Friday, April 29, 2011

When I Went to Vietnam

(In 1993 I took a class called "Vietnam and Its Influence on American Film, Literature and Music." One afternon before class, another student asked me, "What did you feel when you went to Vietnam?" Usually when someone asks a "How did you feel ..." question, I answer with not-good manners. The confusion of "think" with "feel" is a rather stupid thing. That day, though, I answered the qustion truthfully. I said, "I don't know." I went home that night and I wrote When I Went to Vietnam.)

What more fitting memorial for the fallen
Than that their children
Should fall for the same cause?
-- Osbert Sitwell, The Next War

When I went to Vietnam

Kim and I said good-bye in the parking lot across the street from my barracks. We were in Kim’s white Ford Falcon. The Falcon was six years old.

There were lights on tall metal poles in the parking lot, but the lights gave off only enough illumination to make the parking lot spooky at night when it was full of cars and you walked through it. In the parking lot the night I left there were only Kim’s Falcon and six or so other cars. The other cars belonged to wives or girlfriends who had driven from home and to Fort Meade to say good-bye to their men.

Soldiers walked from the barracks and into buses or got off the buses and stood around and smoked cigarettes. There were three buses and a three-quarter-ton truck parked beneath a street light near the barracks. The buses were dark green and shiny and had big white letters on the front and back and sides and reading “U.S. Army.” The buses would take us to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., where we would get on a C-130 transport plane. Sixty of us would get on two of the buses. The third bus was loaded with duffel bags. The three-quarter-ton truck was painted a dull greenish brown; olive drab; OD the color was called. Some soldiers said OD meant Over Dirt. The truck carried rifle racks with our M-16 rifles, and boxes with M-60 machine guns and M-79 grenade launchers. The troop orderly room was packed on the truck, too -- OD three-drawer metal filing cabinets; wooden OD boxes with typewriters and typing paper; three field desks; several folding chairs and a Tent, General Purpose Small, that would be the orderly room when we arrived in Vietnam.

Kim and I had said good-bye the night before, but that good-bye was longer than this one would be. Now, we held hands and touched and made soft kisses in the dark. We said, “I’m going to miss you,” and “I’ll miss you too,” and “It won’t be the same,” and “No, it won’t.” Kim said, “I will write to you every day.” I should have said, “No, don’t tell me that, because you might not be able to, and then what would I think?” But I didn’t say that. I said, “Okay.”

Later on, I did not get a letter every day, but I didn’t worry. Kim wrote at least twice a week, sometimes three times, and the paper was scented. She wrote about things we had done and about her job and how she sometimes cried. She wrote about things we would do when I got back -- places we would go and restaurants where we would eat. Kim knew all the good restaurants around Laurel and in Baltimore. Kim didn’t mention the other things we would do. She was shy and would never talk of those.

Later on, I wrote when I could. I wrote that it was hot and dry or hot and wet. I wrote about the songs we had listened to and sometimes those songs were on Armed Forces Radio and I thought about her when I heard the songs. After a lot of later on, I stopped writing. I don’t know why. Kim wrote and asked why I didn’t write any more. After a time, she stopped asking. (We did get back together, but it was more than a year later. It wasn’t the same, though, and then we weren’t together.)

Kim had left and had been left before, but that did not mean she was accustomed to it. In the summer of 1950, Kim and her family left their village north of Seoul and ran from the North Korean army. Kim and her family ran south, through Seoul and farther south and stopped in Tageu, because they were tired and could run no farther. There wasn’t much food, and sometimes they went three or four days with nothing to eat. Grass, sure, but everybody who ran ate grass, and the grass was soon gone. Kim was eight years old the summer she and her family ran from the North Koreans, and she remembered eating grass. She remembered, too, a funny thing, that for more than a year she didn’t have any candy. I guess that’s something you remember when you are eight years old and then nine before you eat candy again.

I was 20 years old that autumn. Kim was 24. She was a lovely woman. Her face was shaped like a heart and her hair black and always fixed just so. Her teeth were white and even. She smiled every time she saw me, and her eyes crinkled. Kim’s manners were impeccable. She dressed modestly; red was her best color. She embarrassed easily.

