Category Archives: History

The Old Man and Me

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Photo Credit: Chaval Brasil via Compfight cc

I saw this picture earlier today and remembered my dad, the old man.  Pop’s spirit never waivered. Age never diminished his sense of humor nor did it take away his mind as it does many old men and women. As his youth faded, his back stooped and his steps became slower, shorter. Weight fell off of him in a way my fluffy frame could only envy. His eyes faded from blue to gray and time bleached his hair so that as he took his last breaths, it was as white as freshly fallen snow.

My father was born in 1918. I used to tell him he was born when dinosaurs roamed Earth and mentioned more than once I believed he must have had a pet stegosaurus named Clive.  Occasionally I’d regale him with tales of “Clive’s Amazing Adventures” which included WWI and WWII, a trip with Amelia Earhart, Clive’s Moonwalk, standing outside the Dakota with John Lennon and listening to Lou Gehrig say “goodbye” to name a few.

Pops was a story-teller and while some of these tales were outlandish, I think he enjoyed them and came right back with his tales steeped in historical truth.  He lived the events and his emotion brought those memories to life.

There’s a couple of reasons I wanted to speak about this today.

First, I got to thinking about all of the “old” characters in the movies, on television and in books. Frankly, there aren’t that many. I find they are few and far between. There is something that can be said about having an elderly character in a story – no matter what medium that character is in.  I would like to see more “old” characters in books, movies and on television and ones that are not the butt of the joke (which I’m truly afraid would happen on TV.)

Second is the “why” I would like to see them.  There are two reasons. One is because older characters bring a “wisdom” that generally does come with age. They have truly been there / done that and especially in books, sage advice is always a good thing. The other reason is for electronic media I think there is a lack of “aging actors.” Rene Russo said something along the lines when shooting Thor that when she came back to acting she was used to being the leading lady kissing all the gorgeous guys (Mel Gibson) and now she was playing Thor’s mother. What was wrong with that? Ageism exists in Hollywood and I would personally like to see the industry embrace older actors instead of shipping them out to pasture or limiting roles and scripts to what I consider are mundane or demeaning positions. There are exceptions, but seriously I must ask – how many actors over 65 (or 45 or 55) do you see on TV or in the movies?

My challenge to you today is when writing your piece, consider adding someone who is more advanced in years. You just might find they add something to your story that’s missing… color, wisdom and maybe my dad’s dinosaur, Clive, too.

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Red, White and Blue Thoughts

Dad – 1943 Ft. Bliss 
November 11, 1919
It was the first Veteran’s Day – the commemoration of Armistice Day ( a day set aside to honor the vets of WWI, the Great War.)  It was made a national / legal “holiday” in 1938 to honor veterans of all wars and through several modifications and alterations was sealed in stone as November 11th by President Ford. 
My father was born a few months before the “end” of WWI.  Following the Great War came the Great Depression. He was blessed and didn’t have as hard of a time as some, but in 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became a sergeant.  He transferred to the Air Corps and reached the rank of captain. He told me stories of his time in the military, some were funny, some not so much. But he was proud to have served and his patriotism always shone through.

As he got older he watched later generations’ patriotism melt into apathy.  Maybe it happened because of the Korea / Vietnam, “wars” the United States “shouldn’t” have been involved in. (Or am I supposed to say “conflicts?” I forget.) With the age of the Cold War and heightened nuclear era, there was a new and different type of patriotism, not the age-old “Rosie the Riveter” and “Uncle Sam Wants You” type of patriotism seen with WWII.  We wanted to “beat” Russia in the arms race, but it wasn’t what I would call a red,white and blue patriotic effort. 

It took an act of terrorism on American soil to ignite the embers that lay dormant for so long. Americans wanted to be patriotic again. They wanted justice. They wanted to pay back the enemy, just as we did when the Japanese Imperial Navy took the lives of American soliders on a beautiful Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor. 

But these weren’t soldiers who were killed. 
These were everyday citizens going about their daily lives…
Lives snuffed short because someone, somewhere didn’t like what America stands for. 

Over a debris field, a tattered flag was hoisted and the spirit of the American people soared anew in a wave of patriotism not seen since WWII. 

So … 
What is this thing called patriotism? 

One might say it’s the love, support or devotion to one’s country. Others would have a different definition and I’m not sure today exactly how dad would define it. 

I would say it’s the feeling one has deep down inside when you know we live in the greatest nation on Earth and when that nation is threatened, you would wrap yourself in the red, white and blue and die to defend it.

