Roman Calendar

Random Greco-Roman Image

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

“Valkyrie” is a wonderful monument to a great man

You could not endure the shame; you resisted; you gave the great, eternally vital sign of

change, sacrificing your glowing lives for freedom, justice, and honor.”

(“Freiheit , Recht und Ehre”)

Translation of the plaque in the center of the courtyard at the Memorial to German Resistance in Berlin;,

where a firing squad murdered four army officers for their role in the most famous plot to kill Hitler on July

20, 1944.

I saw “Valkyrie” today. Not only was it a NON-FLOP it was actually one of the best WWII era films I have seen in years. “Valkyrie” portrays (accurately) a German Resistance movement as very serious affair and not merely a last minute disorganized effort by a few. The film documents in total three very serious attempts to kill Hitler in 1943 and 1944 including the July 20 bombing. This was nothing new for me because I have made a study of Nazi Germany and the 20 July plot but for most people –even those who have heard of the assassination attempt- there is a depth of detail which many will find informative and surprising. “Valkyrie” has first class performances by an ensemble cast of top rate British and European actors. “Valkyrie” captures to a “t” the desperation a well as the moral bankruptcy and mental exhaustion of a failing Nazi Germany.

Some reviewers complain that the Hitler portrayed here is not ‘exciting’ or charismatic enough. “Downfall” got a big press and was a good film but I did not like the focus on a more “human” Hitler which almost –it seemed to me- to be sympathetic to him. “Valkyrie”, by contrast, showed the Nazi leaders to be cowardly, mean, corrupt, mediocre and out of touch. Mussolini was not allowed a bit part either; Hitler meets with him off screen and his lieutenants dismiss the Duce as a “cheap Dago”. So much for Axis unity! Many World War Two films emphasize Nazi efficiency and therefore glorify, inadvertently, Nazi Germany as an effective and efficient state. “Valkyrie” did not do this.

But many reviewers seem to forget that by 1943-1944 Hitler was rarely seen in public and lived a life of seclusion and was gradually descending into what could be described as a complete breakdown. The director purposely did not dwell on Hitler at all. I found this refreshing. Not much “Heil Hitler” in this movie; “High” Hitler is more like it. The Hitler of this film is not attractive or charismatic in the least but is depicted as a pathetic and perhaps doped up Fuehrer who is too lazy and incompetent to read thoroughly the orders he was signing. This is a suicidal Hitler who had not too long to live regardless of the outcome of the war. I think the film completely demythologizes Hitler and for that I say: Bravo!.

The only thing lacking in “Valkyrie” was a real star turn by Tom Cruise. Mr. Cruise, nonetheless, was perfectly competent but I can imagine this role being done by Alec Guinness for example or James Mason or Jack Hawkins. I just know THEY would have made Mr. Cruise’s good lines really memorable. But I give Mr. Cruise credit; he does a very workmanlike job. He did not overact or attempt to make himself look physically taller or more glamorous in any way but allowed himself to be shown as scarred and visibly disabled.

The script was first rate and great care was put into this film to create an air of authenticity and historical accuracy. “Valkyrie” shows how many ordinary Germans were just cogs in huge totalitarian machine and were almost quite literally what the Cubans used to call ‘hombres de siete nalgas” that is to say people who were fence sitters who wanted to survive regardless of who came out on top. It shows that some members of the plot had to be virtually blackmailed into working with the plotters and that many conspirators had cold feet at various times. As it became clear the assassination attempt had failed people began to drift away and abandon the plotters to their fate. This is historically accurate and did show that some people had some courage but most lacked the overwhelming fortitude needed to stand up the feared Gestapo and murderous SS to the very end. Except perhaps one: Stauffenberg himself.

If I had been involved in the film, personally, I might have given more emphasis to the devout Catholicism of Stauffenberg and his family. But that would reflect perhaps my own personal prejudice and may not have made a better or more believable film. The director preferred (no doubt for commercial reasons) to imply Stauffenberg’s Catholic faith via his loving wife and family, using Christian motifs and shooting a scene in a bombed out Cathedral. I strongly object to the reviews that say that the film downplayed Stauffenberg’s Catholicism or that it showed the German officers or policemen or the Germany Army in a romanticized light. Let us remember that many people who cooperated with the plot paid for it with their lives. All in all, I think the film did a believable job at characterizing Stauffenberg’s moral repugnance for the Nazi Regime and its crimes.

Stauffenberg was a hero and a very , very brave man and the film did him honor. Of course, tragically, he failed and Hitler lived nine months more. If the plot HAD SUCCEEDED, however, much of Europe may have been spared- not to mention the 80,000 Americans killed in the Battle of the Bulge? But we must pause and think about it. How many civilians, Jews and POW’s would have been saved IF the plot had succeeded? The number might have been in the millions. I have a Waffen SS helmet that my uncle personally liberated in January 1945 from a bombed out postal warehouse (he made me promise never to wear it or display it). It had been in a box stamped DIED FOR GREATER GERMANY. My uncle served in the 10th Armored Division in the Bastogne pocket and was awarded a Bronze Star V with Valor. He personally attested to the ferocious killing power of the Germany Army right up to the end of the war. He also helped liberate death camps and slave labor camps. Trying to kill Hitler and make a separate peace with the West was not a small thing it was a very big thing and a noble thing. Stauffenberg knew the risks and was prepared to lay down his life for his country and as he said for the greater cause of humanity.

“VALKYRIE” is a very fine film and I would rate it THREE STARS and ½ . Valkyrie was so good it really will have to be on anyone’s list of the top 50 movies ever made on a WWII theme. Not as great a film as “Patton” or the “Bridge over the River Kwai” but on the level of “TORA TORA TORA” which is very good indeed. “Valkyrie “ was a better movie than the very entertaining but childish -by comparison-“The Longest Day” or the cheaply made Hollywood bio-picture of the 1951 “The Desert Fox” (which also had as a subplot the 20 July plot) That film featured Luther Adler as a very memorable but typically violent and maniacal Hitler. “Patton” was a tour de force by George C. Scott but as World War II buffs will remember there were some historical inaccuracies in so far as uniforms and German weaponry. “Valkyrie” by contrast left no stone unturned to make the film authentic in every detail from the Wolf’s Lair reconstruction to authentic Ju-52 transports and Messerschmitt fighters. Much of the film was shot in the actual buildings and locations.

Every educated person should know about how easy it is to sit back and criticize collaborators with the Nazis and other dictators and how extremely hard it is, and dangerous, to oppose a modern totalitarian state. “Valkyrie” captures the terror and doom and sometimes faltering courage- of the conspirators very well. “Valkyrie” is a film worth seeing and in fact will reward multiple viewings. Stauffenberg’s daughter called this film a success. I agree. “Valkyrie” is a wonderful monument to a great human being, a loving husband and father, who did a true man’s part. “You could not endure the shame; you resisted; you gave the great, eternally vital sign of change, sacrificing your glowing lives for freedom, justice, and honor.” Yes, indeed.

RICHARD K. MUNRO, Bakersfield, California December 29, 2008.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Great and Wise authors; SAKI


While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
A high explosive shell came down
And mutton rained around.


THIEPVAL MEMORIAL: Burial place of Saki (H. H. Munro) Note the date here is November 14, 1916; I have seen other sources that say November 16.

Casualty Details
Initials: H H
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lance Serjeant
Regiment/Service: Royal Fusiliers
Unit Text: "A" Coy. 22nd Bn.
Age: 45
Date of Death: 14/11/1916
Service No: 225
Additional information: Younger son of the late Col. Charles Augustus Munro (Bengal Staff Corps), and Mary Frances Munro. An Author ("Saki"), Special Correspondent and Journalist. Enlisted in 1914.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A.