One September day we were in a large department store in Laurel, in the lingerie section. I held up several things for Kim to look at, and the flimsiest and most transparent, I held against her. She blushed every time I did that, saying, “Bob! Someone might see!”

I found a thing that was not transparent; a lounging suit, one-piece and with long sleeves. It was burgundy colored and had a scoop neck and a zipper that went all the way down. The zipper had a big metal circle at the top that you could put your finger through and find easily in the dark. I took the suit from the rack and said, “This is pretty.”

“Yes, it is,” Kim said. She touched the materiel. “It is very pretty. Should I try it on? It is my size.”

“Yes,” I said. “I think you should try it on.”

Kim carried the suit to a dressing room, and I stood in the lingerie section, surrounded by things that were transparent and things that were not.

A saleswoman approached. “May I help you?”

I said, “Ah, . . I’m with my ... She’s trying something on.”

The saleswoman nodded and smiled, and then Kim said: “Bob?”

I turned. Kim was just outside the dressing room door. The suit was much more pretty on Kim than on a hanger in the rack. Kim stood with her arms at her sides and a look that asked very much for approval.

She said, “Do you like it?”

“Yes,” I said. “I like it very much.” The saleswoman smiled and looked away.

I don’t remember what Kim and I finally said to each other in the Falcon, other than “I love you” and “I love you too.” I know we kissed a final kiss and it was good. Then, I got out of the car and walked to the first bus. I got on the bus and sat next to Jim MacMillan. (Jim would call in the summer of 1992 from Shamrock in the Texas Panhandle. He said he did a second tour with the Regiment. I asked, although I didn’t want to, but it was something I had to ask, “Did you make it okay?” I closed my eyes and almost cried when I asked, because somehow I knew the answer. Jim said, “No, I didn’t. I got shot in the face.” I remember how I thought the conversation strange from the beginning, that when I asked a question, Jim paused longer than is normal before he answered.) I took the seat next to Jim and I sighed and lit a cigarette.

Kim didn’t leave, not right away. I looked out the bus window. The Falcon was still there. I could see the car, but not Kim. The parking lot was dark. I wished she would go.

Then the headlights came on and the Falcon backed up and left the parking lot. Kim drove north. Brake lights flashed when she stopped at an intersection at the top of the hill. Then, the car was gone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stories I would like to sell or finish

The Disappearance of Harvey Lee Jackson – 92,000 words. Done. A young man returns from war, meets a girl, falls in love, but the girl’s husband is nine months dead from Vietnam. Young man goes back to Vietnam, his best friend is killed and the young man wounded. As the man tells another woman 24 years later, “There was a girl. I loved her, but I lost her to the war.” G language; PG events.

When I Went to Vietnam – 86,000 words. Done. Short stories, essays, poems. Contains soldier language; not for the easily embarrassed or faint of heart.

All Our Yesteryears – 300,000 words. Done, but needs redoing. Circa 1964, a young man’s last few months in high school, the girl he loves, his enlisting in the Army, the girl’s death in a car accident. The young man goes to Korea, re-enlists, succumbs to temptations he never knew existed, returns Stateside, goes out with and falls in love with the first girl’s younger sister. Threats by the girl’s father. Young man goes to his duty station for eight months, then to Vietnam. Events there. Returns home for his last year in the Army. When discharged, sees second girl, knows he cannot stay, goes to Midwestern state, where his best friend from Vietnam lives. Meets friend’s older sister. Events. Two endings, haven’t chosen. Young man marries best friend’s sister, or he is contacted by the girl he ran away from and returns to her. Language as above.

