Sunday, August 09, 2015

August even sounds like an exhausted sigh.  Too hot to think, much less write anything coherent.  And I find I have all these disjointed notes.

Two boys are swept out of their boat off the coast of Florida, and are never found.  Surely this is a local story, unless the boys are rich, and white, and neighbors of Joe Namath...aha.  Actually, it's a story about bad parents.  Who lets a couple of fourteen-year-olds gas up and head for the Bahamas?  In some places you can lose custody and/or go to jail for leaving a kid that young alone at home.   Especially if you aren't rich and white and living in the vicinity of Joe Namath.

Sad to learn of the death of Phil Austin, a/k/a Nick Danger and Bebop Loco.  Only two members of Firesign Theater left.  Part of me wants to put them with the surviving members of Beyond the Fringe and see what happens.  If anything. 

If I looked like Donald Trump I would cram my mouth with Velcro before commenting on anyone else's appearance.  The hair is only the beginning.  That troll-doll face, red and flaccid, the swollen torso rammed into a suit three sizes too small, fat little arms flailing -- he looks like the puppet the children boo.  How dare that peroxide bitch challenge him with his own words?  He couldn't plausibly call Megyn Kelly a fat pig, so he had to imply she was "on the rag," as the locker room philosophers have it.  This was the signal for the other clowns to stop bashing Planned Parenthood and vowing to "overturn" Roe v. Wade long enough to insist that they aren't nearly as misogynistic as he is -- which is like al Qaeda protesting that it isn't as depraved as ISIS.  ("We don't lop off heads, we only use truck bombs, OK?")  I totally love this.  Can they get it on the weekly fall schedule?  Veterans, Latinos, women, there must be somebody he hasn't pissed off...disabled children?  Librarians?  The Belgians?

I guess I don't write enough about Memphis.  Last Wednesday a storm came through and left thousands in the dark.  Seventieth anniversary of the Atomic Age, and Dogpatch-on-the-Mississippi can't keep the lights on when it rains.  So I missed all the local TV, including my favorite commercial.  A man who looks like anybody's grandpa is being led off in handcuffs, shaking his head as if to say, "Ain't this a shame?"  What the hell did he get arrested for, running a high-stakes checkers game in Tom Lee Park?  Never mind, his daughters walk into the bail bond office, sign over their houses and cars and, now all smiles, take Daddy home.  There he can choose from the array of lawyers who advertise night and day, car "wrecks" a specialty.  I am so far from home.


Blogger john_burke100 said...

Not Perelman this time but the last page or so of a book I read recently; it crossed my mind an admirer of Paul Fussell might find this of interest.

In the small hours of the night of 1-2 August, the Boulevard du Palais in central Paris was filled with the… sound of marching men making their way in long columns northward to the Gares de l’Est and du Nord. There was no music, singing or cheering, just the scraping of boots, the clip-clopping of hundreds of horses, the growl of motor lorries and the crunching of iron wheels on cobbles as artillery pieces rolled under the unlit windows of apartments, many of whose occupants must have lain awake or sleepily watched the sombre spectacle from their windows.

Public reactions to the news of war gave the lie to the claim, so often voiced by statesmen, that the hands of the decision-makers were forced by public opinion. There was, to be sure, no resistance to the call to arms. Almost everywhere men went more or less willingly to their assembly points. Underlying this readiness to serve was not enthusiasm for war as such, but a defensive patriotism, for the aetiology of this conflict was so complex and strange that it allowed soldiers and civilians in all the belligerent countries to be confident that theirs was a war of defence, that their countries had been attacked or provoked by a determined enemy, that their respective governments had made every effort to preserve the peace. As the great alliance blocs prepared for war, the intricate chain of events that had sparked the conflagration was swiftly lost from view. “Nobody seems to remember,” an American diplomat in Brussels noted in his diary on 2 August, “that a few days ago Serbia was playing a star rôle in this affair. She seems to have faded away behind the scenes.”

There were isolated expressions of chauvinist enthusiasm for the coming fight, but these were the exception. The myth that European men leapt at the opportunity to defeat a hated enemy has been comprehensively dispelled. In most places and for most people, the news of mobilization came as a profound shock, a “peal of thunder out of a cloudless sky.” And the further one moved away from the urban centres, the less sense the news of mobilization seemed to make to the people who were going to fight, die or be maimed or bereaved in the coming war. In the villages of the Russian countryside a “stunned silence” reigned, broken only by the sound of “men, women and children weeping.” In Vatilieu, a small commune in the Rhône-Alpes region of south-eastern France, the ringing of the tocsin brought workers and peasants into the village square. Some, who had run straight from the fields, were still carrying their pitchforks.

“What can it mean? What is going to happen to us?” asked the women. Wives, children, husbands, all were overcome by emotion. The wives clung to the arms of their husbands. The children, seeing their mothers weeping, started to cry too. All around us was alarm and consternation. What a disturbing scene.

An English traveler recalled the reaction in an Altai (Semipalatinsk) Cossack settlement when the “blue flag” borne aloft by a rider and the noise of bugles playing the alarm brought news of mobilization. The Tsar had spoken, and the Cossacks, with their unique military calling and tradition, “burned to fight the enemy.” But who was that enemy? Nobody knew. The mobilization telegram provided no details. Rumours abounded. At first everyone imagined that the war must be with China—“Russia had pushed too far into Mongolia and China had declared war.” Then another rumour did the rounds: “It is with England, with England.” This view prevailed for some time.

Only after four days did something like the truth come to us, and then nobody believed it.

Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

2:00 PM  

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