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.My Kid said that I need to have my own "Blog". I've heard the word before and didn't really know what it means. Just thought that it sounds like a name that Cave-people might call each other.

"Look... Blog have something stuck in beard" or "Hey, let's get Blog to eat it and if he no die; then we all can eat it."

When I was finally explained the real 21st century meaning of the word; A blog is basically whatever you want it to be. A place where you write whatever you want.

So I agreed with the kid. Maybe I do need a blog.

You know that the old saying goes; "Sometimes I think and sit... and sometimes I just sit." Well; sometimes when I am able to do both at the same time, I get downright ponderous.  Sometimes I feel like typing it out. Maybe it's self-therapy. Maybe it's boredom. So I thought I would type some of it here from time to time.

Some of the thoughts I record here are short and some of them are long. Probably the short ones are better reading because they waste less time.

If you feel like reading it; go ahead. If you really would rather not; then I won't be offended.

 

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I was watching this documentary about the Titanic.

You know? The swimming pool is still filled with water. That's amazing.

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I ran across this old photo. It's totally anonymous. No idea who these women are or where or when the photo was made. But it really makes me wonder.

I mean, really... Look at it...What the heck is going on?

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What happened to "The"?

When I was a kid and somebody talked about the Titanic; they always referred to it as "The Titanic". Now whenever I hear something about it on a documentary or where-ever, it is referred to as "Titanic" as in: "On April 10 Titanic leaves Southampton....Titanic hits the iceberg at 11:40 on the evening of April 14". Why do they not say "The" Titanic? what happened to "the"? Its the same with other ship names.  We used to hear about how the USS Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor. Now on the History channel they say "Arizona blew up and sank". What happened to "The"? Why has it been removed?

One thing that really gets me is the movie about the Titanic in the 1990s. They have this old woman who is a survivor and when she is talking about her experience; she says something like "That was the last time I ever saw Titanic". The script-writers had her talking like that as well. Certainly; because she is old, she would have; all her life been referring to it as "The Titanic". But suddenly she drops the "The"...what is that about?

Before Perestroika; we used to talk about The Ukraine. Now it is referred to as simply "Ukraine"..."Hello, do you come from Ukraine?"...I am going to travel to Ukraine".

I don't like it. Not one bit.

 

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So; under Eisenhower's administration in the 1950s America took a cue from other industrialized countries (Starting with Hitler's Germany) and started to build the Interstate highway system; linking virtually all major cities with each other by modern freeways.  I always considered Ike's sponsorship of the highways almost as cool as his commanding the  armies entering Europe to take out the Nazis.

I don't know how close this idea is to becoming fact but I've heard that the government wants to sell the Interstates to private enterprises so that they can maintain them and charge us for using them. Our highway system is built upon an infrastructure and set of easements; assembled over the past 60 years which could never be duplicated by the private sector. But they don't need to duplicate it. Washington wants to give it to them so they can charge us for the use of something that we have already paid for. Why?: because the government needs to take that upkeep money and spend it on throwing money at foreign allies that none of us want; sending the presidents wife to NYC on air-force-one to go shopping; at a cost of $500,000 per trip....or whatever.

Well I guess it was only a matter of time before mismanagement of our financial resources would take away; literally the only benefit that we daily see from all those tax dollars we send to Washington.

What a bunch of cocks.

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I hate the term "Surrender Monkeys" that people tend to use when referring to the French. True; France has been a near comedy of blunders and mis-management since just after Waterloo. But I think we are inclined to forget 1914-1918.  The WW1 French veteran is probably the most respectable thing to have sprung from French culture in the past 200 years. Mistreated and misused by their own commanders; these guys held the line against overwhelming pressure for 4 years; throwing back the best that Falkenhayn or Ludendorf could throw at them. My hat is off to them.

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Rumor has it

I love starting rumors. I call them "sociological experiments" designed to measure the gullibility of man. Oh; nothing major, mind you. I am not comfortable telling whoppers. Take for instance the weather. I'm standing with a friend in a check-out line and I turn and tell him (in a clear audible voice) that isn't it something? We are due to get 12-16 inches of snow by morning. The lady in line behind us or even the check-out girl will hear this and repeat this astonishing prognostication to the next person they talk to...and so on, and so on.

