! But even as these Yankees sack and pillage our fair Southern lands for the second time in a hundred years and threaten a formal Second War of Northern Aggression, you all should scrupulously refrain from touching a hair on their comma-nist heads in a disorderly and lawless fashion. Mess ’em up while they “resist arrest,” then haul their asses to Parchman and shoot ’em “while trying to escape.” Just do it all in a lawful fashion.]

Declaration of Constitutional Principles, or, “The Southern Manifesto,” the start of “Massive Resistance” to Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1956. Bracketed words are my own sarcastic commentary and not in the original document.

So this is fun! Oh, but wait! This just in …

“[Richard Russell] proclaimed his faith in the “family farm” and supported most New Deal programs for parity, rural electrification, and farm loans, and supported promoting agricultural research, providing school lunches and giving surplus commodities to the poor. He was the chief sponsor of the National School Lunch Act of 1946 with the dual goals of providing proper nutrition for all children and of subsidizing agriculture.”

Wikipedia (ugh again I say ugh)

Oh! That puts a better light on him …

But wait again! School lunches for negroes weren’t, er, they were the same but just separately equal, you see. And Russell’s political heirs are trying mightily as we speak to trash what is left of the school lunch program. With Imperial Queen Betsy “If You Don’t Buy Some Amway, My Crazy Creepy Mercenary Brother Will Shoot Your Ass” DeVos in charge of the Dept. of Ed. and Sonny “Negro Slaves Served in the Confederate Armies and Loved It!” Perdue in charge of the Dept. of Ag, that children are learning and anyone is eating is rather a major Jesus-sized miracle at this point. But I digress as always.

Okay, you get the point. Man is always, unlike our system of government, a duality: good/evil, light/dark, well-intentioned/malevolent. Russell was no different. There was some good mixed in with the … wait, what’s this? … “In the 1930s and 1940s, Russell participated in Southern filibusters to block federal bills aimed at suppressing lynchings and poll taxes” [Hartford Courant]. Well hell’s bells! Screw it. Alright, Russell was an asshole and the building should be renamed. Maybe not for John “Sarah Palin” McCain and maybe not as an intentional tweak on the nose of President Orange Tantrum Pants, but for someone of better moral fiber. I propose “The Colin Kaepernick Senate Office Building.”

What brought this tirade on? Actually, I just finished The Accidental President, A.J. Baime’s very good detailing of Harry Truman’s incredibly historic first four months as president in 1945. In the book, it seems the very same pissed-off Senator Richard Russell makes an appearance at the end. While Truman was dealing with everything from the atom bomb to Joseph Stalin to the Japanese to the Chicago Tribune to the very pissed off Reluctant First Lady Bess (a.k.a. The Boss), he had to deal with Richard Russell.

Russell, ever-outraged Southern Belle whose barrel hoops have become hopelessly entangled in several of his seven layers of petticoats, sent a letter to Truman telling Harry S., nay, DEMANDING that Harry S. grab that [sarcasm ahead warning] slanty-eyed Jap bastard Emperor Hirohito and hang him like he was a negro attempting to enter an elementary school, [/sarcasm] er, uh, rather, hang him like a war criminal.

In response, Harry S. delivered a perfect, vintage “Give ’em hell, Harry!” response:

“Truman had received a missive from Senator Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia, who asked that the United States continue bombing until the Japanese ‘beg us to accept unconditional surrender.’ Russell believed ‘the vast majority of the American people’ thought the emperor ‘should go,’ and that ‘if we do not have available a sufficient number of atomic bombs with which to finish the job immediately, let us carry on with TNT and fire bombs until we can produce them.’

“(To this, Truman responded: ‘I certainly regret the necessity of wiping out whole populations because of the “pigheadedness” of the leaders of a nation and, for your information, I am not going to do it unless it is absolutely necessary . . . My objective is to save as many American lives as possible but I also have a humane feeling for the women and children of Japan.’)”

A. J. Baime. The Accidental President New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018

And so, we have a major government office building named after a white supremacist/professional outrage machine/snowflake who voted to let small children have lunch but who was on the receiving end of one of Harry’s best “Give ’em Hell” smackdowns. I’ll bet he sure lost his pantaloons over Harry’s 1947 integration of the armed forces. Plus, he was probably a beta cuck.