Saki was the pseudonym of writer Hector Hugh Munro (1870-1916). Born in Burma, but raised and educated in England, he began his writing career because poor health precluded more strenuous occupations. He borrowed the nom de plume "Saki" from a character in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam made famous in the Fitzgerald translation. It was a favorite poem of my parents and I have always loved it the way I love Burns and Shakepeare's sonnets.

Yon rising Moon that looks for us again--
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden--and for one in vain!

And when like her, oh, Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made One--turn down an empty Glass!

“The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened. “ Saki is very funny. He seemed to see right through the hubris and pretence of Edwardian society particularly upper class English society. He anticipated the almost complete collapse of the Anglican Communion (remember even Tony Blair became a Roman Catholic). He wrote some drama but is primarily, as you know a master of the short story genre. I have been lucky enough to be able to teach him (every other year). The story I usually use is “The Interlopers”. "The Open Window" may be his most famous, with a dramatic and ironic closing line :"Romance at short notice was her specialty" It has been quoted many times and remains amusing.

Es ist nicht genug, zu wissen, man muss auch anwenden. Es ist nicht genug, zu wollen, man muss auch tun." – (Goethe) Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre. It is not enough to know, one much use one’s knowledge. It is not enough to desire one must DO.” Saki had an unusual cosmopolitan background(like so many Scots or overseas Scots because that’s what he was). He was born in Burma to a class of people higher than my own; they were the junior officers and we were the NCO’s and privates.

Saki was a great favorite of Chesterton and I think Chesterton wrote an introduction to one of his posthumous books. Chesterton’s brother as you may or may not know, enlisted in the British Army and like Kipling’s only son and like Sir Hector Munro’s only son (the chief of the Clan Munro) was killed in action as was Saki. I think I sent you the memorial page if I didn’t I can send it again. He is indeed remembered with honor. He was killed in action November 16, 1916 by a German sniper. That is a fact I have known almost all of my life; we always toasted the lad’s …who fought with heart and hand to burst in twain the galling chain. And kept free our native land. …Aye To do a true man's part -To free my land I'd gladly give The red drops of my heart."

Saki did a true man’s part. NE OBLIVISCARIS…do not forget. I do not and I shall not.

These are some favorite stories I highly recommend. “the Interlopers” is also almost prescient. It takes place in the Balkans and it is about the rivalry of two proud men over control of a certain border land. The Germanic (Austrian?) family Ulrich von Gradwitz are the lairds with legal title dating back centuries. But Georg –I forget the last name but it is Slavic- is the resentful “native” in the sense his people stole the land by force in an earlier era (when the Eastern Roman Empire fell appart). If you think about it how many wars have been fought in that regions between the Ottoman Turks, the Slavs , the Russians, the Austrians, the Romans, the Visigoths, the Dacians etc. etc.!!! This story has a dramatic exciting finish. What gives the story strength it that it deals with the ultimate price and folly of pride to POSSESS and HAVE PRESTIGE? In a way it is an anti-Imperials story the foreshadows the complete destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the tragic suicide of Europe 1914-1918. But as you know I am no pacifist; I believe Belgium (which was neutral) and France (which was invaded) and Britain (which guaranteed the Independence of Belgium had to defend themselves. The British knew it would be real threat to their security if the industries and channel ports of Belgium and France were occupied by a hostile power with a strong submarine force. Rolling over to the Prussians (as they did in 1940) would not have guaranteed peace or freedom. Appeasement is, as Churchill described it, like feeding crocodiles. When you are in a fight to the death with a Croc the only thing to do is fight back and scratch its eyes out.

“ The Interlopers”reminds me of another allegorical Tolstoy story “How much land does a man need”; the Tolstoy story was much admired by Hemingway and Joyce which is great praise indeed because both men were masters of the short story so they really knew excellence when they saw it. .Anyway READ this story. It is one of the greatest short stories I have ever read. The best of Saki is very good indeed.

I love his cat story “Tobermory” ; it is simply charming almost science fiction.

(Tobermory is a town on the isle of Mull and is featured in I KNOW WHERE I AM GOING one of the greatest movies every made about the Scottish Highlands and the character or Highlanders and their relationship with the English. Roger Livesey and Wendy Hiller. First rate with some nice Gaelic singing. It was my mother’s favorite movie of all time and naturally since her story in a way paralleled the Wendy Hiller character. She gave up everything to be with the young, penniless Scottish immigrant who had ‘naught to offer” , “nae gold frae mine, nae pearl from sea” and “nor was he of high degree” but he loved her and had a leal heart and promised to be true to her till death did them part. And he kept that promise. My parent’s entire life was one of the greatest love stories I have every known.

We need more love songs about marital bliss and the growth of AFFECTION (storgic love) FRIENDSHIP (philla love), and ALTRUISTIC LOVE (Caritas or Agape love); naturally in marriage PHYSICAL ATTRACTION and PHYSICAL LOVE (Eros) are part of the package, the icing on the cake so to speak.

But the greatest part of EROS as far as I am concerned is TRUST in the intimacy and the memory of the UNION and its FRUITS (the children you share together). But I must say all writers seem to have their limitations and Saki does not write about heterosexual love in any extraordinary way. Perhaps he was not capable of it; I do not know.

Another story which is absolutely amazing is “The Toys of Peace”. The mother is very PC and she refuses to give her sons toy soldiers or guns or swords or ships for (Christmas? Or Easter or their birthday I don’t remember). They are instead given a cultural gift which is a model of a museum and a public library with figures of public intellectuals, scientists and poets.

Many of his references are very sly for example he alludes to John Stuart Mill (a utiliarian/utopian) and poetess Felicia Hemans.

Hemans was well-regard lyrical poet of the romantic era and she was a fixture in Victorian anthologies of poetry and is mentioned in the Oxford Book of quotations. Saki teases the reader and makes fun of the mother very subtly. The PC mother obviously DOES NOT know the works or themes of Felicia Hemans. The effect would be like Jane Fonda quoting Edmund Burke! Her most anthologized poem is about LOYALTY and OBEDIENCE to a FATHER and an OFFICER. “Hold until relieved!”

This was the watchword at 2nd Ypres, El Alamein, and Pegasus Bridge (Normandy 1944)

“The boy stood on the burning deck” or Casabianca

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.

The flames rolled on–he would not go
Without his Father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud–'say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?'
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

'Speak, father!' once again he cried,
'If I may yet be gone!'
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
'My father! must I stay?'
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound–
The boy–oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!–

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part–
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.

Young Casabianca, a boy about thirteen years old, son of the admiral of the Orient, remained at his post (in the Battle of the Nile), after the ship had taken fire, and all the guns had been abandoned; and perished in the explosion of the vessel, when the flames had reached the powder.

Edition: Hemans, Felicia Dorothea. The Poetical Works of Felicia Dorothea Hemans London: Oxford University Press, 1914. p. 396.

A. J. Languth wrote an excellent biography of him; SAKI which details his war experiences. It also is the only book I had ever read that talks about his bisexual or homoerotic tendencies. Of the truth of that lifestyle I don’t know and I don’t care. It matters no to me if Saki were a saint or a role model or a good cook or a bad cook. What matters is he was a patriot and he put his life on the line for his counrty. What matters is he was a writer of great talent. If he had lived (he was only 45 when he died) he may have written one of the great books about WWI. As it is the whole world is his monument not just the lonely grave at THIEPVAL.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

Bible Story - Speaking in Tongues: On the day of Pentecost, "tongues of fire" descended on the heads of Jesus's apostles, allowing them to speak in languages they did not know.

Sextra Credit:Cougars Preying in the Classroom

Mary O' Hara circa 1980

This is a MUST READ article.

According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education – the most authoritative investigation to date – nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees, and in those cases, 40 percent of the perpetrators were women.


Titled "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature" by Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Charol Shakeshaft, the report brought to light staggering statistics.

Compare the numbers with the much-publicized Catholic Church scandal.

A study by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded 10,667 young people were sexually mistreated by priests between 1950 and 2002.