  My favorite so far is mentioning (to anybody with whom I may be chatting) how incredible it seems to me that United States currency is now actually printed in China; contracted by the government because they can do it cheaper. So far, nobody has called me out on that. Isn't that a hoot?

It's a perfect lie. One that nobody would suspect simply because of the total lack of motive for telling such a fib. Nobody is harmed. Nobody loses anything by it. If there has to be lies in this world; (and human nature apparently dictates that there must be)  let them all be as trivial as these.

I remember in 2009 Michael Jackson died.  I think he was a very talented guy; if a bit troubled. He certainly made more of a splash in this world than most people do and the world was a better place with him in it. During that summer, I was waiting in a line of a Dairy Queen and I turned to my friend, Kent and said in an audible voice "So who is this guy Michael Jackson? Everybody seems to be talking about that he died"

 Kent is onto my ways ever since I gave him the idea that they were forecasting earthquakes one week in Lapeer Michigan. He answered without missing a beat; "I am not sure. But wasn't he the president of Canada?"

"Yeah, That's him. I guess that's why everybody is talking about him being dead now."

A kid; who was standing next to us says to me "Um, Mister... Michael Jackson was a singer"

"Oh really? What did he sing? Can you sing one of his songs here for me?"

"No, I can't"

A minute later he had his Ice cream and was over with his family under one of those umbrellas. He was talking to them and pointing over at Kent and Me.

The fact that I am entertained by that sort of thing is something of which I am not particularly proud. I just recognize it as a fact and go on with things.

I mean; we live in a world filled with sickies. Andre Chikatillo; remember him? Killed about a gazillion people over 20 years and used to masturbate on their graves.

So how far from "Normal" are my little shenanigans?

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I'm sitting here re-watching "Band of brothers" for the umpteenth time. Currently at the episode where the veterans are re-capping their experiences; speaking of their re-unions at that point when they were old men; speaking of that bond they have with other members of the company.

I've not had a war. I was born at just the right time; so that I matured in between conflicts. I'm thankful to God that I did not have to endure and witness what they did. But as much as I didn't endure that kind of suffering; I missed out on having that bond between myself and others. There is no substitute for it. No friendship; no romance, no relationship of any kind would have that same quality. So how lucky am I really?

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Have you heard that our United states currency is now being printed in China?

 

 

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Size matters

Halloween has come and gone again. My kid is 13 so I have to really savor these last episodes of trick-or-treating before he gets too far into puberty. Of course I raid his candy bag; wouldn't you? But something there really got my attention. There was a small packet of "Mini M&Ms".

...Mini?

Why would the candy designers feel the need to come up with a "mini" version of something which is clearly already mini?

I mean; think about it. Have you ever encountered an M&M that you couldn't eat at one sitting? ... "oh man, my wife and I split an M&M last night and I am still feeling full"...Have you ever noticed any weight-gain from the consumption of a single portion of M&M? Why would they feel the need to offer an M&M which is further reduced in size?

And what is next? "Micro M&Ms"? M&Ms that you need to isolate with a magnifying glass and a pair of surgical tweezers?

This comes after the years-ago revelation that "Fun size" snickers bars are not nearly as fun as the full-size version.

 

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That Lana Turner ... just saw her in an old movie ... what a dish. I mean; Wow!

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The following is a true story. It happened to me in the 1990s. Later I found out that a similar thing happened to Douglas Adams who authored "The hitch-hikers guide to the universe". The recurrence of these events cannot really be that common can it? Read the story and you tell me...

 I was asked by my friend to meet him at home depot to help load up some lumber he needed. I got there early. I sat at a picnic table near the front door with my newspaper and a package of six peanut-butter/crackers. I was reading my newspaper when a guy came and sat at the table across from me. I didn't look at him; just knew he was there.

