Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Political Ads Infected the Rest

226 See Not From Concentrate, an online comic I really enjoy, written and illustrated by Thomas Dobrosielski:  http://nfccomic.com/

Edible Dirt by Matt Rosemier

This comic series by Matt Rosemier is irreverent and often in poor taste, but I generally find it to be very funny.  To view the latest comic: http://eddirt.frozenreality.co.uk/


Monday, November 10, 2008

In Flanders Fields (for Veterans Day)

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae, according the website of Arlington National Cemetery,

created "In Flanders Fields"  as a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

Tommy (for Veterans Day)

Rudyard Kipling

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Leave Bill Alone!

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Buy you a Beer?

According to the Post Crescent in Appleton, Wisconsin, a 38-year-old man was cited for disorderly conduct in Fond du Lac, Wis., in September after he bought a beer for his sons at the county fair.  What's the big deal?  His sons are ages 2 and 4.  Officers could not cite the man for providing alcohol to minors because under Wisconsin law parents are exempt.  Fortunately, he was belligerent when speaking to the officers, so he was written up for swearing at police.

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Hottest Baby Food Flavor

Who Signed Off on THIS Sign?

fail owned pwned pictures

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The Quality of Life is in the Quality of Living

"Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on Earth."
                                                                     —Mark Twain

Sometimes, if you are like me, it takes a simple thought, simply expressed to cut through the sheer speed of living.  With so many things to do, and so much information, and so much to buy and operate and watch and read and listen to, it can be pretty easy to be swept up in doing things, owning things and being active.  What's wrong with that?  Well, nothing in and of itself.  We must own some things to live, must we not?  We must do some things, and take action.  Still, it is all too easy anymore to find ones' life reduced to an endless high-speed string of activities, consumption and belongings.  We pursue the 'good life' in the form of these things, and at least some of the time we come unmoored to the simplest truths in life.  In having so much, and doing so much, and taking care of the many obligations that come from doing and having so much, we can easily begin to equate these things (consciously or otherwise) with happiness and success in life. 

When I see a sentence or two like this quote from Mark Twain, I am reminded that it is not the volume of belongings, or activities, or information that brings me satisfaction.  The happiest and most satisfying moments in my life revolve around people - family, friends.  They revolve around time - time to interact with them, share and make memories with them.  They depend on good health to enjoy, and and opportunity to be together. Often enough, the pace of life actually weakens the experience of family and friends - draws off some of the depth from the interaction.  We can become distracted and miss the moments that afford us so much of the satisfaction we find in life.  When we are distracted, self conscious, only partially engaged, though we are able to be together, we are not quite together. 

When we have the chance - time, health, companions - to really live, it is good advice indeed to value it.  And more, to be uninhibited about taking advantage of the moment and living it.  No matter how much we have, or how much we do, the quality of our lives derives far more from how we live our moments than where we live them, or what we own.  

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.