On this Veterans Day… it’s been 70 years since this photo of my dad was taken at Fort Bliss. For all who have served (including my mother, aunts, uncles, brother, brothers in law, nephews, friends… etc!), who are still serving, or who will serve this great nation of ours, you are appreciated more than you will ever know. May you all rest easy tonight whether you are in the sandbox, sailing the seven seas, flying high across the moonless sky or wherever you may be… God Bless each and every one of you. 

Deliverance

Operation Overlord.

That was the code name for the allied invasion on France – one of the the largest amphibious military assaults in history. It began on June 6th and wasn’t an overnight victory. The battle lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, but in the end the Allies were liberated from Western Europe and Nazi Germany’s control.

It’s been almost 70 years ago since some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five different beaches on the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region.  Just before the assault, the Allied forces conducted a huge deception campaign to mislead the Nazi forces about the intended invasion target. They called it Operation Bodyguard. Months of planning went into this. It worked.

President Dwight Eisenhower was only a U.S. Army General at the time of the Normandy Invasion, but Supreme Commander over the Allied Forces. Think about it. Wow. He rallied his troops and spoke with members of the 101st Airborne paratroopers before the planes and gliders left. (Great photo of this moment btw.)  Paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines during the night when their friends and fellow soldiers assaulted the beaches at dawn. Soldiers braved the pounding surf, crossed the beaches and moved over the seawalls to face the enemy.  Finally the beachhead was secured and they continued on. Men were wounded. Men lost their lives. All in the name of Freedom.

Freedom. Seven letters with a meaning more powerful than most other words known to man.

June 6th, 1944.

As the greatest generation becomes fewer in number and history books become filled with “more important” things, this and future generations don’t /won’t understand the breadth and depth of this date in history.

It’s a date that NEEDS to be remembered.

Without this combined military effort, the world would be a different place.

It was a day of deliverance.

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body 

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.” 



It’s been a long weekend at the OK Corral.  I’m still battling this plague that has taken root and refuses to subside.  And with the assistance of the chilluns and my sweet hubby, I have achieved a long awaited goal: shaving down all four fur babies for the summer. Oy! With all of the fur, I’m pretty certain Cruella De Ville would have been pleased with the new coat. 

And speaking of getting the animals ready for another hot, dry summer here in the Panhandle.  I was watching part of a series tonight that intrigues the daylights out of me.  It’s “North America” on the Discovery Channel.  Tonight one of the sequences included the wild mustangs in the southwest US.  Amazing creatures running with their manes flowing behind them across the open land – wild and free.  

http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/north-america

Occasionally I sit and think what the US used to be like. Yes, we have all of the modern “conveniences and luxuries.” However, imagine what it was like for the settlers in their wagons or on horseback.  And before the dawn on email, was snail mail.  We joke about it today, but once upon a time it was the only way to communicate long conversations long distance. 

Pony Express stations were placed at intervals of about 10 miles (16 km) along the route [1], roughly the maximum distance a horse can travel at full gallop. The rider changed to a fresh horse at each station, taking only the mail pouch (called a mochila) with him. The mochila was thrown over the saddle and held in place by the weight of the rider sitting on it. Each corner had a cantina, or pocket. Bundles of mail were placed in these cantinas, which were padlocked for safety. The mochila could hold 20 pounds (10 kg) of mail along with the 20 pounds of material carried on the horse, allowing for a total of 165 pounds (75 kg) on the horse’s back. Riders, who could not weigh over 125 pounds, were changed about every 75–100 miles (120-160 km).

This makes me want to ask really important questions.  125 lbs? How many grown men weigh 125 lbs? Were these adults that ran the pony express? I don’t believe so. I found some information on the internet that indicates boys as young as 11 rode the Express.  Picture it… an 11 year old averaging 10 days on horseback through some of the roughest terrain on earth (From St. Louis to California.)  This totally dispels the notion I had in my head of a big rugged cowboy riding through the open range to get the mail to where it needed to go.  

I believe in many ways the Express was actually the precursor to horse racing.  Today’s jockeys weigh between 115 and 125 lbs, but many try to keep their weight about 110 lbs for the big races (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.) They also have to be at least 16 years old. 