Then it happened...I heard cellophane crinkling as he opened my package of crackers and took one. Quite a forward sort of thing to do; eh what? It was fairly odd on his part... but I was in a calm mood and didn't feel like making any complaint about it. Just reached over and took one myself. A moment later, he took another. Again; I didn't feel the need to comment. Never even looked at him. Just continued reading the first section of my newspaper. I took another cracker; the fourth out of six in the package. Then thought that I would just deny him of a half/half split of the crackers ...so I reached over and took the remaining two.

He got up and left. Again; I never actually looked at him but something in his body language told me that he left in a snit. Screw him.

A few minutes later my friend showed up and I figured it was time to get to work so I got up  and grabbed my paper up from the table. Underneath it was the package of crackers that I had bought. Still unopened.

That guy is probably still out there. Maybe he thinks about this episode from time to time. And maybe he tells his version of it to people. A version quite different from mine because he left before the really funny part happened.

 

 

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We drive on the parkway but we park in the driveway.

I know that you must have heard that statement before. But sometimes I really ponder the irony of it and I wonder why more people don't seem to wonder why.

 

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I maintain that the secret to Humor; indeed the pre-requisite of it; is brevity.

A horse walks into the bar and the bartender asks "why the long face?"....that remains my life-long favorite joke. And it is one that you can tell in a single breath.

 

 

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"DOH!"

I think that King Michael I is a most fascinating guy. He became king of Romania in 1940 and was really only a figurehead until the late summer of 1944 when a coup was staged against the Romanian government leader; Ion Antonescu and Michael became the Defacto ruler of the Romanian state. Shortly afterward; seeing that the red army was bearing down on his eastern orders; he made the decision for Romania to defect to the allies; Much the same way that Italy had done the previous summer. The Germans reacted much the same way that they did the previous summer except they no longer possessed the military punch to invade and occupy the country. On the contrary; given the cease-fire and armistice between Romania and the Allies; the Red army entered Romania in it's continued push "на запад"; to the west. Michael was recognized by Stalin as playing a significant role in actions effecting an entire theater of war in favor of the Allies and was made a holder of the soviet order of victory (along with a total of 21 other recipients including Eisenhower and Montgomery). However, by the end of 1945, a communist government was installed in Bucharest and the days of Michael's royal reign were surely numbered. He was forced to abdicate and left the country in early 1948.

At the time that I'm writing this; Michael I is still alive. Since the fall of communism in the late 80s; he has been welcome back in his home country and has maintained a home there; although has been allowed almost no role in the affairs of the current government. He remains a striking figure this far into the 21st century; a WW2 era head-of-state who lunched with Hitler yet was made chief Commander of the Legion of Merit by Harry Truman. He and his wife: Princess Anne Antoinette Marguerite of Bourbon-Parma are cousins to Queen Elizabeth of England. He's been a test-pilot, he was head of the Romanian boy-scouts in the 1930s. He collects cars and especially military Jeeps.

It is in that context that I met him while attending a military vehicle rally in France back in 1989. I and some friends were over there for one of the major rallies which took place in Normandy every 5 years during the anniversaries of the invasion. My friend; Jim and I were walking along when he noticed this guy and his wife getting out of his Jeep; a rare example of a Willys Model MA dating to 1940. Jim was assembling info and data for a book about that precise vehicle and he stopped to talk to the owner.

Before actual introductions, Jim realized who Michael was and I am not kidding you; he said "Hey, you're the king of Romania"

I don't remember what Michael said but he was gracious and polite. Jim turned to Princess Anne Antoinette Marguerite of Bourbon-Parma and likewise said "And you must be the Queen".

I remember she patiently said "Well, I am the wife".

Jim raved about the condition of the MA Jeep; launching into a surprisingly in-depth and reciprocal discussion with the King; the both of them talking mechanical and design gibberish while I made stumbling attempts at conversation with Princess Anne Antoinette Marguerite of Bourbon-Parma while eating a French made "Kit-Kat" bar. It is more than 20 years ago so I don't remember if I offered her half.

After some time Jim and Michael's chatting was interrupted by the clock. Michael and Princess Anne were due at some function in the next village. Jim and I were heading for the same place and Michael graciously offered us a ride in his Jeep. I demurred; stating that we had our vehicle here and it would be too inconvenient for them to have to bring us back to it. So we all parted ways; Jim and I continuing our own way.

