Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Three Years

Three years ago today my oldest son died.  The local newspaper published this obituary.  I miss him more now than I did then.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Fall of Constantinople

The Seige of Constantinople
On this day in 1453, the Roman Empire disappeared.  Since the 1430s the imperial capital, Constantinople had been surrounded on all sides by the forces of the Ottoman Turks.  The Balkans, Thrace, and Asia Minor fed the Muslim armies, while Constantinople, for the most part, had to be supplied by sea from the imperial lands in the Pelloponese.

For hundreds of years, Constantinople had held out, first against the Arabs, then the Seljuk Turks, and finally the Ottoman Turks.  But throughout that time the Roman Empire shrank in size, while the Muslims took all the land around Constantinople.  By 1453 the city, the jewel of Christendom lay in the heart of Ottoman territory, a beautiful thorn of independence between the eastern and western parts of the Ottoman Empire.

The last Roman Emperor, Constantine XI, who viewed himself as not only the Roman Emperor, but as the secular protector of the Church and "father" to all Christian kings and head of a commonwealth of all Christian states, continued to hold out for help from the kings of the west.  Though some of the merchant cities of northen Italy sent help, the kings of the west failed.  The most help came from western individuals such as Giovanni Giustianani, who brought with him 700 Genoese soldiers trained in defending walled cities. It was a pitiable token number, but it was almost enough.  Including the Genoese, the defenders had about 2,500 men to repel about 50,000 attackers, including 1,500 Christian cavalrymen from Serbia who were already subjects of the Turks.  Five years before the attack on Constantinople, the Christian prince of Serbia, though a subject of the Sultan paid for the repair and improvement of the walls of Constantinople. Constantinople had high thick walls, among the best fortifications in the world at that time.

A Gun Used in the Ottoman Seige of Constantiople
The seige began on April 7.  For the next seven weeks, while the Church prayed continuously and the smoke from censers mingled with the smoke from canon, attack after attack was repulsed by the outnumbered defenders on the outer walls.  But the western-built canons of the Mohamadens (Will the west ever stop siding with Muslims against Orthodox Christians?), eventually, breeched the walls.

On the dawn of May 29, when the final all-out attack began, the Serbian Christian subjects of the Sultan were the first to fall before the walls of the city.  Strangly, just as there were some Christian subjects of the Ottoman Turks fighting against the Roman Empire, there were Muslim subjects of the Roman empire helping to defend Conastantinople. Turkish soldiers working for the Romans and commanded by a Turk defended one section of the walls along the sea, and remained loyal to the Roman Empire till the very end. Nevertheless after nearly two months of fighting there were not enough Romans or allies left to defend the walls.  Actually, there had never been enough men to defend the walls, and only the outer walls had been manned.  But against these walls, built centuries earlier, the bodies of the attackers were piled up.

By the end of the attack the main formations of the Ottoman Turks were slain or exhausted.  But the Sultan had terrible force held in reserve, and over the bodies of the fallen these dreadful formations came: The reserve battalions of Janasaries, Balken Christian children kidnapped and raised to be killers for Mohamed and the personal bodyguard of the Sultan.

On this morning, when he saw the Janaseries raise the Ottoman flag over the walls, the Emperor, having put off the purple but arrayed in the splendor of courage, charged with the last of his knights into the seething army of Islam.  The emperor's body was never found.

Memory Eternal!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Sandtrack: Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger was born in 1919, and everyone knows his name and what he is done. But even if they don't, Wikipaedia does.  If you like Peter Paul and Mary, The Kinston Trio, or thought the Lion King had the best movie soundtrack ever, you like them, in part, because of Pete Seeger.  Pete Seeger is even the force behind Bruce Sprinsteen finally making music worth listening to.    

As best as I can remember, the first Pete Seeger song I ever heard was "If I Had A Hammer", though at the time I thought it was a Peter, Paul, and Mary song.  And this brings me to something that makes me very sad, since he is such an important part of America, but Pete Seeger was and remains a Communist.   

I like to think he is merely deluded and not truly malevolent, but I don't know.   It is hard for me to think anyone can still be a Communist after the events of the 20th Century, but he is.  He joined the communist Youth League in 1936 and the Communist Party in 1942. In 1945 Seeger became head of People's Songs, Inc.  A report by a fact finding committee of the California Senate said of People's Songs that was 
"a vital Communist front … one which has spawned a horde of lesser fronts in the fields of music, stage entertainment, choral singing, folk dancing, recording, radio transcriptions and similar fields. It especially is important to Communist proselytizing and propaganda work because of its emphasis on appeal to youth, and because of its organization and technique to provide entertainment for organizations and groups as a smooth opening wedge for Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist propaganda."
In 2000 he affirmed that he is still a Communist, saying the Soviet union wasn't real Communism.  In 2008 he performed the anti-property verse of This Land is Your Land at the "We Are One" pre-innaugural concert for President Obama.  I pray for his salvation.
This is my favorite Pete Seeger song.  My first experience of the song was in 1982 when the Tokens version of it came over the Florida airwaves from WRBQ to my bedroom.  This mash-up version of the song, containing references to at least three other songs, is by an acapela show choir called Straight No Chaser. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mornings on Prozac