“America, America, God spread they stupidity on thee!”

————————

[By the way, Russell may or may not have known it, but Truman had two options in August 1945:

1. Use the bomb and then allow the Japanese to accept reality, surrendering unconditionally while keeping their emperor, or

2. Continue the war with an invasion of the Japanese home islands with a planned 766,600 troops, not winning the war until approximately November 15 of 1946 (!), which would have cost an untold number of American casualties (we incurred 3/4 of a million casualties in the war. A doubling of that figure for the invasion of Japan is not unreasonable). For reference, the 1945 fight for Iwo Jima resulted in 20,000 U.S. and 25,000 Japanese casualties. Iwo Jima is approximately 8.1 square miles. The Battle for Okinawa cost over 40,000 U.S. and over 80,000 Japanese casualties.  Okinawa is 466 square miles. The square mileage of Japan is over 145,000. Half-a-million American casualties and another year-and-a-half of war … Russell might have welcomed it.]

————————

[I should also highlight what I was told in a 1989 interview by John Smith of Marlow, Oklahoma, a survivor of the Japanese invasion of Wake Island, Dec. 1941-Feb. 1942: “Thank God for Harry Truman and thank god for the atomic bomb.” The other nine Wake Island vets who were gathered in his home for one of their periodic reunions agreed with John unanimously.

Harry’s use of two bombs did indeed greatly reduce Japanese casualties and more of the destruction Richard Russell wanted. And it saved 3/4 of a million American men another year-and-a-half of hell and possible injury and death, as well as releasing P.O.W.s like John Smith from almost four years of hell, mistreatment and starvation. Some of those P.O.W.s weighed less than 100 pounds when they were finally were freed—their freedom thanks to God, Harry S. and the atomic bomb.

Richard Russell’s preference would almost certainly have consigned them and countless others to death, if not by American bomb hits on prison compounds or by the complete incendiary destruction of Japan, then by the long, slow agony of starvation, a situation that was getting worse the longer Japan hung on.

Richard Russell, like Robert E. Lee, was a fool. Get his name off the Senate Office Building and put it in the history books under “Pompous racist ass who maybe did one or maybe two decent things his whole life.” And since I brought him up, the traitor Robert E. Lee should have met Joseph Goebbels’ end: his body dug up, cremated, and the ashes thrown into the nearest river. What? Too much?]

Atomic Poetry

On 1-Jun-1945, six weeks after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, new U.S. President Harry Truman convened a meeting to update the status on and debate the use of the soon-to-be-born atomic bomb. But first, at the Pentagon, a group consisting of James Byrnes (soon to be Secretary of State), generals George C. Marshall and Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi, among others, convened to make a decision on how to advise the new president on the bomb.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson was also present … and well prepared:

“Stimson was now focused exclusively on the atomic bomb. He had become transfixed by its potential historical impact. He had prepared handwritten notes for these meetings, which curiously read like modernist poetry. The verse was a window into the secretary of war’s state of mind.”

His notes:

Its size and character
We don’t think it mere new weapon
Revolutionary Discovery of Relation of man to universe
Great History Landmark like
Gravitation
Copernican Theory
But, Bids fair infinitely greater, in respect to its
Effect
—on the ordinary affairs of man’s life.
May destroy or perfect International
Civilization
May[be] Frankenstein or means for World Peace

—Secretary of War Henry Stimson | 1-Jun-45
As quoted by A. J. Baime, The Accidental President. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

The Accidental President is fascinating reading, while the jury is still out on Stimson’s poetic questions.

The Conscience Stirs

A gem I wrote on FB on 28-Feb-2010:

“My Facebook account is being deleted (allegedly) as of this morning. It takes 14 days for the deletion to go through, during which time they beg and plead for you to come back (mainly by trying to guilt trip you: “Your friend, John X, will miss you!”) and sending you spam begging for your presence on their totally messed up, nonsensical, aggravating, unsafe, unsecure, grossly indecent to privacy site, with its hideous navigation, crippled by the company’s inability to comprehend basic navigability and usability and its stuffed-up with San Francisco-centric IT/corporate culture snobbery permanently sticking its cube dwellers behind an impregnable wall which protects them from actually having to communicate with their users.