Phu Bat – several unfinished chapters. Phu Bat is a town of 25,000 on the South China Sea, between Nha Trang and Cam Ranh. HQ for the 407th Truck Company, commanded by COL. Wade Martin. Colonels do not command truck companies, which means there is more than movement of materiel. Martin keeps the peace in and around Phu Bat through the oldest and most effective method – He pays for it. Local authorities, local Viet Cong leaders take Martin’s money. Except, of course, it is not his money. Every business pays a fee. Martin’s bought local authorities make sure the Saigon government gets nothing. Soldiers of the 407th and airmen at the small Air Force strip support local businesses. So,to, do local farmers, some of whom grow pineapples, tobacco and potatoes rather than rice. Local middle men sell the agricultural products to name brand companies, who in turn sell to the US government. Farmers pay a fee, as do the middlemen. Many Americans involved in Phu Bat, with every department of the US government involved in educating indigenous peoples on the proper ways of modern life – Departments of Justice, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, etc. and et al. Also in Phu Bat are American non-profit organizations and religious missionaries, to whom the American soldiers are an encumbrance. War stuff and personal interactions as well.

The Greatest Years of Rock and Roll – many unfinished chapters. Actually has nothing to do with rock and roll, except for the time span – 1963-72 – and use of song lyrics on each and every page; i.e., “the GTO really looking fine,” “Jack is running a 409 in the pickup, saved his pennies and his dimes,” “Last night there was the girl in Missouri, Doris, and ooh that girl looked nice,” “and a couple of songs Doris just stood in one spot and wiggled around,” “Jack finished chewing, swallowed, sipped coffee. ‘I was born in a small town.’” In the opening chapter, Jack stops for lunch at a diner in mid-eastern Kansas, eventually discovering the diner is a way station for the characters who journey in. Every picture tells a story, and so does every man and every woman.

The Sarsun Wars – many stories, a few actually finished. In a galaxy far away and far in the future, a race before unknown begins conquest and elimination of humans. Almost genetically identical to humans, the Sarsun take planet after planet, despite appalling losses. The idea of the book is a compilation of stories from published accounts by those who fought the Sarsun and survived or who were captured and survived.

One of Our Own – basic idea and layout. What do you do when a friend on a medical mission to Mexico is kidnapped by narco-terrorists and your government does nothing? If your friend is one of your soldiers and you are the only fulltime soldier at a National Guard detachment near the Rio Grande, you get with like-minded soldiers and plan and carry out a rescue. Over a drill weekend, of course. People have to be back at work on Monday.

And then there are the true events found while searching for something else, events that would make great stories; to wit: Rowland George Allanson Allanson-Winn, 5th Baron Headley (19 January 1855 – 22 June 1935), was offered the throne of Albania in 1925, along with $500,000 and $50,000 per year but refused it. That’s $10 million or $6.5 million in today’s money, depending upon which source you believe, plus the annual stipend. Albania wound up with King Zog, former president, who proclaimed himself king in 1928.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From Sgt. Bob's kitchen

Today’s breakfast menu called for “Charming cheese blintzes.”

“Charming?” The things I cook can be called many things – filling, quite good, excellent, and even occasionally so-so – but never have I prepared a meal termed “charming.”

I probably cooked “Charming cheese blintzes” before today. Cylla and I have used the menus off and on for around seven years. More off than on, sometimes. A 240-mile move spread over two years leads to an off and on life. Cylla got her job here in Arkansas in March 2005. I moved up here in June 2007. We sold our house in Sulphur Springs that November. Two-plus years of fixing a house – There were things that should have been done before, but as a friend said, “When my wife and I decided to sell our house, we had to fix ten years of ‘I’ll get to that tomorrow.’” Well, I had 23 years of tomorrows to take care of. But with the combined efforts of a bank, contractors, roofers and my often limited abilities, the job finally got done.

Cylla got the menu plan a time after I was fired from my last job. The newspaper went into a “Let’s fire all the older reporters and hire brand new graduates.” Out the door went an almost 60-year-old reporter, a 55-year-old (me) and a 40-year-old reporter. I applied for several jobs after the firing, but not with much gusto. I discovered I cannot take much stress. An Army psychologist wrote that in 1990 following two days of testing and evaluation – “decreased tolerance to stress.” Kind of funny; I’ve had two jobs since high school graduation – soldiering and newspapering, both with definite, sometimes almost overwhelming, but different, kinds of stress. There were other kinds of jobs – construction, taxi driving, nigh club bouncing – but those were interludes between soldiering and newspapering.