Shakeshaft's study, however, estimates that roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee between 1991 and 2000 alone.

If female employees are responsible for 40 percent of those crimes, that means America could be facing an average of more than 11,000 instances of women abusing students in school each year – in other words, more cases in one year than were reported in 50 years of Catholic priest abuse.


The first warning sign is a kid spending a lot of private time with the teacher," Schoener said. "The second: text messaging and emails that go back and forth. At the grade school, junior high, high school level, most teachers are discouraged from a lot of Internet interaction. Frequent emailing and text messaging are questionable. It would be a rare occasion where a teacher would need to be in that level of contact with a student."

Schoener also warned that parents be clear on the purpose and the chaperoning of all field trips and events outside of school.

Finally, Schoener said, the boundaries of a teacher's role need to be clearly set.

"A teacher's job is not to counsel students past a point," Schoener explained. "Even if the kid really needs help and it's legitimate counseling, it's rare that a teacher should be doing a lot of counseling. That's the school counselor's job. If there are a lot of private meetings, you have to ask yourself what's going on."

MUNRO’s commentary:

I never give my home phone or personal email to a current student ( teach high school students and am a catechist in my parish).. All internet interaction should be via your school computer and your school account and should reflect school business.’

Field trips are very problematical though in my experience the problem is not the chaperones or teachers but the students themselves. In today’s world ‘have private bedroom, have morning, noon or night, will have sex.” A great many of my students have sex in the morning at vacant homes while parents or relatives are away. Oh, it’s possible that they are studying for AP tests or saying the rosary together but under the circumstances not likely. The point is students don’t need predatory teachers to have sex. We have predatory senior and juniors in abundance.’’

Gilbert Highet mentioned long ago that a teacher’s job IS NOT to counsel students for the simple reason that a teacher does not have the energy to do this and do his or her educational task.

Nonetheless, counseling, encouragement and exhortation is absolutely necessary for today’s marginal or at-risk students. It goes with the territory. But teachers and students CANNOT be colleagues and CANNOT be and SHOULD NOT BE considered peers. The military knows officers should not fraternize with enlisted men and with good reason: it is prejudicial to good discipline. Teachers should show great self-discipline themselves particularly in the beginnings of their careers when the age differential is not that great. Debra LaFave, for example, was a very youthful 23 with a stunning figure. There is no question she sexually aroused many of the young men she met. She could have used that power to her advantage as a teacher because young men would have gone out of their way to please her, to attend her class and to be successful academically in her class. As a married woman, Mrs. LaFave, should have been totally inaccessible to ANYONE let alone her students. That is the example she should have set for her students. If she really loved and cared for her students, her school and her community she would not have wanted to harm her students. Affection (storgic love) is natural between students and teachers and helps bond the class with the teacher. There is nothing wrong with teachers being friendly and kind with their students; I think, on the contrary, if a teacher is not kind and does not care for his or her students that person SHOULD NOT BE A TEACHER. One cannot care for ALL the students in the same way and, yes, sometimes students MUST BE REMOVED from a classroom or from a school FOR THE COMMON GOOD. And, speaking as a Christian, in the Roman Catholic tradition, teachers must forgive their students and MUST LOVE them as fellow human beings and as future adults and citizens. But if a teacher truly loves a child he or she would not want to see that child come to harm. Eros must be tamed and restrained, however. Just as we would not urinate on the front wall like a dog in front of our entire class we should not act our and follow upon our every bodily instinct. The highest moral obligation in America today is “have sex, drink, eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Most young Americans partake “exuberantly in the pleasures” of the belly as if there were no tomorrow.” Two results of this are:

1) an alarming increase of obesity among all ages but most shockingly among teenagers and young adults. A major factor –in my view- is the consumption of alcohol and junk food at secret rendezvous, usually the vacant home of parents or relatives but also the back seat of cars or the far side of that grassy knoll in the park which cannot be observed from the street.

2) The other result of course is the massive rise of STD’s what we used to call VD. Diagnoses of genital chlamydia have risen since the 1990’s by over 70%, gonorrhea, and syphilis by over 50%s and genital warts by over 20% . Oral contraceptives, while providing the greatest protection from unplanned pregnancy, offer no protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

An American sociologist quote by David Shaw in the Pleasure Police (1996) "Don't people realize every scientific study shows that the single best thing you can do for your health is have fun?" This sort of attitude leads to a culture where liquor is always chosen over learning and having entertainment and childish fun is preferred to poetry, arts, books and (good) music. I am quite aware young people have music of a kind but, for the most part, this music is thin stuff just part of their hedonistic sexual lifestyle. One would think that graying 65 year olds would be embarrassed to be gyrating to the blaring booming music of Mick Jagger etc in pants two sizes too small but we live in a age of little shame and even less common sense.

For example, women have never been drafted into military service in the United States and women are not required to register by the Selective Service. This makes good common sense because men and women are different. The Selective Service law, written in 1940, specifically refers to “male persons.” In the 1980 case of Rostker v. Goldberg, the registration of women was examined by the Supreme Court and the Selective Service law as clearly discriminatory as it is was NOT seen to violate the due process clause of the Constitution. We can pretend that Congress was not influenced by a traditional way of thinking about women and young girls and Congress can pretend and NOW can pretend but all would be lying. We are influenced by societal norms and traditional values. If America forcibly drafted women, especially into the combat arms of the military, it would mean the destruction of the private life and break-up the rhythm of the home and family life. The consequences of such a brutal and, in my view, totalitarian act by the State would be almost beyond ken. Minority languages, cultures and religions would be wiped out. Healthy distinctions between the sexes would be wiped out. Homes would become merely billets and duty stations. The harm such a policy would cause to children, education and our entire civilization would be irreparable. Indeed a society which would forcibly pressgang women into military service would not be worth defending. It would be an evil society and every man of honor should want to raise his hand a fight such a society to the last cartridge and to the death for the sake of his family, his culture, his language(s), his religion, his family’s right to freedom , a private life and the sacred right of parents to raise children as they wish. André Glucksmann wrote: “A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility. Bringing the Gulag to light made it possible to criticize and ultimately reject "actually existing socialism." Confronting the Nazi abominations and opening the extermination camps converted Europe to democracy after 1945. Refusing to face the cruelest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Yes, as Burn wrote ‘but facts are chiels that winna ding,/An downa be disputed.”. The English translation is ‘But facts are little fellows that will not be overturned,/And cannot be argued with’. The facts are that the role of women in our society to educate and raise children is vital and we destroy this role at the risk of destroying our entire civilization and society.

(See April 2006 )

By the way, I am not raising the specter of a straw man but am talking about policies which have actually been discussed at the highest level of the U.S. government. See for example:

We live in a society where for the most part there is no such thing as sin or lust or excess and the major goal of many people is to have a good time. Every lust is satisfied and new lusts and titillations are constantly being invented. We have forgotten that modesty is the true beauty of womankind. The most horrible and the most ugly thing about a temptress like Debra LaFave proof that beauty is only skin deep -is her total lack of restraint, modesty and faithfulness to her husband her reckless lack of consideration for others. She knew she has sexual power of men and she used it to satisfy her personal pleasure and wantonness. To me it is just another case proving women can have –for a period of time while they are sexually attractive- a great power over the male sex of any age past puberty.