“Yeah, all that: gone. And I feel good. So very much better. Didn’t need the aggravation. Didn’t need to deal with the kind of things I dealt with working in San Francisco in that environment myself. Didn’t need to justify my life to distant people with political agendas.

“It was nice to hear from and reconnect (briefly) with high school friends/acquaintances. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in real life, away from that god-awful FB interface. But the rest of it … no, don’t need it.

“Relief. Sweet.”
________________

28-Feb-10, Author

Fast forward to eight-and-a-half years later: I still stand behind my rant from 2010. And am half tempted to repeat the experience.

I originally joined Facebook in 2004, when only college students in certain schools could do so. It was really supposed to just hook up various combinations of random, mostly romantic, relationships for college students. It was a hook up site, plain and simple. It was designed to get you a returned phone call, a date, and hopefully, ultimately get you laid. Sorry, but that’s what it was.

I was in grad school at Michigan, an approved school, and had an .edu email address, which was required, so I could sign up. Seemed like a good idea, although I was not interested in hook up apps or college culture, just cutting edge tech and if it could be used in the classroom.

But. The way this thing has developed since 2004 from a hookup site/innovative curiousity into a force of nature which does only one good thing (makes it somewhat easy for you to keep up with far-flung friends and family) and many, many, many, very many, very bad things.

It rips into your brain, vacuums up any and every thing about you and then commodifies and monetizes the pieces that make up “you” billions of times over. This makes a few people incredibly wealthy. It leaves the rest of us stripped naked of our identities and essences, our food/clothing/shelter choices, our deepest thoughts and most superficial desires.

Worst, it is a force combined with others like it that has this century turned the country from a publicly accountable democracy into a privatized unimpeachable corporate kleptocracy. And what that new sociopolitical system does best is steal us from us and fence us on a black market, allow lying demagogues to assume power and distort the meaning of truth in our universe.

I pretty much wish I had remained disconnected from FB while also being innovative enough to stay connected to the real people in my life without Facebook’s corrupting middle man kleptocracy. I sense that there is another housecleaning coming; my involvement will need to be further curtailed. I’m thinking of what we can do next … there are far better possibilities, surely, than this unholy mess of greed and venality.

Now don’t even get me started about Twitter …

TCM Tonight: Summer Under the Stars – Joan Crawford

Of COURSE we had to watch some Joan tonight. Not taking time to behold the wonder that is our patron saint, Lucille LeSueur, would be anathema, blasphemy, time wasted!

Poster of Sudden Fear Movie
Sudden Fear Movie Poster

First up was 1952’s Sudden Fear — Joan with Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame, Bruce Bennett, Virginia Hudson and Mike “Touch” / “Mannix” Connors. David Miller directed. Playwright takes up with menacing actor Palance, who is really plotting with Gloria Grahame (who else?) to knock off Joan and take all her fabulous wealth. Mike Connors is there to be supposedly pretty and try to romance Gloria Grahame, who brushes him off because, of course, she likes being smacked around by her dreamboat Palance. Also, she has a closet with handy poison and a gun all ready to go.

Summary: “After an ambitious actor insinuates himself into the life of a wealthy middle-aged playwright and marries her, he plots with his mistress to murder her.”

IMDb.

Fabulous quotes:

Myra Hudson: “Remember what Nietzsche says ‘Live dangerously!'”
Lester Blaine: “You know what happened to Nietzsche?”
Myra Hudson: “No, what?”
Lester Blaine: “He’s dead.”

Lester Baine and Myra Hudson, Sudden Fear

“I was just wondering what I’d done to deserve you.” 

Myra Hudson, Sudden Fear
Harriet Craig movie poster
Movie poster of Harriet Craig, 1952.

Next up was 1950s Harriet Craig — Joan with Wendell Corey, Lucile Watson, Allyn Joslyn, William Bishop, K.T. Stevens and Ellen Corby. Directed by Vincent Sherman. She plays, what else, a Mommie Dearest without the kids, who actually hates kids, disorder, had to work to survive in a laundry and other foul places, but who now worships a perfectly clean, massive house and a Ming vahse and browbeats the servants and the little boy next door. Only thing missing is cans of Dutch Cleanser. Harriet is my paternal grandmother with money, youth, and better tailoring. Now THAT woman knew how to clean! The Ming vahse fails to survive the picture, as does her marriage.