The reason for this story is to illustrate one of those moments in my life where I let out a real Homer Simpson type "Doh!"

 I think of it often. Here I was offered a situation where; however briefly, I would have had a King for a chauffer.... and I let it go by.

Just let it go by.....

 

 

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Tonight I am thinking about Stalingrad. You know; soon it's going to be the 75th anniversary of that momentous event. I was thinking of a trip I took there a few years back.

 

For many years I was not particularly interested in the history of the eastern front. It seemed so depressing. Titanic battles that one could not get a handle on like the smaller scale campaigns of the west. I have read for years on forums and such; people's dissections of the events in Russia; citing statistics, after-action reports and theories about what might have been if things had been done differently. All from the safety of a far-off place; far off both in geography and in time.

When you are there, none of that seems to matter. You are looking out over a vast and inhospitable land. Pondering the amazing resilience of two peoples: Of course the Russians and their infamous capacity for suffering; redeemed by their tenacity in the resistance of foreign invaders; not for the love of their nation but for the love of their people. And the resilience of the Germans; for that they could have come so far. I stood on the outskirts of that city on the edge of Asia and looked west. Fifteen hundred miles from the neatly paved streets with tidy houses and manicured gardens of Germany. Their army came all that way across the barren steppe. Driven by god knows what. Only to be swallowed up with all their "superior" technology and strategy like a wave absorbed into the sand of a beach.

Stalingrad seems to be the climax of all human suffering of the 20th century; or even of 20 centuries. My Wife and kid and I visited the Mamaev Kurgan; the location of the largest free standing statue in the world; "Mother Russia" stands holding a sword, exhorting the people onward in the fight against the fascist invaders. As we mounted the steps towards the statue, the path way is funneled through the building which houses the eternal flame; then up a spiral staircase to exit at the top which is the base of the hill that supports the statue. The eternal flame is in the center of a huge room lined with amber colored mosaic walls. Two guards stand motionless across from each other before the flame. Arrangements of flowers are accumulated in front of the large arm which holds the torch upward. Funeral music plays and not a word is spoken.

This room is the epicenter of the greatest tragedy in all of the human experience. The worst single episode of the worst situation that man could have created. Like a prelude to Armageddon; resulting in deaths without number. And the survivors reduced to indescribable misery.

The reasons for it fade away. The political and social rhetoric that spawned such an event becomes of little importance. One considers the idea that there is nothing in all creation; no philosophy; no society's conflicting ideas of what is right and what is wrong; no control of acreage nor love of country, that could be worth the cost that was paid here. 

Consider man's achievements; technical, artistic, social advances that have been made. A man on the moon, the Sauk vaccine and on-demand movies in every house; a city like Paris, Rome or New York where we can gawk at the architectural wonders; A free society where our children can sleep safe through the night and grow up to be whatever they want to be. It mean's nothing there in that room with the torch. Nor does the greatest symphony ever composed; the most eloquent thoughts ever put to pen or most moving image ever painted onto canvas. It's all reduced to nothing when balanced by the fact that thousands of years of our advancing "civilization" could not prevent the return to primeval degradation as it occurred here.

We are not what we think we are. As a species we have grown little and gained even less for it. We are still capable of the lowest and the worst. Stalingrad has proved it if nothing else has. And that room with the amber walls is the evidence. The greatest testimony against us.

As we moved our way through this mausoleum. I had to pause. I motioned the wife and boy to continue ahead of me so they wouldn't see that I was choking on held-back tears.

In a nut-shell, that is the perspective I have gained by going there.

 

 

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During WW2, My dad was with a rifle company of 137th regt, 35th div from Normandy to the Elbe. These are some of the things he told me.

   In St.Lo, his squad had to cross a street that was being covered by an MG42. The first guy ran across and got cut in half before he could make it. Next was Henderson, my dad's friend. He made it about 5 yards and met the same fate. Dad remembered looking at him from his position and seeing his face turned towards dad. Eyes wide open, mouth open and beech-nut chew dribbling from his dead lips. Dad was next. He crossed himself (he was a good Catholic) and got up and ran. The bullets spit up gravel at his feet as he ran but he made it across. Then proceeded to guide mortar rounds onto the MG position until it was knocked out.