It could well be that so many years of internal peace, wealth and material success have smothered and snuffed out civic virtue and private morality. I doubt very many of my students even know the word wanton or wantonness and if they did they would disagree with it. I would argue that what has sustained America –and other Western countries as well- has been their civic virtue, their heroism in peace and war, their restraint, their deep consciousness of Right and Wrong, their respect for marriage, their respect for womankind and children, their purity of motive and for want of a better word, nobility. The Gael of old called this uaisleachd, the Spaniard called it nobleza de alma (nobility of soul). We might call the self-respect and generosity, we might call it integrity, we might call it civic virtue or even gravitas, to use a Latin word. However we call it, this ineffable virtue, this civic virtue, this sense of honor, this love of country, this loyalty to family and our faith community, we in the West have it much less than our forefolk though I would argue that America still has it in relative abundance and this is our great strength more so than our coal or oil reserves. Baghehot remarked “there is a character to an age and a character to nations.” We need to cultivate the manifold loves, not exalt one (eros). We need to cultivate the manifold virtues that make character and make for a happy life, not just the desire for material success. It is good to work hard. It is good to make money and to save but it is better and more sensible to live modestly with goodwill, generosity, kindness and hospitality towards others. It is better to love and be loved than to possess.

Speaking as a teacher of young people and adults, I believe adults should only date -or to use an older word court- other adults. Dating has become almost synonymous with sexual activity which is too bad because it is only by to used that dated word again –courtship- that a couple many develop the philia love that will sustain their relationship when the bloom of youth and beauty fades. Every dog has his day but it is a mistake to make a god of Eros that is to say sexual love. This way lies madness, unhappiness and I think in the long run great loneliness and bitterness for both men and women alike. There is such a thing –as I tell all my students as the joy of trust and marital bliss.

As the Bard of Ayr sang: “To make a happy fire-side clime, to weans and wife, That’s the true pathos and sublime of human life.” Burns was no prude and he loved the pursuit and conquest of the fair sex but even he realized that sexual pleasure was nothing compared to the manifold loves found in marriage and family life.

Within living memory, young people were not adults until their majority –age 21. One of the results of making 18 year olds adults has been to lower the age of consent so that college teachers and even high school teachers could have consensual sex with persons who are legally adults. This has had the effect of encouraging sexual contact between adults and mature teenagers. There are many 17,18 and 19 year olds who could pass for 20 or 21 with the proper dress and makeup. And since it is established that it is natural for persons to be sexually aroused (in most cases by persons of the opposite sex) sexual contact is always a temptation and always a possibility.

I have known high school teachers to marry their former students. In all the cases I know the age different was not great –less than seven years- and in each case I know the older partner was a male. I believe but I do not know that they did not seriously begin to date until the student had graduated from high school and junior college I will not even speak of college professors and their mores but suffice it to say

I am old enough to recall my parents speaking of the America they grew up in ,as immigrants, an grew to adulthood in the 1930’s and 1940’s. America upheld a certain degree of 'moral standards' there were things that, even in Hollywood, were best kept in the 'closet' such as the true sexual proclivities of Charles Laughton –that charming and brilliant actor- and his faux marriage to Elsa Lancaster There were always scandals, rumors and gossip but no one outwardly discussed their 'sexual preference' because, after all going to prison was, well, just not a good thing. Did anyone need to know Rock Hudson was a flaming homosexual who loved wild orgies and very young boys? Leo Katcher ( the brother of Ed Katcher, Ruth Rosenberg and Gladys Bletter) my father’s business partner and closest friend Herb Katcher regaled us at the old 1407 club –now Abigail’s I believe- with tales of Mr. Hudson’s escapades ,some of which he personally witnessed, in the finest hotels in New York. As I recall as Leo Katcher explained it, Mr. Hudson’s agents was pleading that none of the reporters break the news so as not to destroy Mr. Hudson’s career circa 1959. I can’t help but think in retrospect that Leo Katcher may have had the goods on actors like Tyrone Power and Hudson and that might have helped him get on in show business. He certainly was in the know as my father used to say. He was a West Coast correspondent for the New York Post and wrote numerous screen plays and also wrote an excellent biography of Bakersfield worthy Earl Warren I read a number of years ago I always admired Tyrone Power –he volunteered for the Marines in WWII- but who needed to know the sordid details of his personal (reportedly bisexual) private life? Whose business was it to know that Errol Flynn was a complete reprobate and drunk who liked his whisky very old -15 years or more- and his sexual conquests very young? Let me enjoy the romantic hero of Robin Hood, Dawn Patrol, The Charge of the Light Brigade and They Died with their Boots On. I suppose I am very old-fashioned and a traditionalist but Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Montgomery, Shirley Jones and Maureen O’Hara -in their screen personas anyway- were to me very glamorous and classy. The very feminine womanhood they portrayed and the romance they engendered was far more pleasurable, more entertaining and probably sexier than seeing every current sluttish actress alive rutting like dogs in heat while displaying their surgically crafted 30 or 40 something bodies for the entire world to see. (And to my continuing delight, happiness and comfort, I married a Spanish lady de nobleza y carácter whose views on such matters are the same as mine. Go seek your pleasures where you will etc.)

When people went mad after Janis Joplin I was applauding Mary O’Hara, the Irish harpist who was a delightful person and an excellent conversationalist. She was a very accessible person, especially in the Mass a night after her concert. If she recognized you from the audience she would sit to have coffee with you in the Parish Hall. Not the greatest voice nor the greatest physical beauty in the world but a delightful woman and extremely appealing especially in person. A few hours in the physical presence of such a woman is a reminder that Hugh Heffner knows very little about love indeed. In his pursuit of ¼ of it over and over again he misses the best ¾. It seems to me all he knows about is the” old in and out” that is to say rutting like a wild animal. I have been blessed to have known the affection and the love of many women and men without having slept with any of them. I think it not too much to say that Mary O’Hara was possibly one of the greatest characters I have ever met and I have met more than my share of good and godly persons. Meeting her was almost like meeting Mother Teresa or Elizabeth Anne Seton in person. That is how profound an impact she had on me. She had a great spiritual glow and exuded a spirit of love and kindness. It was simply unforgettable it was faith, charity, humanity and womanhood in its full bloom. What is “the old in and out’ that “expense of spirit in a waist of shame” compared to that?

T & A –and I am not talking about tardiness and absenteeism- has always abounded in theatre, the arts and film but I have to admit that I prefer the glory of the human voice lifted in fine song over any air-brushed cheesecake photo. I never could understand the popularity of Playboy; just a lot of wanton lasses, no-talent models and aspiring actresses. People just like ex-teacher Debra LaFave. The first thing to realize about our society and Western society in particular is Anything Goes. This is why we have genocide, infanticide, that Holocaust and holocausts present and holocausts to come. We, ain’t, my friends ‘seen nothin’ yet. I have visions of Ypres 1918, Berlin and Manila 1945; the first was endured by my grandfather, the next was experienced by my uncle and the last by my father. Their descriptions left a profound impression of the true suicidal folly of mankind and the deep tragedy of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. And I have read Steven Vincent Benet’s “By the Waters of Babylon.”

We are in a race for our lives between education and total annihilation whether we know it or not and the real battle, I am convinced, is in the home and the classroom not the battlefield.


(December 20, 2008, on the banks of the San Joaquin River –California, USA- as the sun is shinning this quiet Saturday morning)

IN CASE the hedonist allusion passed over you here is a refresher:

In olden days a glimpse of stockings,
Was looked on as something shocking,
Now heaven knows,
Anything goes.

Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four-letter words,
Writing prose,
Anything Goes. JEWEL A version known to be contemporary with Cole Porter.

Read for example this book or at least the book review of David Shaw’s book the PLEASURE POLICE:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Andrew Paterson a Fallin Worthy (Sterlingshire) KIA 1918

Forgotten for almost 90 years…

“Montay was reached in the Pursuit to the Selle on the 10th October, 1918; and on the 28th and 29th the cemetery was made by the 33rd Division and given the name of Selridge from its position above the river valley. It contained originally 60 graves, dating from the 10th October to the 1st November, the majority belonged to the 6th or 12th Lancashire Fusiliers or the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders”

Private Andrew Paterson :


Killed just as the big push towards victory was starting. “Greater love hath no man than to lay his life down for his friends.”


“in the eyes of Christ the ever young, no less than a king of realms far flung” Aye, now in the land o’ the leal.