Summary: “Domineering Harriet Craig holds more regard for her home and its possessions than she does for any person in her life. Among those she treats like household objects are her kind husband Walter, whom she has lied to about her inability to have children; her cousin Claire, whom she treats like a secretary; and her servants whom she treats like slaves.”

IMDb

Fabulous quotes:

“No man’s born ready for marriage; he has to be trained.” 

Harriet Craig.

“I’m going next door. Where the scheming widow lives.” 

Walter Craig.
Movie Poster of Torch Song

We also caught the tail end of Torch Song from 1953, with its infamous scene of Joan doing some serious legwork and vamping in full black face lip synching as India Adams sings Two Faced Woman and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands, Michael Wilding, playing blind, complete with drunken old biddy mother, seeing eye dog and costumes and more lip synching and other acts of violent culture appropriation.

Summary: “Jenny Stewart is a tough Broadway musical star who doesn’t take criticism from anyone. Yet there is one individual, Tye Graham, a blind pianist who may be able to break through her tough exterior.”

IMDb

Fabulous quotes:

“Your idea of art’s the fruit in the slot machine.”

Jenny Stewart

Jenny: “Carl, after you drop me will you take Mr. Norton home?” Carl: “Yes ma’am. What’s your address Mr. Norton?” Jenny: “Any dark bar.”

Jenny Stewart and her chauffeur

Joan emotes with aforementioned Michael Wilding, as well as Gig Young, the always fabulous Marjorie Rambeau, Harry Morgan, and Maidie Norman, who plays the usual part reserved for women of color: the maid, who remains completely silent when the white folk smudge their faces with charcoal, paint on big lips and start singin’ field hand songs. (Maidie was five hundred times the actor Joan was, but made-up black face gets Oscars and real black face gets two lines talking about how dinner or the fancy white woman dress is ready. Ms. Norman and Ms. Rambeau are pretty much the only redeeming features of this one, as well as a little bit of Mr. Wilding’s handsome mug. Should’ve been titled Black Face Lip Synching Song, but theaters in the south would have been all in a snit and shit. If you’re not into being entertained by many appalling elements in a 90-minute period, skip Torch SongSudden Fear and Harriet Craig I can personally recommend.

Tonight is the end of this year’s Summer Under the Stars. How appropriate to end it with Dearest Joan. And that fabulous production, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? so that Bette Davis can yet again trample on Joan’s special Summer Under the Stars day.

It’s now September. Thank god. This summer weather-wise and otherwise was brutal. Fall can’t get here fast enough.

‘Splaining Things to the Kids

A Democratic Socialist explains «what Democratic Socialism actually is»: Not just a return to the halcyon days of the New Deal.

“I’m a staff writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of DSA, and here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today in an effort to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States. The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens.

“Democratic socialists share goals with New Deal liberals. But they want to go further.

“Pooling society’s resources to meet people’s basic needs is a tenet of social democracy, one that’s been advocated domestically by much of the labor movement and many of its political supporters among New Deal and post-New Deal liberals. This is a vision we share. But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can.”

Vox

Yup.

Remembering the Past

Remembering Bill Schock on his 100th birthday … and the 52nd anniversary of Braniff 250 in Falls City. Also … feeling old from … time flying and stuff.

Since the AM2431 crash in Durango a few days ago appears to be from weather-related causes, never forgetting the lessons of BN250, as well as CO426, OZ809, EA66, PA759, DL191, and US1016 is as important as ever. Hope today’s flight crews are paying attention.

Those Who Forget the Past …

Looks like my second book (about microburst crashes) just gained a new chapter, «as described at AvHerald». Passenger-point-
of-view videos are also posted; pretty amazing. (Don’t watch if you can’t deal with intemperate language spilling out of people who are slammed to the ground and cheating death.)

And if you want to know what really happened with any airliner incident, big or small, Simon of AvHerald knows all. How he gets what he does from his Czech Republic base is amazing.

[A caveat: The comment section of AvHerald, like every other comment section in every other corner of the internettubesweb, is highly toxic. So, read Simon’s reports on the day’s incidents/accidents, but ignore the comments. Fair warning. The capacity of people to be nasty to each other upon the slightest context will always amaze me.]