Report on the first day of prozac.   The M.D. (I also see a Psy.D.) said it would probably cause drowsiness for the first few days.  Wow!  That was an understatement.  I was dozing off all morning and finally just went back to bed around noon.  I set the alarm for 2:30 but slept through it. About 6p.m. I felt irrationally happy for about half an hour.  Have not cried at all today.  I am wide awake now and the boys and I are hanging out while Athanasia is at a Cub Scout summer camp planning meeting.  As soon as they go to bed I'll finish my last paper for the semester. I'll be glad to have this semester behind me.


Today I start taking prozac.  The M.D. said if they work I should start feeling less sad in a month.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When it rains it pours

Imagine the most horrible thing possible.  I can't tell you what that is.  It's your imagination, and what you imagine is the most horribe thing is probably not the most horrible thing as I imagine it.  Now, pretend that horrible thing is really happening.  Yes, that is what is happening to me.  But it isn't imaginary.  It is real. The most horrible thing I can imagine is actually happening to me. If I was not absolutely sure suicides go directly to Hell my straight razor would be in my hand at this moment.  Some people think Hell is a bad thing.  But to me, right now, the threat of Hell is the only thing keeping me alive.  Some people think God  a merciful God wouldn't let there be a Hell.  Those people are wrong.  Right now Hell is proof to me of God's mercy.

On the Holy Trinity

In Christianity (and in Judaism, too) God is transcendent.  He is the One[1] who can not be approached.  Like a great black hole at the center of a galaxy He melts anything that gets too close to Him.  He is a consuming fire[2], and the dreadfulness of His glory is such that even the holy seraphim cover their eyes as they soar around His throne.[3]
But there is more to God than His terrible transcendent Oneness. He is also unimaginable condescending love.  His love is such that He is near whenever He is called[4], and He is unfailingly faithful and loyal.[5]   The Prophet King David describes God’s love:
The Lord executes mercy and judgment for all that are injured. He made known his ways to Moses, his will to the children of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and pitiful, long-suffering, and full of mercy. He will not be always angry; neither will he be wrathful for ever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor recompensed us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, the Lord has so increased his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, the Lord pities them that fear him. For he knows our frame: remember that we are dust.[6]

Hedge and Donna: Saturday Soundtrack

Update 5/24/2012:  I have been in correspondence with Donna Carson.  She left the music industry in 1977 and became an emplyoyee of the California Superior Court in Los Angeles County, from which she retired as Supervior of Advocates for Abused and Neglected Children in 2010.  She did not share with me any information about Hedge Carson.

Originally Published on 3/19/2011

Hedge Carson and Donna Capers released several LPs from 1968 to 1973 (most of them on Capitol Records) and were popular touring artists.   Most interesting to me is hearing the melesmatic quality of Donna's voice.  It is the same powerful tremor heard in Annie Herring's earlier music, the stuff she recorded in the mid 70s with 2nd Chapter of Acts.  I wonder if Annie Herring got it from listening to Hedge and Donna. A big mystery is what ever happened to them.  After their last album release in 1973 (I think "Guava Jelly" was the only good song on that record.) they disappeared from the public eye.

My favorite Hedge and Donna song was released this this song the year I was born (Album: All The Friendly Colours. Publisher: Capitol Records).  I have no idea what it is about, but it seems like a congeries of two songs.  Here it is:

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Depression Is Like

I started thinking about my son Billy, then before I knew it I was thinking I had failed at everything worth doing, then I began thinking there was no reason to do anything else.  Then I wept for an hour before I managed to pull myself together and do the laundry.  This really sucks.  Being in the sunlight helps.

Army Days

I don't often think about my time in the U.S. Army.  But when I do I usually think about basic training.  That was the best part of the Army, as far as I'm concerned.  Running around, shooting, singing, shouting, blowing things up, leaping over walls.  And life was simple.  Wake up, work hard, eat, sleep, obey.  I was in the second squad (12 men) of the 1st platoon (53 men), of B Company (218 officers and men), of 4th Battalion (883 officers and men), of the 5th Brigade (4,600+ officers and men).  I saw the colonel once.  I saw the sergeant major once.  I saw my captain 4 times.  But I saw Drill Sergeant McCain every minute I was awake for 8 weeks.  He was one of the best men I've ever met.