In memory of all the lads and all my grandfather’s Scottish pals and his kith and kin of the Argylls, the HLI and Black Watch, in the 27th Division, whom he never forgot and whose absence in his life was a sorrow and a loss he had to bear for over fifty years most of which was spent in exile from his native land taking delight only in his nine grandchildren.

2nd Ypes, Gallipoli, Palestine, Egypt, Salonika, Derian, Struma Valley and Constantinople (1919)

(THOMAS MUNRO , SR., MM 2n Ypres: August 4, 1914 – November 30, 1919 ASH) “Up the Ants; the men of Company A his Scottish pals…..” Over 7,000 killed and over 20,000 casualties in that one Regiment alone. Many companies had a 200% or 400% casualty rate; over 90% of my grandfather’s company of 1914 were killed, wounded or invalided out by 1918.

They were in my Auld Pops’ words “THE FINEST LADS IN THE WAARRRLD, AYE.”


Thursday, November 27, 2008

The EC is not a country and Europe is not really a continent eitther

“There is only one reason that I would hesitate to let Turkey into the EU. It would further open the floodgates to Third World, Islamic immigration from Southeastern Anatolia and from the slums of Istanbul. The results would be enhanced social problems for the Europeans—and even something far worse. A self-confident, anti-Western and fecund population would supplant a decayed, demoralized, and sterile European one, and gradually Europe would sink into the kind of society from whence the immigrants came, a situation that already exists in postcolonial Africa.”

Europe is really not a continent at all, point of fact, but more of a cultural fringe one which had its apogee 1500-1914. Since that suicidal internecine warfare which continued 1939-1945, Europe has essentially collapsed demographically. So it really doesn’t matter if Turkey is let in the EU or not. The Turks are already in Western Europe, particularly Germany, in a big way.
Nature abhors a void so into the population void of Germany one will see Munich as the New Brooklyn. Having travelled to Munich from between 1964 and 2003 I was amazed to notice the difference. In 1964 Germany was outwardly at least, still a European nation. By 2003 Munich seemed very much like Brooklyn, New York. I will say this for the Germans for all their PC madness they seem to insist immigrants if they want residency or citizenship learn German. They are not so foolish to imagine they can jettison religion, mores AND language too and still exist as a cultural unity. But I daresay the numbers of German women over 40 who are unmarried and never have had children is staggering. So that is the real story. Like the classical Greeks most Europeans peoples will just fade away as their countries gradually become little Lebanons . I fully believe most European languages will experience the fate of Latin in North Africa and Greek in Egypt.
The first European languages to become extinct will be the minority indigenous European languages such as Breton, Welsh and the Gaelic languages. Then we could add Flemish and so on until we eventually get to Italian, German, Swedish. I have some hope for Polish because the Polish are the one European country which shows some demographic vigor. In fact, by the end of the 21st century Poland could be the leading European country by the viritue of the fact it may be the ONLY European country.
All the other countries will exist of course geographically the way Galicia exists or Andulacia exists or Normandy exists or Lombardy exists but by the end of the 21st century they will have ceased to exist as European countries; their own native languages will probably dwindle to the mother tongue of an every increasing and increasing oppressed ethnic minority. Holland will probably be the first to go because it is well on its way.
So, yes, I suppose Turkey in the EU will just accelerate the trend but as Turkey is a NATO country it makes sense for it to be in the EU.
I suppose we could cross our fingers and hope for the best but perhaps that is no a prohibited activity in EC passport countries.
Yes, the EC reminds me of the Holy Roman Empire. It is neither European nor a Community. Just a confederation of dunces committing sexual suicide.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bonnie Mairi MacInnes in Scotland: A grand lassie with voice of a nightingale and the heart of St. Bridget

Great Monkey Poster: I have always loved Monkeys and Great Movies: INHERIT THE WIND WAS A GREAT MOVIE though it could have used a few more monkeys


The Wisdom of the Sound of Music


By Richard K. Munro
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers is a memoir written by Maria Augusta von Trapp, the neophyte-turned-baroness whose life was fictionalized, secularized and romanticized in the musical The Sound of Music. (See “The Real Story of the von Trapp Singers). But the basic story line is true; for example as depicted in The Sound of Music, the family won first place in the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936 and became successful, singing folk songs and classical music, in the style of the Vienna Boys Choir, all across Europe. The curious thing about the music of The Sound of Music is, of course, is that none of the music sung –except for the religious songs- are traditional but are creations by Rogers and Hammerstein. This is intentional, I believe, because so many traditional Austrian and German songs were used in the Hitler Youth and so were, however unfairly, seen contaminated by their associations with Nazism as Wagner was. One of Maria’s friends wrote:
Maria never intended to write anything of her life; but a friend persistently pleaded with her not to allow her story to be forgotten by others. She denied she had any writing skill whatsoever, but her friend was not to be put off and kept on asking her whenever they saw each other. Finally, one day, in desperation, Maria excused herself and went to her room for an hour to scribble a few pages about her life story, hoping to prove once and for all she was no writer. However, this displayed such natural writing talent that she reluctantly agreed to finish what she had started, and her jottings formed the basis of the first chapter of her memoirs
Some of the lines in the musical play are almost verbatim quotations from Maria’s story but others of course are completely fictional; for example all the discussions with Max are fictional because Max was an entirely fictional creation of the musical play; he is an effective foil for Captain von Trapp, however, and creates a link to the festival, and the Baroness. The Sound of Music is more than a charming musical play; it has a famous and witty script that deals with important issues such as the following: how to choose your life’s career and direction? How to educate children? Does might (power) make right or is government to be by consent of the people?

Q1 How to choose your life’s career and direction?
The Mother Abbess stresses, with humility and love, FREE WILL (libre albedrío). Ultimately, your life’s choices must be YOUR choices, according to the hand (cards) life deals you. YOU MUST TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR OWN LIFE and TAKE RESPOSIBLITY for your actions or inactions. She counsels Maria to follow her heart and keep to her ideals to the very end, remaining true to herself. Do the right thing! If she can to that she will find happiness and love. Love in all its manifold forms and manifold kindnesses is the raison d’être of human life and the most powerful force for good we may find in ourselves. Maria tutored the von Trapp children and developed a caring and loving relationship with all the children. She enjoyed singing with them and getting them involved in outdoor activities. During this time, Captain von Trapp fell in love with Maria and asked her to stay with him and become a second mother to his children. Of his proposal, Maria said, "God must have made him word it that way because if he had only asked me to marry him I might not have said yes." As Virgil sang amor omnia vincit, love conquers all.

Climb every mountain, search high and low
Follow every byway, every path you know.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

A dream that will need
all the love you can give,
Every day of your life
for as long as you live.

Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

Sister Margaretta: Reverend Mother, I have sinned.
Sister Berthe: I, too, Reverend Mother.
Mother Abbess: What is this sin, my children?
[the nuns look at each other, then reveal from under their robes the distributor and coil they have removed from the Germans' cars]

Q2 How to educate children? “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.” -María
Capitan von Trapp “The first rule of this household is discipline.”
Frau Schmidt: “The Von Trapp children don't play. They march”. Is this the path of the Van Trapp family? To be Nazi storm troopers?
But Maria’s answer is you teach with love, with joy, with patience and with delight! Admit some flaws in people and children; usually the rest is not bad at all. Reject the bad but focus on the positive! When Georg von Trapp approached the Reverend Mother of the Abbey seeking a teacher for his sick daughter, Maria was chosen because of her skill as a teacher and musical talents. Maria was supposed to remain with the von Trapps for 10 months, at the end of which she would formally enter the convent and take up her final vows as a nun. I think people forget that Maria was a very gifted and wise teacher. Authority, in Maria’s view, does not impose or coerce. It enlightens; it invites; it sings. Its appeal is to the heart and to the understanding, not the merely the will. A good teacher does not strong-arm students or make appeals to position but earns confidence by EXPERIENCE, PATIENCE, KNOWLEDGE, INSIGHT and finally TRUTH. A good teacher like a good shepherdess loves her flock and does no harm. She knows the Good of the Flock is greater than the good of the Shepherd for the Flock –the youth- is the future. The greatest thing is not obedience and the strong hand but free choice with love, respect for the dignity of all, respect for wisdom and respect and awareness for the need to have restraint ,self-control and gratitude. Maria has joy but great humility. Nature, as Maria sees it –the heart delighting beauty of creation- can be that window which allows us to have, perhaps, a glimpse of God.
Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

We can know something of the beauty of God the Father through the beauty of his design. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” ( Matthew, 6). As Keats sang, “Truth is beauty and Beauty is Truth”.