Eggheads

There is brilliance «here» by Matthew Stewart:

“Here’s another fact of life in West Egg: Someone is always above you. In Gatsby’s case, it was the old-money people of East Egg. In the Colonel’s case, it was John D. Rockefeller Jr. You’re always trying to please them, and they’re always ready to pull the plug.
“The source of the trouble, considered more deeply, is that we have traded rights for privileges. We’re willing to strip everyone, including ourselves, of the universal right to a good education, adequate health care, adequate representation in the workplace, genuinely equal opportunities, because we think we can win the game. But who, really, in the end, is going to win this slippery game of escalating privileges?”
The Atlantic

And this:

“In Trump, the age of unreason has at last found its hero. The ‘self-made man’ is always the idol of those who aren’t quite making it. He is the sacred embodiment of the American dream, the guy who answers to nobody, the poor man’s idea of a rich man. It’s the educated phonies this group can’t stand. With his utter lack of policy knowledge and belligerent commitment to maintaining his ignorance, Trump is the perfect representative for a population whose idea of good governance is just to scramble the eggheads. When reason becomes the enemy of the common man, the common man becomes the enemy of reason.
Did I mention that the common man is white? That brings us to the other side of American-style resentment. You kick down, and then you close ranks around an imaginary tribe. The problem, you say, is the moochers, the snakes, the handout queens; the solution is the flag and the religion of your (white) ancestors. According to a survey by the political scientist Brian Schaffner, Trump crushed it among voters who ‘strongly disagree’ that ‘white people have advantages because of the color of their skin,’ as well as among those who ‘strongly agree’ that ‘women seek to gain power over men.’ It’s worth adding that these responses measure not racism or sexism directly, but rather resentment. They’re good for picking out the kind of people who will vehemently insist that they are the least racist or sexist person you have ever met, even as they vote for a flagrant racist and an accused sexual predator.”
Ibid

And then he brings it home:

“No one is born resentful. As mass phenomena, racism, xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, narcissism, irrationalism, and all other variants of resentment are as expensive to produce as they are deadly to democratic politics. Only long hours of television programming, intelligently manipulated social-media feeds, and expensively sustained information bubbles can actualize the unhappy dispositions of humanity to the point where they may be fruitfully manipulated for political gain. Racism in particular is not just a legacy of the past, as many Americans would like to believe; it also must be constantly reinvented for the present. Mass incarceration, fearmongering, and segregation are not just the results of prejudice, but also the means of reproducing it.”
Ibid

Where then shall we go thither?

“The United States, to be clear, is hardly the most egregious offender in the annals of human inequality. The European nations from which the colonists of North America emigrated had known a degree of inequality and instability that Americans would take more than a century to replicate. Whether in ancient Rome or the Near East, Asia or South America, the plot remains the same. In The Great Leveler, the historian Walter Scheidel makes a disturbingly good case that inequality has reliably ended only in catastrophic violence: wars, revolutions, the collapse of states, or plagues and other disasters. It’s a depressing theory. Now that a third wave of American inequality appears to be cresting, how much do we want to bet that it’s not true?”
Ibid

If I have quoted rather liberally, it is to be sure because the piece deserves to be quoted liberally across the land. Read the whole thing.

Treading a Careful Path in Post-Castro Cuba

«Here’s a fascinating, albeit rather eye-crossing, analysis» of what is happening in Cuba from a Communist perspective. Whatever happens, the way forward is difficult regardless of where one sits on the left-right political spectrum. Will it be a longer-drawn-out 1989 followed by a Franco-Batista-Bolsanaro triumph and bloodbath? Will it become Venezuela? Or will a Scandinavian socialism settle in? Whichever, it’s going to be an interesting new era.

“… we should not resort to useless and ultimately pedantic whining particularly virulent among many left-communist sects. We should organize our thoughts in helpful and productive ways, not just stating the facts, but analyzing them. There is a discrete left-opportunist trend that seeks to throw all developments in Cuba post-1959 into the dustbin and forget about it. This does as little for us as the right-opportunist line; both fail to grasp the full reality of revisionist corrosion and capitalist restoration in Cuba, although one cloaks itself in stultified theory. We should not stop at holding out hope for the legitimate Communists in Cuba, but should actively unite with them and learn from them.”