The psychological tests were interesting. An Army staff sergeant gave the tests. One question was, “Who wrote Faustus?” I answered, “Goethe.” The staff sergeant said, “I’ve been giving this test for 12 years, and you are the second person to answer that question.” Another question was one of those “If it takes (this many) people (this long) to do a job, how many people will it take to do the same job in (this amount of time)?” I said, “Ninety-six.” The staff sergeant said, “I have been giving this test for 12 years, and you are the only person who’s given the right answer.” Late that afternoon, I went back to my room at the visitor’s quarters at Fort Sam and got a pencil and piece of paper and wrote down numbers and went through the math to figure out how I got the answer.

The tests determined I have “superior IQ” and “very superior verbal IQ.” I wondered how one has a “very superior” anything. That sounds like the difference between “good” and “gooder.”

The decrease tolerance to stress was a result of a cerebral aneurysm in March 1986. Doctors cut a hole in my skull and moved aside parts of my brain and got to the aneurysm and put a spring-loaded stainless steel clip on the bulge. After that, though, there were physical and mental problems, which lead the Army to decide on a discharge based on “Organic mental disorder, characterized by depression, emotional lability and personality decompensation.” The Army medical people did not explain what the words meant. “You have this, here are the papers, there is the door.” The papers meant a check every month, but not as much as I wanted.

But we were talking about “Charming cheese blintzes.” You take an egg yolk, two egg whites, fat-free cottage cheese, some flavoring, flour, a little milk (I used 2%, even though the recipe called for skim), put it all together and cook about a third-cup at a time in a skillet sprayed with non-stick stuff. Like pancakes. I used a wrought iron skillet, one of the greatest inventions of man. (“Man” in the gender-neutral sense, lest the Gender Police or Thought Police be reading.) You can cook anything in a wrought iron skillet or a wrought iron Dutch oven, given something as a lid, of course. Cooking “Charming cheese blintzes” does not require a lid, but some things do.

Here’s what I learned from cooking “Charming cheese blintzes” – Each of the six stuck. Some more than others, but stuck none the less. Still, served with fat-free sour cream and strawberries cut up and sweetened “with your favorite sugar substitute,” as the recipe said, the blintzes tasted pretty good. But they stuck and I won’t do them again.

From Sgt. Bob’s kitchen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What happened?

At the Barnes and Noble site, Nookbooks, under Historical Fiction, titles in the first two screens include: Water for Elephants; The Paris Wife; The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane; The Valley of the Horses (Earth’s Children #2); Prayers for Sale; The Shelters of Stone (Earth’s Children #5); Dragonfly in Amber … Those are not historical fiction. Those books are romance novels.

Historical novels are set in specific times and involve specific events, historical events, hence the name “historical novel.”

The first two screens contained two writers who are gendered male. The remainder are written by women – 15 books written by women; four by men, and three of those by Ken Follett. The other was written by Steve Berry.

The science fiction/fantasy category is even less diverse (to use an in-vogue word). Of 10 screens of titles, there is not one space opera or space exploration or humans war against alien thingees threatening extinction. Not one. There are dozens of books about vampires, zombies and fairies, though.

Maybe more women than men buy books. Or, maybe men have become so feminized that they are reading romance novels and vampire novels, and etc.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Somebody said the superintendent’s house was on fire, so the five of us walked down the hill from school to watch it burn.

Four of us were juniors that spring of 1963 - Larry, James, Jimmy and me. Charley was the fifth member of our group. He was a sophomore, and we let him run around with us as long as he didn't do anything stupid, like embarrass us in front of girls.

The day was chilly. Larry, James, Jimmy and I had on coats; Charley wore a short-sleeved shirt. If Charley owned a coat, I had never seen him wear it. Charley’s family was poor. Lots of families were back then, but Charley’s even more so. His father was a pulp wood cutter. His family lived back in the woods, the deep woods, down a dirt road somewhere.