Q3 Does might (power) make right or is government to be by consent of the people? This is the argument of the Nazis who believed in the strong hand, coerced obedience and who said, essentially, “work, pay, obey or die”.
Captain Von Trapp answers: ________________________________________
I am a free man and both my faith and freedom are important to me and my family. I will sacrifice anything for that freedom –even my life and be prepared to lose everything –even my property, my home and my country. No one can force me to join the Nazi Navy as a U-boat commander! I will not be ordered by a madman to countless atrocities! No one has the right take my children from me and force them to join the Hitler Youth! No one has a right to take my beloved country over and make it a province of a criminal enterprise called the Third Reich! God forbid! I will not be slave or a collaborator to the Nazis because I know they are evil and will bring nothing but death, destruction and devastation to my Austria, my family and the world. Yes, we will lose our home, all our money and all our property but not our souls and not our family. The Nazis can take everything away but not our strong faith, our love and our desire to be free!

His signature song is Edelweiss meaning NOBLE and PURE ALPINE FLOWER ”(Leontopodium alpinum), a mountain flower of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). The name comes from German edel (meaning noble) and weiß (meaning white).

Captain von Trapp: My fellow Austrians, I shall not be seeing you again perhaps for a very long time. I would like to sing for you now... a love song. I know you share this love. I pray that you will never let it die. EDELWEISS (Flor Alpina)
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Bless my homeland forever.
Max: What's going to happen's going to happen. Just make sure it doesn't happen to you.
Captain von Trapp: Max. Don't you *ever* say that again.
Max: You know I have no political convictions. Can I help it if other people do?
Captain von Trapp: Oh yes, you can help it. You must help it.

Herr Zeller: Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming - and it is coming, Captain - perhaps they would get further with you by setting their words to music.
Captain von Trapp: If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section.
Herr Zeller: You flatter me, Captain.
Captain von Trapp: Oh, how clumsy of me - I meant to accuse you.

When the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, the von Trapps realized that they were in great danger. Capitan von Trapp did in fact refuse to fly the Nazi flag on his house, but he also refused a request to sing at Hitler's birthday party. Maria and Captain von Trapp were also becoming aware of the Nazis' anti-religious propaganda and policies, the pervasive fear that those around them could be acting as spies for the Nazis, and the brainwashing of children against their parents. And one truth more. Captain von Trapp had been born in Fiume which was once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As it was part of Italy, he claimed Italian citizenship for himself and his family thus was granted automatic residency. Thus, the von Trapps were saved because of Italy’s liberal immigration policies. In real life they did not have to climb the mountains to escape to Switzerland. They did sneak out of Austria, however, getting on a train early on a Sunday morning, with few or no personal possessions. They made their way to the USA where they were granted asylum and applied for U.S. citizenship in 1942 where they lived happily ever after. They built a lodge in Vermont, USA, which is still in family hands.

“THE SOUND OF MUSIC”(Sonrisas y Lágrimas)by R. Munro
Winner of Five Oscars including BEST PICTURE (1965)
Starring the great Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer
A musical based on the real life adventures of Maria and the Von Trapp Family Singers. 1959 Broadway hit show by Rogers and Hammerstein. The children and their grandchildren are still alive and live in Vermont, USA.
TIME: 1938 just before and during the Anschluss (forced Nazi union with Hitler’s Germany: the Third Reich)

PLACE: Salzburg, The Republic of Austria ( made famous for its schools, architecture, churches, art and great musical traditions by the great Maria Theresa of Austria (watch for her portraits and busts as during the song EDELWEISS) The capital of Austria is Vienna and it is officially a neutral country. Austria is of course the Spanish Habsburg name for the country which is called “Österreich“ or Eastern (Germanic/Celtic ) Kingdom; the Romans, who founded Vienna called their province“ Noricum“ based on a Celtic word Norig meaning Eastern Kingdom.


“The Good Guys” (the protagonists):
The Von Trapp Family Singers and their friends: CAPTAN VON TRAPP
Captain Von Trapp: CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER. He really was a U-Boat captain from WWI, operating chiefly in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.
The Baroness: a famous Hollywood star of the 50’s in her last great screen role ELEANOR PARKER
The Von Trapp Family Children (7): LIESEL, LOUISA, FRIEDRICH,KURT,BRIGITTA, MARTA, GRETL (In real life there were ten children in all!))
THE MUSIC EMPRESARIO: Max Deitweiler (RICHARD HAYDEN) NB Instead of the fictional Max Detweiler, pushy music promoter, the von Trapps' priest, the Reverend Franz Wasner, acted as their musical director for over 20 years. The musical play slightly secularized the story.
THE ABBEY: The Mother Abbess; the Nuns Sister Brigitta and Sister Berthe
THE BAD GUYS: THE ANTAGONISTS: The Nazis (German and Austrians)
Herr Zeller: Austria Nazi collaborator (“Gauleiter” local Nazi boss)”


1) What is the Anschluss? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2) Why doesn’t Captain Trapp have a wife to take care of his seven children?

3) Why doesn’t Maria stay at the Abbey to become a nun?


4) Captain Von Trapp’s education ideas clash with Maria’s. The Captain believes ‘The first rule of this household is discipline. “ His housekeeper notes “The Von Trapp children don't play. They march. Is this the path of the Van Trapp family to be Nazi storm troopers? How to educate children? The Baroness says “send them away to boarding school.”
Maria’s answer is__________________________________________________________________
5) The children, mischievous and initially hostile to Fraulein (Miss) Maria, eventually come to love her when she introduces them to the pleasures of _____________________________________________________________________
6) After the Captain announces his engagement to marry the forty-something Baroness (Elsa Schraeder) what does Maria do?

7) The Music empresario, Max Dettweiler, tries to convince the Captain to let the children do what?______________________________________________________
8) The Nazis takes power in Austria as part of the Anschluss and tries to force Captain von Trapp back into Naval service with the 3rd Reich. How does he react?__________
9) In a subplot, Liesl, falls for a messenger named Rolfe. What causes them to break up?


Sister Margaretta: Reverend Mother, I have sinned.
Sister Berthe: I, too, Reverend Mother.
Mother Abbess: What is this sin, my children?
What die the nuns do? Note the technical word are “the distributor and coil”.


Churchill , the Battle of the Atlantic and War in general

The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril" – From Carlo D'Este's masterful Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945


Sir Winston Churchill , British Prime Minister during WWII. That’s saying a lot. He was confident –he knew the odds- that the British with radar and Spitfires versus light bombers and short range German fighters –would win the Battle of Britain. He had observed how the RAF made mincemeat of the JU-87 Stukkas at Dunkirk. Many German planes could operate only at short range for tactical purposes and in an environment of COMPLETE AIR SUPERIORITY. Anywhere the Nazis lost Air Supremacy –North Africa, Russia, Southern Italy, Northern France they were finished and most of their vaunted Air Force was almost useless particularly during day time operations.