AntiImperialism.org

Warm Summer Night

Terrible quality, but is there anything better than a warm summer night playing in – er, rather sitting near the lawn sprinkler under a street light while watching the 21:00 evening arrivals at KBNA? Well, maybe if I was still 10 …

For Bill

Back in 2014, I included a chapter in my book detailing Bill Schock’s war experiences as they related to his reporting on the crash of Braniff International flight 250 in 1966.

The editors at McFarland, rightly but regretfully, suggested I delete the chapter since it was rather tangentially related to the subject, namely “Deadly Turbulence: The Air Safety Lessons of Braniff Flight 250 and Other Airliners, 1959-1966.” (Yeesh, that title.) They wanted 80,000 words; I gave them 96,000, so yeah, some cuts were needed—like the chapter about events which happened in 1966.

But for what it’s worth, in honor of Bill, here’s the deleted chapter. I hope it does him at least some honor.

Farewell, Bill. Thank you.

Update 05:00 26-Jun-18: I revised the chapter to correct a few annoying typos and to add some information, including original source documents for Bill’s war record. Click the link below again to get the revised version. Thanks!]

Read the chapter at this link:
«Deleted Chapter About Bill Schock from Deadly Turbulence by Steve Pollock»

A Final “Hangin’ Out the Warsh”

«This is Bill’s final column» out of countless ones he wrote over 71 years for the Falls City Journal.

With this column, he said farewell; the Journal has been sold and moved to a much smaller space in downtown Falls City which it had occupied until 1950.

It’s all extremely symbolic of the state of small-town journalism in the wayward America of the 21st century.

He wrote about one memory that I can personally relate to very much from my time at the Duncan Banner:

“A man came into the office and was pondering over the counter. Finally, he said, ‘I guess I’ll keep on another year. It ain’t the best paper in the world, but it is something to read.’ Another time a man brought an ad in for placement in the Journal and when he was told the price he said, ‘The old man gave me a better price.’ The clerk said, ‘Who’s the old man?’ He said ‘Bill Schock.'”

Falls City Journal

More Grief

This is kind of like how I feel about my (possibly four) upcoming surgeries: I don’t want to do this, but I have to, and I hate it.

Received a kind e-mail yesterday telling me of the death of Bill Schock of Falls City, NE, on Thursday evening, six weeks short of his 100th birthday. Cripes, 2018, you’re just not going to let up, are you? This bites very hard.

I’ve written and posted photos and documents here about Bill before. Without him, I would never have finished my first book; in fact, without him, there would have been really no book at all, because his photos and reporting about the crash of Braniff International flight 250 near Falls City in 1966 form the foundation of the book and provide witness to the events of the tragic night of 6-Aug-1966. He very graciously gave, with no expectation of anything in return, photos, archives, notes and the permission to use them.

But more, far, far more than that, he was what most of us can only aspire to be: a man of his generation who played an important part in his country’s fight against global fascism, and an exemplary journalist, the highest ideal of American newspaper reporting. At a time of a resurgence of fascism and a retreat into seeming death of (especially small town) American journalism, this is a particularly hard blow. It was inevitable. But still.

Bill fell last week, suffering cuts and bruises. But his hospital checkup revealed something he had, typically, kept quiet: he had end-stage liver cancer. He died Thursday night.

Also typically, he wrote just a simple six paragraph obituary for himself, leaving out … well, most of his singularly extraordinary life. His grandson fortunately took it in hand and summed up Bill’s amazing life in the «obituary that was actually published here by the funeral home»:

“Bill Schock, a war hero who helped save the world from fascism and a beloved pillar of the Falls City community his entire remarkable life, years ago penned his own obituary and tucked it away for safekeeping. “Papa,” as he was affectionately known by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren the past 50 years, used just six small paragraphs and half a sheet of paper in understating an iconic life worthy of a weighty tome, chapters of which could be mistaken for fiction. Words like “hero,” “beloved,” “pillar,” “remarkable,” and “iconic” were not included, nor even considered. There was no mention of “Bill Schock Blvd.” or the myriad of individual honors and awards earned either professionally, during a 70-year career at The Falls City Journal, or civically, when he served on the City Council, School Board, Hospital Board, Rotary Club, Veteran’s Service Committee and Nebraska Outstate Daily Publishers Association, just to name a few. It read only that “Bill has served on numerous boards.” It was that modesty that helped make Falls City’s love for Bill Schock rival only Bill Schock’s love for Falls City. …”