In my squad was a man named Micael Ainsley.  I don't know much about him, but he had a hiarious sense of humour.  He told me about a book called Bored of the Rings. I read it after I was graduated from basic training and thought it was the funniest thing I'd ever read.  Back then, the only time a soldier got to fall out of formation was for a smoke break.  Until I heard a sergeant say it, I thought "smoke 'em if ya got 'em" was just something said in the movies.  He thought I was pretty funny and bought me my first cigar so I could hang out with him and the other smokers on their smoke breaks.  It was a White Owl.  In the second week of basic training the Surgeon General of the Army forbade smoking in all training units.

There was a man, he was 19, in my squad from the Dakotas.  He played the cello and had joined the army to pay for the rest of his education.  I think his name was Olson.  He told me, and I've never been brave enough to try it, that he learned on an indian reservation that one can pour a bottle of rubbing alcohol through a loaf of bread and it won't kill, blind, or make the drinker mad.

Pete McGlincy was one of the funniest men I met in those at weeks at Ft. Dix.  He was a 17 year old from Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania.  When Olson, Ainsly, and I would be talking about philosophy and cigars and our plans for the future (wow, those sure didn't work out!) he would talk about all the girls he slept with and laugh at us for not knowing what was important in life.  I think he managed to go on sick call at least half the days of basic training.  I think he actually added a few pounds of fat before graduation!  He was the one who told me about the donuts in the hospital.  I didn't see it for myself until I got hurt while stationed at Ft. Monmouth, but it seems that back then, if not today, there was a big platter of donuts on a counter in every Army hospital.  It had to be 3 feet high!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Laid off

I figured it was coming when, for over a month, I was only getting 2 or 3 days of work each week, and even some of the most skilled men in the company were being sent home early because of no work.  I was laid off today.  Oh, well.  It was fun.  Things I got to do that I had never done before: Weld steel and iron, solder copper tubes, repair and install pumps, drive a bobcat, weave re-bar and pour concrete, and a bunch of other really fun things.  I, also, received a nicknme: Pipewrench. Now that part of my life is over. Time to find something else. And file for unemployment insurance.

Oh, wait mintue.  My wife just gave me a list...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Star Trek

It is strange to think of it this way, but Star Trek has been part of my life, for my whole life.  In fact, the earliest thing I can remember seeing on teevee was an episode of Star Trek, the one in which Cap'n Kirk fight the Gorn.  I must have been four years old.  It scared me so I went outside and played with my plastic sword.  Later, when I got out of the Army and was living with my sister my brother-in-law and I would watch StarTrek: The Next Generation together.  The show had been on the air for a few years at that point, but I was busy doing Army stuff and hadn't seen it.  I really liked the last movie, especially how Cap'n Pike was put into the story with the whole time travel thing. Being a Star Trek purist, I was worried about how that was going to play out.  I think consistency in the Stat Trek universe is important.

The entire history of Star Trek is in this timeline infographic.
Source: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Job Hunting

Things have been slow at work.  Only got 2 days this week.  Week before, too.  My boss says there are several really big jobs in the pipeline.  I'm looking for other work.  Applied for several media sales jobs today.  I need to make more money than I make as a pump and compressor mechanic.  Besides, I'm pretty good at media sales.  Seattle, Hollywood, Mountian View, Los Angeles.  Hope I get one of them.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Treehouse Closing

Stacy the "Chief Elf"
     When Anselm Samuel was in the second grade, and we lived 50% closer to his school he would walk to school and then back to home.  Sometimes, he wouldn't be home when I expected him.  On those occasions I would put Basil Wenceslas on my shoulders and walk down the street to the school.  Invariably, I would find him in Treehouse in the Glen, playing with Stacy the "Chief Elf" of the best toy store I ever knew.  Most of their toys were made of wood, and all of them were very engaging.  Haba, Holtzinger, and Ostheimer are some of the lines they carried.  The boys bought many marbles there.  And wooden swords.  My favorite thing we ever bought there is a game called Chickyboom.  But what was really nice was that my son had a place where he could stop for a few minutes on his way home from school.
     I just got an email announcing that Treehouse in the Glen is closing.  A couple of months ago I thought they were showing signs of struggle: No new inventory, half their floor space set apart for art lessons.  But today it is official.  Their website is already down.  Tomorrow they start a going-out-of-business sale: Everything 50% off.  I am not excited about the sale.  I know everything changes, and probably another interesting business will take the storeforent, but it makes me sad to see this place my son enjoyed so much go out of business.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

When I was 10 or 11 I saw "A Little Romance".  It is still, after more than 30 years, the sweetest movie I have ever seen.  Nostalgia for a movie.  Gosh, what's wrong with me.  Well, this piece by Vivaldi was used throughout the movie, and makes me feel in love with being in love.  If you get a chance, see the movie.