Charley was a bright kid, quick and intelligent. Everybody has known a kid like Charley, known that somewhere behind those quick remarks and comic attitude was an ability to do more than he did. Charley could have made excellent grades, but he chose not to. Teachers wouldn't have known what to do with him if he had. Besides, in Charlie's life there was reality, then everything else. And the reality was that Charley was the son of a pulp wood cutter. Barring some great miracle, Charley would always be the son of a pulp wood cutter.

The superintendent's house was really burning by the time we got to the bottom of the hill. The fire had burned through the roof . Dark gray smoke, almost black, went up a distance and then flattened out, the way smoke does on a cold day.

The five of us just stood around for a minute or so, watching the house burn. Then Charley said, "I bet we can save some of their stuff," and before we could stop him, Charley opened a window and crawled inside the burning house.

“Hey!” Jimmy said when Charlie climbed through the window. “You can’t go in there!” Jimmy was that way sometimes – doing what was proper, and proper right then, to him, was that a boy like Charley was not supposed to go into the superintendent’s house.
James didn’t say anything or do anything at first. He waited to see how things would turned out before making a commitment.

Larry and I stood near the window, moving aside now and then when smoke boiled through the window. Then Charley appeared, passed out a small lamp table, and went back into the smoke.

It went that way for a while – Charley passing things through the window to Larry and me, and to Jimmy and James after a while. Pretty soon we had a pile of chairs, small tables and books stacked beside a pecan tree.

Charley had just started on a closet when the fireman arrived. The school was between two towns, each four miles away, and it took the volunteer fireman a little while to get to the fire stations and then to the house. Charley was handing out a armful of clothes when one of the firemen ran up to us yelling. "What do you boys think you're doing? You're giving the fire more oxygen! Shut that window!" Grownups knew more than us kids, so we got Charley out of the house, shut the window and watched the fireman spray water on the house.

After the fire was out, we went inside the house. Everything was burned; nothing usable was left. We went back outside.

The basketball coach came up and said, "I hear you boys saved a lot of stuff from the house." One of us said, "Yes sir, but it was Charley’s idea. He went inside. All we did was take what he handed out the window."

The coach turned to Charley, who stood there with his hands in his pockets. The day had turned colder. The coach said, "You look cold. Where's your coat?" Charley replied, "I don't have it with me." The coach just nodded. He said, "You did a good job. I think you've done enough for today. Why don't I drive you home." Charley said, "It's only one o'clock." The coach laughed. "I know. But I don't think the superintendent will mind."

A funny thing. I don’t remember anybody – teacher or student -- saying anything about the fire next day.

We four seniors graduated the next year. Larry went to work for a telephone company. In September, James and Jimmy went off to college. I joined the Army.

In August of 1967 I met up with Larry at Camp Martin Cox, base camp of the 9th Infantry Division, at Bear Cat, Republic of Vietnam. Larry had been drafted in 1966. We sat around in his hooch for a while, drank beer, talked about people back home.

After I got back home, I learned that James had graduated from college and had a job with NASA in Houston. The space program was more important than a war several thousand miles away, and the jobs came with a draft deferment. I ran into Jimmy at a high school foot-ball game in 1969. He had put on a few pounds, didn't look like the all-district tackle from high school. Jimmy was married, had a kid, taught at a junior high. He said we were doing the right thing in Vietnam. We had to stop those Communists somewhere. But: "I've got a wife and kid, Bob. I can't become involved in a war thousands of miles from home."
That takes care of everybody but Charley.

See, the thing is, Charley didn't have to go in that burning house. He could have been just like the rest of us, stayed outside and watched it burn. But Charley wasn't like that. Peoples' things would be lost if somebody didn't do something. And although Charley had absolutely nothing in common with the superintendent, he went inside the burning house. Charley knew what had to be done, what he had to do. “Maybe we can save some of their stuff.”
In 1965, Charley enlisted in the Army. He went to Vietnam and he died there.