I always teach that the Battle of the Atlantic, underplayed in most text books, was one of the most critical if not the most critical battle of WWII. Without victory here there would have been no Torch nor Operation Overlord. It was the longest continuous battle campaign of WWII beginning in 1939 and ending about February 1943. There were over 100 ship convoy battles and over 1,000 single ship encounters. Here, once again, technology like RADAR developed for non-military purposes, gave the Allies the edge. ASDIC (or Sonar as it is now known) and the Ultra Secret (Enigma cipher) which led to the breaking of the German Naval Code, were decisive intelligence weapons Nonetheless, it was no an automatic advantage. German U-boats could dive far deeper than Allied submarines, to well below the deepest setting on the British depth charges with were effect to only about 300 or 350 feet. German U-boats in WWII could dive to 210 meters (700 feet) or more. Depth charges also disturbed the water so greatly that if the first attack failed it was very difficult to regain contact. The U-boats’ Achilles heel of course that though they had diesel engines –which could be used only on the surface they had to charge their batteries on the surface which they usually did under the cover of darkness. The introduction of the Leigh Light or L/L as it was known to the tars combined with radar, enabled devastatingly accurate nighttime attacks L/L was used on surface ships and on B-24 Liberators.

A great book that deal with this cat and mouse warfare is The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat. Which was made into an excellent film with the late Jack Hawkins. (though I never show it to my students; it is too grown up and too British for them I recommend it however)

Victory was achieved at a huge cost: between 1939 and 1945, over 3,500 Allied merchant ships were sunk (gross tonnage 14.5 million) . Over 175 Allied warships were sunk Over 30,000 Allied sailors (chiefly Canadian and British but also Americans) were killed. This does not count the Allied soldiers and Marines drowned when their ships were torpedoed. The Germans, of course, lost heavily, particularly in late 1942 and early 1943. They lost 783 U-boats and about 28,000 sailors. The U-boat became known a the “Iron Coffin.” Das Boot is a fairly realistic account of the German U-boaters but of course it is partially a remake of the ENEMY BELOW in which Curt Jurgens is the anti-Nazi Naval officer. It is a pretty movie and it was popular in 1950’s Germany because most of the Germans are good Germans and reluctant warriors just doing their duty. The truth is many U-boat captains were cruel and fanatical Nazis who did in fact not only abandon thousands of ship-wrecked men, women and children to their fates in the North Atlantic but also ordered their men to machine gun Allied survivors. Of course, I have friends and relatives who were Islanders (that is to say Gaels of the Western Islands). They have told me harrowing stories of thunderous explosions far out to sea and the shores littered the following day with debris and the bodies of dead sailors –many of whom died from exposure not drowning.

War is a terrible thing.
A wasteful thing and really, of course, a stupid thing and a tragic thing. And let me say no one knows this like the soldier, the sailor, the airman or Marine because it is they who make the greatest sacrifices.

There is no doubt in my mind that peace is better than war. (La paz es mejor que la guerra) La palabra "Guerra" es horrorosa por su significado (it is horrible and terrific in its sound) so is the German “Krieg” (war) as in blitzkrieg. War (originally Warra), Guerra and Krieg, I can’t help but add are all Germanic in origin. So great is the memory of the break up of the Pax Romana.

But though I am a lover of peace, I am no pacifist.

There is an old Highland saying, “Am fear nach gleidh na h-airm san t-sith, cha bhi iad aige ‘’n arm a ‘chogaidh, which means, “the man who keeps not his arms in peace will have none at the ready when war comes.”

And , ladies and gentleman, the world is a dangerous place. War always comes whether we bid her or not. She is an uncontrollable and terrible and bloodthirsty as the Morrigan and her evil manifestations, Neman, Macha and Fea (not to be confused with FEA –the Florida Education Association). . The Morrígan –“The Great Queen of War or the Phantom Queen” is seen a a Black Carrion Crow after a battle and before hand was seen in the role of a bean nighe or “washerwoman”. When the hero Cúchulainn rides out to war, he encounters the Morrígan as a hag or witch, washing his bloody armor in a river. . From this evil omen he comes to the realization that the battle that awaits him will be his last. “Toom (empty) cam his saddle, a’ bloody to see, oh, back cam his guid horse but never cam he!” .

Neman , confounded armies, so that friendly bands fall in mutual slaughter. (cf. the Greek Nemesis) The name may plausibly be an extended form of the Proto-Indo-European root of the name is *nem- ‘seize, take, deal out’ to which is related the Ancient Greek Némesis ‘wrath, nemesis’ and the name Nemesis the personification of retributive justice in Greek mythology. There fore Neman means the “enemy” or “twisted sister”.

The Macha –related to the (the jealous goddess of boundaries and land as well as cattle and horses –wealth- the cause of so much earthly strife). The acorn crop of Macha –I was told- were the harvest of heads gathered by Celtic warriors. The city of Armagh Ard-Macha (the High Place of Macha) –the burial place of St. Patrick- recalls her name and probably was the pagan worship center of the goddess Brian Boru is buried at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh (Church of Ireland; formerly a Catholic Cathedral).

and Fea, of course, one of the manifestations of the Morrigan, could mean the Ugly Hag as the Spanish word (possibly Celtic? ) suggest. We do know that Hags “ Cailleach or Caileachan- they were called once upon a time - or witches were supernatural beings of malign influence who dwelled in dark caves, dark wood and isolated corries in the far hills and bens. The Morrigan by tradition took on the guise of an ugly old woman in times of misery, starvation and war and in peace and good times they appear as beautiful maidens.

One can dismiss these things –as silly pagan myths but I think here as in Greek mythology we find the personification of mankind’s true nature –his dark side if you will or what they used to call Original Sin, that hereditary stain of mankind and its consequences. Man’s fate is man’s fate.

We, are, as my Auld Pop gravely told me, all descendant of cannibals, head hunters and killers. He often spoke of the ‘mire-catha’ or the “Irish “in us or the ancient blood lust or battle frenzy which he considered hereditary.

Yes, we are killers.
Killers of great herds of bison, horse and mammoth.
Killers of great fish.
Violators of maidens.
Destroyers of forests and destroyers of the beauty of the mountains.

What is the Angle-Saxon but a “killer Angel”?

What is the Celt but a “Striker or Killer”?

What is a Scot but a “Pagan Pirate , a Reiver and a free booter”.

What are the Germans –the Germani- “the many brothers’ but Alley-men , Huns and Boche?

I was told that Boche was originally Cabbage Head in other words a French verson of Krauthead. My uncles, who served in the European theatre of WWII often called the Germans the “Krauts”.

Terms of disparagement in English during WWII used by British troops were ‘Jerry’ and ‘Fritz’ in the British army and navy, and ‘Hun’ in the RAF, though my Auld Pop usually called them “Jairmens’ or “Huns.” Canadian and American troops generally preferred ‘Heinie,’ ‘Kraut’ or Fritz. Many of these definitions are to be found in an old book of my father’s called Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, published in 1930. Perhaps we should never use such terms; it is not my tendency to use derrogatory or offensive words. But they are historic terms and my forefathers certainly earned the right to use them; they didn't pick a fight with the Germans in two world wars but it was thrust upon them. And in my opinion they are the working man equilament of Kaiserism, Prussian Militarism or Nazism. In other words the Germans OF THAT ERA are fair game and there is no need to beat about the bush or the boshe so to speak.

We are, the Most Dangerous Game and the Most Dangerous Killer. Who could deny that? Perhaps it is man’s nature to kill and to fight and this is especially true, I think of the male of the species, though I have known many savage and wild women too. Auld Pop also added this is why we needed and needed badly to be taught restraint and self-control. Never hit a woman or a child if at all possible he said and know that a man can kill a man with a single blow. Having almost killed a man myself –in the line of duty- I know this to be true. Auld Pop was never proud of the scores of Germans, Bulgarians and Turks he killed and the killing of column of mere boys at Ypres –some must have been at young as fifteen- haunted him his entire life. He was strongly against the death penalty for example especially for soldiers under arms. He had to witness numerous French firing squads of French soldiers who were often picked by lot. He witnessed many terrible things and suffered many terrible things but one thing he never had to do was be part of a firing squad of his own people.