Dorr and Clark Funeral Home, Falls City, NE

Read the whole thing. Bill’s was a life well-lived, and for many people, including me, “icon” and “hero” are highly appropriate words. I typically don’t like the words “hero” or “heroism;” they’re trite and overused. Just my parents and my husband have always been my “heroes.” Beyond that? Well, I’ve found few that can exhibit real “heroism.” In fact, these days, you’re a hero if you spend a few hours suffering from a hangnail, or put a piece of trash in a garbage bin. Bill however; now there’s someone I can look up to as an actual hero.

He gave in, fortunately for us, to his family’s urging to write a memoir of at least his World War II experience. “Thrills, Chills and a Spill,” is fascinating reading. Very few copies exist, since he apparently didn’t think anyone else would be interested. (!!!!!) I fortunately found a .pdf of it and it’s pretty spellbinding. And very vintage Bill. He ends it with this summing up:

“As we leave Europe and the war behind us, I can’t help but think of the one year, nine months and 22 days spent here in history’s worst war, trying to do my small bit for my country. It sure as heck wasn’t fun and games!
“But like the feller says, I would’t do it again for a billion bucks. And, on the other hand, I wouldn’t take a billion bucks for what I’ve gone through.
“They just have to be the greatest experiences of my life.”

And the book is just one year, nine months and 22 days out of 100 years of his amazing life. The other 98 were exemplary of sacrifice, service and great good fun, from bombing the hell out of German fascists to listening to countless school board meetings. This one is devastating. Heart-breaking. Who can replace his extremely large shoes? I wish I knew.

Farewell, Bill Schock. Sir, we appreciate, thank and salute you, not only for your time in uniform, but also and especially for your long service out of it. You are keenly missed.

History as Prophecy

I have been attempting to read «Michael Burleigh’s The Third Reich: A New History» since it came out in 2000. Instead, I’ve read «William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich» twice. Nothing wrong with anything I’ve read of Burleigh’s work; quite the contrary. In fact, it has to do with how big the book is; the first edition is 950-plus pages and weighs a ton and I’ve had hand/wrist problems since, well, 2000. And I have Rise and Fall on Kindle.

But I always thought that Burleigh’s opening paragraph (and all Third Reich histories in general) were always backwards looking; in other words, they were histories. Sure they warned about what could happen if we weren’t careful, but that was all theoretical and probably wouldn’t happen and we put a stop to it in the first place and it couldn’t happen again.

Turns out, how wrong I was. His opening ‘graph was instead prophetic. And how.

“This book is about what happened when sections of the German elites and masses of ordinary people chose to abdicate their individual critical faculties in favour of a politics based on faith, hope, hatred and sentimental collective self-regard for their own race and nation.”
—Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich: A New History

The paragraph’s last sentence was actually not as accurate, however:

“It is therefore a very twentieth-century story.”
Ibid

Yeah, that part? Not so much. But sections of American elites and masses of ordinary people have indeed, just 16 years after the book’s publication, chosen to “abdicate their individual critical faculties” and their “faith, hope, hatred and sentimental collective self-regard for their own race and nation” do in fact rule the day.

The only thing Burleigh couldn’t do is tell us how this particular American very twenty-first (and seventeenth/eightteenth/nineteeth/twentieth) century story will turn out.

We have, after all, already committed genocide against milions of people based on race, segregated millions of people based on race, destroyed democracy in favor of wealth (for a very few) and world domination, and are conducting limitless war without end throughout the world. What else is there? What else can we do from here on out than we haven’t already done before? Isn’t nuclear holocaust the Last American Frontier?

I’ll just stick my nose back in Burleigh’s magnum; the events in it have already happened and the good guys won and put an end to the suspense.