   Later they were in a wooded position and the company pulled out. Dad was the last to leave but when he tried getting out of his fox-hole, a snipers bullet nearly got him. The sniper had him zeroed in and he couldn't leave his hole. After a couple of hours, he tried again. This time the sniper fired and the bullet cut the strap of his suspenders at his shoulder. He ducked back into his hole and played a day-long waiting game with the German. It was only after it got very dark that he was able to get out of that hole and catch up with his company.

   Sometime during the Normandy campaign, Dad's company was off the line and were resting near where a bunch of Germans were standing in a row as prisoners. The German's guards weren't letting the Germans walk around or even sit. Dad remembers that several of them wore Black panzer wrap-around jackets. One of them had to take a dump but the guards wouldn't let anybody move, much less walk out into the bushes. The German had to go really bad after a while. Dad remembered how some of the guys got a kick out of watching him squirm; this German dressed all in black with shiny medals on his chest. Finally the German couldn't do anything but drop his drawers and squat right there in front of everybody.

  Abernathy was another guy in Dad's company. Back in camp Rucker Alabama, Dad was sure it was Abernathy who had stolen a money-clip full of cash from Dad's foot locker. He never got along with him after that. In Normandy, Abernathy was the first guy that Dad saw crack under the pressure. One day on the line, Abernathy's face just went blank and he started jabbering unrecognizably and waving his rifle around. The guys had to jump on him and wrestle him to the ground. He disappeared from the company after that.

   The company was moving to another position and were told to stick to the trail that was marked because of the danger of mines. Everybody was walking single file. "Morris"; one of the guys in Dad's platoon didn't listen to the orders and strayed from the path walking in a parallel line with the others. He tripped an "S"-mine which bounced up out of the ground and exploded, dis-emboweling Morris. It took him 20 minutes to die and he never stopped screaming. Dad had one simple comment to make about the episode: "He didn't do as he was told". Dad was always a stickler for details later in life. People needed to do as they were told and not buck authority. I guess that had a lot to do with why he was like that.

   In Late July 1944 the U.S. First army launched Operation "Cobra" to break through the line just north of St Lo; (Which, until that point the Germans had been holding; keeping the US forces bottled up in hedgerow country). The break-out operation was preceded by a five-mile wide carpet-bombing mission by medium and heavy bombers of the 8th air-force. Dad remembers seeing them come over in waves and the GI's got out of their foxholes and cheered this display of allied air might. That is; until they saw the doors open the the bombs falling; heading straight for them. On and off for the next hour the earth erupted in titanic explosions; many of which were falling short and landing among the GIs foxholes. Dad remembers burying himself as deep into his foxhole as possible; literally not knowing if he was still alive of dead. He later related it as an almost surreal experience; literally "out of this world". As a side note: In June, 1994, I was staying in Normandy for several weeks during the 50th anniversary of the landings. I had researched the precise positions of the 2nd Battalion, 137th infantry regiment. Back in the woods off the highway northeast of St. Lo the ground was heavily cratered still. Poking around with a metal detector we hit on a large signal that seemed to get louder the deeper we dug. It was something really big. About 4 feet down my shovel hit the side of what turned out to be an unexploded 250 lb bomb. One of our French companions was a former French army engineer who had specialized in defusing unexploded bombs. He was able to ascertain that the fuse had not been set before it left the bomb-bay door of the aircraft. One of my French friends got it out of the hole and took it home with him.... It blew up about 4 years later but I don't remember what caused it.


   I always got into conversations with Dad about the war but they never lasted long. Invariably, it would end up with him close to tears. I have more of his anecdotes but my one poor typing finger is starting to hurt now.

 

 

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Some of my favorite quotes:

 

"The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold....If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.". - Harry Truman

"Whether you like it or not; History is on our side. We will bury you.".-Nikita Khruschev

"Girls just wanna have fun".- Cyndi Lauper

 

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