One of these days I’m going to go to the Pony Express Museum and check out the exhibits and maybe learn a little more about our history. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.  The museum is located at 914 Penn Street, St. Joseph, MO 64503 and also on the web at www.ponyexpress.org

Political Advertising and Other Woes

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching; corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21 1864

This morning on the way into work, I heard Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.”  I was instantly transported back to the Clinton election campaign and became somewhat nauseous. It’s not because of Clinton himself, though I’m not a fan nor supporter, but because he took a good song and ruined it for me.  I hate it when good songs are used for whatever purpose and then become associated with something else that have negative connotations in my life.

Because of this song, I began thinking about this Presidential election and politics in general.  I’m not as knowledgable about politics as I should be – probably because my stomach churns when I think about the muck and the mire that makes up the election process.

One of the biggest problems that irks me is the PAC/ SuperPAC campaign spending / donation process. I don’t quite understand how all of that works. I read up on wikipedia to get an idea and I’m still confused to be quite honest. However, something caught my eye and made me heartsick.

As of February 2012, according to Center for Responsive Politics, 313 groups organized as Super PACs had received $98,650,993 and spent $46,191,479. This means early in the 2012 election cycle, PACs had already greatly exceeded total receipts of 2008. The leading Super PAC on its own raised more money than the combined total spent by the top 9 PACS in the 2008 cycle.[72]


The 2012 figures don’t include funds raised by State level PACs nor funds raised by national level non-profit groups that pool “soft-funds”. Spending by non-profits, also called 527 organizations, exceeded $500 million in the 2010 election cycle with the two largest organizations being the Republican Governors Association $131,873,954 and the Democratic Governors Association $64,708,253 [73] Spending by the 527 organizations for the 2012 is expected to be double and much will be derived from donors kept hidden from voters.[74]
I understand to run an election campaign, it takes money; however, wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to see someone do it without spending millions of dollars on television ads – there are all sorts of new media ideas out there that aren’t as costly? It makes me sick because all of that money is being wasted on blue sky – which is what advertising is. And why all the bashing? Why not tout what you can do, your accomplishments and all of that? Just once I would like to see a positive campaign run by a politician. 
Most people do not like negative political ad campaigns. And frankly, most people are so sick of political ads by the time  the election comes they don’t want to see another one.  And the cost of these ads is astronomical – especially in tightly contested states.  By election day, Romney and Obama campaigns and other independent groups will have spent about $1.1 billion on television advertising in 2012,  with $750 million already allocated in the handful of states likely to determine the outcome of the contest — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin according to Kantar-Campaign Media Analysis Group estimates. Florida tops the list, with more than $150 million spent by both sides so far. Is that not assinine? (Thank you Yahoo for that info.)  
There are many different ways to get your message out to people that spending that kind of money isn’t as “vital” as it used to be. These politicians need to find a campaign strategist that is able to think out of the box and use new media as well as traditional branding to cut costs and put out a more positive message. 
I think people are smarter than the political machine gives them credit for. I think most decide early on who they are voting for and only a tiny slice of the pie is actually up for grabs.  The politicians would be better served focusing on the debates, their credibility and what they really have to offer than wasting millions of dollars on an uncertain number of votes.  

Your vote matters… if you don’t vote – you have no say in anything that happens. You don’t even have the right to sit and bitch about how this country is being run.  On election day, get out and vote. Many people have given their lives so you can cast your ballot. I’ll be there at the polls. Will you?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. “

John F. Kennedy

Literary Censorship: (Bleep) It All

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.”
-Goethe

  

I was reading a news story earlier today about things that are going to be “banned” in various parts of the United States. These items ranged from hugging (cooties?) to milk (because we all know that will kill you), to bake sales and sweet treats (obviously we can no longer have fundraisers that contribute to the obesity epidemic) and the banning of a certain book for students in an advanced placement English class in California. (California? Land of the Liberal?)

The book in question was “The Bastard out of Carolina” written by Dorothy Allison and adapted into a film in 1996.  I haven’t read it, nor have I seen the film, and cannot say one way or the other if a book about an illegitimate teen pregnancy, abusive relationship(s), rape and dysfuncational families should be read by teenagers in school because I don’t know “how” it was written. (I only read the synopsis.) I can’t say I’m thrilled about the idea of my daughters reading it as “required reading,” but then again, I have to wonder if my parents were keen on me reading books from the non-exclusive once banned book list below.

  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (one of the all time favorite books of censors)
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  • A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  • All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
  • The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  • A Separate Peace, by John Knowles  

Most of these books I read in junior high or high school and learned much about writing from them. I also learned much about how the authors saw the world and I expanded not only my vocabulary, but my point of view. This is not to say that all of these books should be read by one so young. I didn’t realize that one of my favorite books, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, wasn’t meant to be a young adult book until the other day.