Auld Pop often said the worst thing about the Nazis was their glorification of war –he considered it a Death Cult- and the glorification of pre-Christian war gods and warriors. It is very interesting of course that Wagner , German nationalists and Hitler himself were fascinated by the Nordic equivalent of the Morrigan –the war deities called the Valkyries.

“Those were things the Great Teacher taught us to leave behind or at the very least try to master”. “He who conquers himself is greater than he who conquers cities” was a favorite quote of the Psalms. It is interesting to note that this was also a favorite quote of George Washington , Abraham Lincoln and General Eisenhower.

Man and by that I mean woman too will never be in complete mastery of his or her passions. It is unjust to make us responsible for an act committed before our birth”, say some. Strictly responsible, yes; responsible in a wide sense of the word, no; the crime of a father brands his yet unborn children with shame, and entails upon them a share of his own responsibility. If you don’t believe this ask the Germans what they think of Nazism or many White people what they think of slavery or many Catholics what they think of Anti-Semitism. There is such a thing as War Guilt, White Guilt and Christian Guilt.

The wise man –and woman- knows there is a peace to be found only after war.

Yes, war is terrible but can anyone imagine what living under the Shadow of the Swastika would not have meant terror and mass killing on a scale that if left unchecked would have surpassed all the killing and dying for both World Wars combined.

The wise man –and woman- knows there is a peace to be found only after war. Let all our wars be just and let them be short and yes, let them happen Over There not here.
On a final note it is interesting that Eleanor Roosevelt did not like Churchill at all.
As John Baron says “To the first lady, the English Prime Minister was a dogmatic, chauvinistic, war-mongering night owl who imbibed and smoked too much, and was a bad influence on her husband.” In FDR’s opinion,
In the president's opinion, Churchill was "about the greatest man in the world. In fact, he may very likely be the greatest." FDR was wise enough to know that without absolute victory against the Nazis there would be no survival. We may take that as a prophecy of our own survival and success as we seek peace and freedom in our own time.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner commented on what is now considered the most famous speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In his eulogy on the slain president, he called it a "monumental act." He said Lincoln was mistaken that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here." Rather, the Bostonian remarked, "The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech."

MUNRO: I don't agree at all with Sunmer that the battle itself was less important than the speech; the speech was great because it acknowledged the greatness of the actions of the MEN such as Col Chamberlain who put their lives on the line for the survival and success of liberty. Lincoln told the truth: His words were a small thing compared to the great thing of the courage and sacrifice of the troops. But he helped immortalize Gettysburg and he gave one of the best short definitions of democracy ever: a government OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler. The text above is from the so-called "Bliss Copy," one of several versions which Lincoln wrote, and believed to be the final version. For additional versions, you may search The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln through the courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Association.



Argylls at Ypres 1915

They were among the first troops to experience a poison gas attack in April 1915



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gratitude bestows reverence

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.

~ John Milton ~

(1608-1674, English poet)

Pangur Ban a little Irish Gaelic masterpiece

"The Scholar and the Cat"
"From the Irish of Pangur Ban"

by Frank O'Connor

Each of us pursues his trade,
I and Pangur my comrade,
His whole fancy on the hunt,
And mine for learning ardent.

More than fame I love to be
Among my books and study,
Pangur does not grudge me it,
Content with his own merit.

When ­ a heavenly time! ­ we are
In our small room together
Each of us has his own sport
And asks no greater comfort.

While he sets his round sharp eye
On the wall of my study
I turn mine, though lost its edge,
On the great wall of knowledge.

Now a mouse drops in his net
After some mighty onset
While into my bag I cram
Some difficult darksome problem.

When a mouse comes to the kill
Pangur exults, a marvel!
I have when some secret's won
My hour of exultation.

Though we work for days and years
Neither the other hinders;
Each is competent and hence
Enjoys his skill in silence.

Master of the death of mice,
He keeps in daily practice,
I too, making dark things clear,
Am of my trade a master.

The original Old Irish plus a more literal translation….

Pangur Bán The Scholar and his Cat
(Murphy's title)
Messe ocus Pangur Bán,
cechtar nathar fria saindan:
bíth a menmasam fri seilgg,
mu memna céin im saincheirdd.

I and white Felix,
each of us two (keeps) at his specialty:
his mind is set on hunting,
my mind on my special subject.

Caraimse fos (ferr cach clu)
oc mu lebran, leir ingnu;
ni foirmtech frimm Pangur Bán:
caraid cesin a maccdán.

I love (it is better than all fame)
to be quiet beside my book, with persistent inquiry.
Not envious of me White Felix;
_he_ loves his childish art.

O ru biam (scél cen scís)
innar tegdais, ar n-oendís,
taithiunn, dichrichide clius,
ni fris tarddam ar n-áthius.

When we two are (tale without boredom)
alone in our house,
we have something to which we may apply our skill,
an endless sport.

Gnáth, huaraib, ar gressaib gal
glenaid luch inna línsam;
os mé, du-fuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill.

It is customary at times for a mouse to stick in his net,
as a result of warlike struggles (feats of valor).
For my part, into _my_ net falls
some difficult crux of hard meaning.

Fuachaidsem fri frega fál
a rosc, a nglése comlán;
fuachimm chein fri fegi fis
mu rosc reil, cesu imdis.

He directs his bright perfect eye
against an enclosing wall.
Though my (once) clear eye is very weak
I direct it against acuteness of knowledge.

Faelidsem cu ndene dul
hi nglen luch inna gerchrub;
hi tucu cheist ndoraid ndil
os me chene am faelid.

He is joyful with swift movement
when a mouse sticks in his sharp claw.
I too am joyful
when I understand a dearly loved difficult question.

Cia beimmi a-min nach ré
ni derban cách a chele:
maith la cechtar nár a dán;
subaigthius a óenurán.

Though we are always like this,
neither of us bothers the other:
each of us likes his craft,
rejoicing alone each in his.

He fesin as choimsid dáu
in muid du-ngni cach oenláu;
du thabairt doraid du glé
for mu mud cein am messe.

He it is who is master for himself
of the work which he does every day.
I can perform my own task,
directed toward understanding clearly that which is difficult

THE ROAD SIDE FIRE...the fine song for singing, the rare song to hear that only I remember, that only you admire

A charming pearl set to music by Ralph Vaughn Williams; it has long been one of my favorite art songs.

I have heard it performed by William Tabbert, Kenneth McKellar and Robert Merrill and of course we sang it at home as well….We sang the last verse together many many times on long car rides from Up State New York after having exhausted our repertoire of folk songs mostly Scottish and some Irish some French some Italian and some American

(I will make you brooches and toys for your delight)

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight

Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night,

I will make a palace fit for you and me

Of green days in forests, and blue days at sea.

I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,

Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom;

And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white

In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,

The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!

That only I remember, that only you admire,

Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

Also from the SONGS OF TRAVEL is

In the Highlands by R L Stevenson

In the Highlands, in the country places,

Where the old plain men have rosy faces,

And the young fair maidens quiet eyes;

Where essential silence cheers and blesses,

And forever in the hill recesses

Her more lovely music broods and dies -

O to mount again where erst I haunted;

Where the old red hills are bird-enchanted,

And the low green meadows bright with sward;

And when even dies, the million-tinted,

And the night has come, and planets glinted,

Lo, the valley hollow lamp bestarr'd!

O to dream, O to awake and wander

There, and with delight to take and render,

Through the trance of silence, quiet breath!

Lo! for there, among the flow'rs and grasses,

Only the mightier movements sounds and passes, -

Only winds and rivers, life and death.

These are the limits of art and part of our splendid ancient heritage of music and verse…

I at least will love these things till I die…