In 1989, I was in Dallas on Army business. I went to Fair Park. There's a monument there, lists the names of Texans who died in Vietnam. There were a few names I wanted to see; one in particular. I found him.

9 MARCH 1947-15 NOVEMBER 1965
Mt. Pleasant, Texas

I never knew Charley's middle name.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Show me the money!

Sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison on not working for free. Not for anything.

(Language warning.)

College 'R Us?

Back in March the heads of Arkansas four-year universities signed a pledge that their schools will double the number of degrees by 2025.

Now, you can’t throw a dead cat here in Arkansas and not hit a college or university. The Big One, the University of Arkansas, besides its main campus at Fayetteville, has colleges in five other cities – Fort Smith, Little Rock, Monticello, Pine Bluff and a medical school in Little Rock. Arkansas State’s main campus is in Jonesboro, with locations also in Beebe, Heber Springs, Mountain Home and Newport. Then there are Arkansas Tech, in Russellville; Henderson State, in Arkadelphia; Southern Arkansas, in Magnolia; and the University of Central Arkansas, in Conway. Those are the state colleges. Add the 14 two-year colleges (18 locations), 10 religious or private colleges and two private two-year colleges … Well, there’s a bunch of schools.

To double the number of degrees pretty much means doubling the number of college graduates. But, the number of schools does not mean a large amount of educated students.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette pointed out in a March 28 editorial:

“Last time we checked, which was just in February, the number of college students in Arkansas who needed remedial classes had jumped from 51.3 percent to 54.6 percent. If this is progress, what would retrogression be?

“When this year’s college entrants in Arkansas were tested, 46.1 percent needed a remedial course in math before they could go on. And 33.7 percent required remedial work in English. Two-thirds of the students who needed remedial work needed it in at least two subjects.”

So, will the colleges and universities somehow smart-up high school graduates, or maybe, just possibly, dumb down college classes? And if more than half the students already in college had to have remedial classes, how much down will future classes be dumbed?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Texas is what makes you

Several years ago a friend in Red River County was invited to take part in a Texas Historical Association-sponsored to-do at Clarksville Cemetery. Jim’s oldest Texas ancestor was buried in the cemetery in 1838, and had emigrated to Texas in the 1820s as a member of the Wavell Colony.

At one point in the event, Jim said, he and a young woman from the commission were standing next to Jim’s ancestor’s grave.

“She pointed at the small stone at the foot of the grave, and she said, ‘What’s that?’” (The small stone is inscribed “George Faithful Servant And Friend.”)

Jim said, “I told her that back in those days tradition was when a man died, his body servant was buried with him. She said, ‘They did not do that!’ From her expression, I knew she didn’t know whether to believe me or not.”

I said, “She wanted to believe you, didn’t she.”

“I think she did,” Jim said. He got a serious expression. “It’s a funny thing – People go to Austin, they change. Austin changes people.”

I’ve noticed that about different parts of Texas, especially those parts whose inhabitants want to tell you what a real Texan is. Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston – I’ve heard it from people in all those places, from Amon Carter’s “Fort Worth is where the West begins and Dallas is where the East peters out,” to the Urban Cowboy types in the mid-to-late-1970s. Especially galling, though, are the non-Texans (East Coasters and Left Coasters usually) who think they can tell the rest of the country about Texas and Texans. “All hat and no cattle,” I read many times about former President George W. Bush, the statement always made or written by a limp-wristed pinky-raiser who read it from an Ann Richards speech. But I am not writing about those people.

Jim said one time, “Any movie made about Texas, when the character enters, the movie has scenes from somewhere west of Wichita Falls. If they go farther east, it looks like Louisiana or Arkansas.”