Dean Allen, RIP (Jan. 2018)

Because so much has been messed up and unstuck during the first half of this god-awful year, I just discovered the other day that Dean Allen, the creator of Textpattern, which powers this site, and of TextDrive, which used to host this site until Joyent destroyed it, and of «Textism» and Textile and Cardigan Industries and tamer of the epically wonderful Weimaraners «Oliver and Hugo» … well, he died back in January. I had no idea. There has been death aplenty around here since January and his slipped past me.

I’m glad that part of Dean lives on here in Textpattern (still running my websites with no let up since 2004) and the consciousness-raising I got from reading his stuff. I wish TextDrive was doing the same. WebFaction and NameCheap (what names!) have been adequate substitutions, but hardly anywhere near the same thing. «Many people» wrote «many wonderful things» about Dean’s influence and I can’t beat «them», so here’s the first part of his obit in the Vancouver Globe and Mail:

“It is with unspeakable sorrow that we announce the sudden passing of Dean Cameron Allen, on January 13, 2018 at the age of 51. “He leaves behind his parents, James and Holly; his brother, Craig; an adoring family; longtime partner, Gail; and a legion of loving friends and admirers around the world.
“Renaissance man, trailblazer and autodidact extraordinaire, Dean was a person of dazzling wit, charm and erudition. “Graphic designer, typographer, teacher, web pilgrim, critic, author, Weimaraner tamer, song and dance man, chef… he brought titanic intelligence, insight and humour to everything he did.
“And whatever room he was in, he was the weather. “He was instrumental in bringing clean, elegant design and typographical rigour to the early internet. And in raising online writing to a fresh and thrilling new art form.
“A source of inspiration to many, he was generous with his guidance and praise. …”
Vancouver Globe and Mail, 6-Feb-18

God speed Dean … and thanks for all the … empowerment you gave us.

“Intellectual property is theft!”

BA223 Arrives

Welcome to KBNA, 787-8 BA223, arriving on 20R after an 8 hour, 56 minute flight from LHR.
British Airways began five-times-a-week, nonstop service between London Heathrow and Nashville International last week and I’ve been trying to get the beautiful Dreamliner on film all week and the stars aligned today. Not great lighting, but I got ‘er!!
Welcome to Music City, BA! Hope to fly Dreamliner flights 222/223 some day!

Posted by Steve Pollock on Monday, May 14, 2018

His Royal Snit Fit

Portrait: His Imperial Majesty The Roux throws the Royal Snit Fit, leading His Court in vocal protests against All This Infernal Packing.
Again, sorry for poor video quality. You takes ‘em as you gets ‘em.)

Posted by Steve Pollock on Thursday, April 26, 2018

Shooting Up the Waffle House, Naked

In all this pouring (and pouring and pouring) rain, how difficult is it to find a naked man running around after he assaulted a Nashville Waffle House at 3 a.m. with an AR-15 and killed four people? And this after he was arrested last July by the Secret Service for being in a restricted area near the White House and is known to FBI and Illinois authorities for various other gun-related incidents, but who probably could do nothing because … Second Amendment?

Apparently very difficult, ‘cause he’s still running around., although he apparently stopped by his apartment and put on some clothes. So at least there’s that.

The slaughter was stopped by an unarmed restaurant patron (not, it should be noted, by an armed teacher or armed waitress packing a tommy gun with her smothered, covered, chunked and diced hash browns).

He’s insane. Thoughts and prayers are insane. And a country that lets slaughter like this continue is insane.

For the rant, sorry, but not sorry, you know? Back to packing!

Closing Tomorrow

Closing on the new house at 11 a.m. tomorrow! VERY happy. His Majesty is preparing final addresses for the Cats of Saddlebrooke/Hermitage, then he and the Royal Court will be off at the end of the week to invade and conquer the new land of Jonesboro/Nashville. Wish him luck; there is a very giant, very loud coonhound living behind our new house and this is gonna get very interesting. We’re buying earplugs.

Goose's Most Favoritist Thing in the World

Goose loves when the sun goes down, because it makes great reflections off the phone, which is his MOST. FAVORITIST. Thing. IN. THE. WORLD!!!!! to chase. Tails are for pikers. He gets very excited, which in turn Wholly Displeases His Imperial Majesty The Roux, who is then bothered and obliged to Issue Verbal Correction to the Wayward Prince. They’re both quite mad, really.

Posted by Steve Pollock on Tuesday, April 10, 2018