“I wrote ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Huck Finn’ for adults exclusively, and it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean.” – Mark Twain –

I do believe that Mr. Twain has a valid point. The things we read and the things we see cannot be unread or unseen. Where is the point of demarcation between censorship and the “protection” our youth? I do not have the answer, nor does anyone else. It’s subjective.

I also cannot say that any of the books I have read as a child warped me beyond measure or maladjusted my thinking, but maybe I am one of the fortunate ones. But in considering this thought, shouldn’t there be books that realign or adjust our thinking?

I want to bring up two cases in point: “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley.

According to the American Library Association, as recently as 2010, a parent requested her daughter not be required to read Anne Frank’s diary aloud. Initially, in a Virginia school district, it was reported that officials decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank’s diary, due to the complaint that the book includes sexual material and homosexual themes. “The director of instruction announced the edition published on the fiftieth anniversary of Frank’s death in a concentration camp will not be used in the future despite the fact the school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints.” As a result, the gates of Hades opened and those remarks set of a rush of criticism online and brought international attention to the 7,600-student school system in Virginia. The ALA reported, “The superintendent said, however, that the book will remain a part of English classes, although it may be taught at a different grade level.”

I don’t really give a rat’s tail if there is sexual material or if there are homosexual themes in Anne Frank’s diary. What I do care about is this diary is an unfiltered view of the horrors of World War 2 and Nazi Germany. As they say, if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Who better to learn it from than one who lived through the nightmare?

The ALA also reported Harper Challenged at North County High School in Glen Burnie, Md. in 2010 by a small group of parents who circulated a petition to have “Brave New World” removed from use by county schools over concerns about explicit sexual content. The 1932 novel depicts a dystopian future where science and technology have run amok resulting in a morally bankrupt society. (Tell me this doesn’t sound at all familiar.)  Retained on the list of approved materials that Seattle, Wash. high school teachers may use in their language arts curriculum (2011). A parent had complained that the book has a “high volume of racially offensive derogatory language and misinformation on Native Americans. In addition to the inaccurate imagery, and stereotype views, the text lacks literary value which is relevant to today’s contemporary multicultural society.
I actually found the arguments against “Brave New World” somewhat amusing. This book has been challenged since 1932 when it was banned in Ireland.  Other challenges on this book in the 1980’s led to this book being removed from classrooms in Miller, MO in1980 because it makes promiscuous sex “look like fun.” and  in Oklahoma in 1988 because of “the book’s language and moral content.”  Other complaints were characters showing “contempt for religion, marriage and family” in 2000 and in 2003 another complaint showed parents objected to “adult themes of sexuality,drugs and suicide” that appeared in the novel.

In today’s “politically correct” society, I chuckle because the complaints are NOT about the contempt of family values, but of “racially offensive derogatory language and misinformation on Native Americans, etc…” rounding out with the statemnt that there is no literary value relevant to “today’s contemporary multicultural society.

If they are pissed because of racially offensive language, then we might as well wipe out a LOT of American literature that used the N word (or other words), even though it was “acceptable” once upon a time. In fact, why don’t we just sterilize everything before it goes to print so as to eliminate any possible words that could elicit any kind of response from someone. Today, if someone reads a text that has the word “nigger” in it, it will evoke an emotional response and I think from a historical perspective, that is something that needs to be kept in play.

No literary value?

Who or what determines literary value?

Huxley’s work is genius. If you look at the fact it was written in 1931 and brilliantly depicts a dehumanized life in a futuristic totalitarian state, which is not too unsimilar to today’s times, I can see why someone would want you to think that there is no literary value to this novel.  There are eerie prophetic moments where he describes genetic engineering and biological / technological advancements that take man away from nature. Isn’t that what is going on?  Huxley was a man before his time – much like Jules Verne. Maybe these people are hiding their fear of the prophecy coming to pass behind their politically correct outrage over words written 80 years ago that no one has ever really complained about to the American Library Association.

The one thing of which I am certain: I will never condone the burning or the outright banning of books.  There are many books I will never read for many different reasons; however, to tell an author his point of view has no validity, his muse is mistaken and his writing has no worth is wrong. Sometimes we have to remember that people can be trusted with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies and competitive values and our children are people too.