Fact is, most Texans of early importance came into the state in what today is northern Red River County. Sam Houston, James Bowie, David Crockett all crossed the Red River to the no-longer-there town of Jonesborough (or Jonesboro). In the same area were Pecan Point, Mrs. Gaffney’s Landing, Bryerly’s Landing and Wright’s Landing, the first three downstream and the third upstream of Jonesboro. Ben Milam took the first steamboat up the Red as far as Jonesboro. The Wright house is the oldest house in Texas continuously occupied by the same family. The house has undergone changes since 1853, but still has the original floor, some of the original walls and original bois d’arc underpinnings.

Wright Landing used to be due south across the Red River from Fort Towson Landing. That changed in 1840 when the river bed moved a couple miles north following a flood. The same flood took out Jonesboro.

All that remains at the Jonesboro site now is a house surrounded by a chain link fence. Pecan Point remains only as an area of scattered pieces of iron from a grist mill, and a few foundation stones.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We know what is best for you

“As Dambisa Moyo and others suggest, it is time for rich Western nations to provide less aid, fewer restrictions – and much more trade, investment and banking expertise and opportunity; business, agricultural and property rights know-how; and energy technologies that will harness and utilize abundant, reliable, affordable hydrocarbon energy. They also need to stop propagating scare stories and imposing restrictions on the use of hybrid and genetically modified seeds to reduce malnutrition, and insecticides to reduce disease.”

Western environmentalists: Our countries were developed on fossil fuels, but it was a bad thing, so you poor countries have to listen to us and not use your own fossil fuels.

China: You have lots of stuff. We want to help you develop your resources. Also, we will pay good money to have a percentage of those resources sent to our country.

Art who?

"The chimpanzee's stuff is good, I like how he plays with metaphors about depth of field, but I think I like this guy Rothko a little bit better."

The chimp “plays with metaphors”?

A change of pace

“A declassified FBI memo revealed today that the bureau kept a senior ABC News journalist as a potential confidential informant during the 1990's. The journalist, who was not named, was repeatedly questioned for information about the Oklahoma City bombing.

“The journalist not only cooperated, but provided the identity of a confidential source, a drastic breach in journalistic ethics. The source had provided an uncorroborated tip to ABC during the network's early coverage of the bombing.”

Use of a journalist as a confidential informant “is a drastic breach in journalism ethics,” but no one seems to care that a nationally known, non-profit civil rights organization also works with the FBI to keep track of political opponents.

Southern Poverty Law head Morris Dees “confirmed the presence of an informant at Elohim City at a recent press conference, the paper reported.

"’If I told you what we were doing there, I would have to kill you,’ Dees replied when asked to explain.”

Declassified FBI memo
reveals twists in probe

The SPLC has done good work, but seems to have changed and expanded its outlook.

Incluided in the hate group list are the American Family Association and James Dobson’s Family Research Council, as well as real terrorists and haters, such as various forms of the KKK, New Black Panther Party and a number of Nazi organizations.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

G.I. Joe

Turner Classic Movies showed “The Story of G.I. Joe” a couple of nights ago. I hadn’t seen the movie since I was around 15, so I recorded it. I haven’t yet watched it, but it’s there when I decide to.

The movie is based on Ernie Pyle’s writings from North Africa and Italy. The screenplay makes movie soldiers from real soldiers Pyle knew and liked. Among those movie soldiers is CPT. Bill Walker, patterned after CPT. Henry T. Waskow, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion 143rd Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. Waskow was killed on December 14, 1943, near San Pietro Infine, Italy. Pyle wrote one of his most remembered columns on the reaction of CPT Waskow’s soldiers. Part of the column: “I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow's body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.” You can read the column here:

CPT Waskow was killed during the Battle of San Pietro. You can watch the 38-minute video here:

A bit more than 20 years ago I was at Camp Maxey, Texas, preparing to draw M113s for weekend drill. The camp manager, COL John Wisley, mentioned he and two of his men had gone to Austin a few weeks before for some maintenance reason. When driving on I35 through Belton, Wisley said to his men, “There’s the CPT Waskow VFW post. He’s the one Ernie Pyle wrote about.” COL Wisley said to me, “Bob, I didn’t expect them to know who CPT Waskow was, but they looked at me and one of them said, ‘Who’s Ernie Pyle?’”