Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rube Tuesday, 11/30/10

"As we move forward along the gadget-strewn path of mechanization we become more and more aware of the general theme, DO IT THE HARD WAY. The more trivial the product, the more complicated the machine."
-Rube Goldberg (1883-1970)

Even before he reached the age of 50, Rube Goldberg saw his name in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as an adjective meaning “accomplishing something simple through complex means. “ Goldberg saw the humor in the Machine Age of the early 1900s and spent 55 years drawing elaborate mechanisms that symbolized what he called “man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results." Each drawing would take about 30 hours to complete.

Reuben Lucius Goldberg was the son of a San Francisco police and fire commissioner, who steered into obtaining and engineering degree in college before going to work in 1904, designing sewer pipes for the San Francisco Sewer Department. He only lasted a few months at the job before leaving to become a sportswriter and cartoonist. Early in his cartooning career he created the characters Mike & Ike (“They look alike.”) who live on these days as a brand of candy.

I was surprised to learn that Rube Goldberg won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning as a result of his New York Sun cartoon warning about the perils of the Atomic Age:

But he is best known for his elaborate drawings that continue to spawn of host of complicated machines that bear his name. “The Self-Operating Napkin” was a classic Rube Goldberg cartoon in that vein:

As you raise spoon of soup (A) to your mouth it pulls string (B), thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off sky-rocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth thereby wiping off your chin. After the meal, substitute a harmonica for the napkin and you'll be able to entertain the guests with a little music.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why We Are Here

My own working assumption of why we are here is that we are here as local-Universe information-gatherers and that we are given access to the divine design principles so that we can therefrom objectively invent instruments and tools -- e.g., the microscope and the telescope -- with which to extend all sensorial inquiring regarding the rest of the to-the-naked-eye-invisible, micro-macro Universe, because human beings, tiny though we are, are here for all the local-Universe information-harvesting and cosmic-principle-discovering, objective tool-inventing, and local-environment-controlling as local Universe problem-solvers in support of the integrity of eternally regenerative Universe.

--- R. Buckminster Fuller

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 16

This virtual walk through the southern mountains with Vachel Lindsay has taken several weeks longer than his actual walk in the spring of 1906. So be it.

There's more to go. Two more (?) installments after this one, including a PERFORMANCE by the troubadour himself.

From Vachel Lindsay, A Poet in America, by Edgar Lee Masters:

The first day out of Asheville he made twenty miles. He was now penniless. A man was willing to give him lodging for the night for thirty cents. Lindsay substituted his shirt and collar for the money, much to the host’s disgust, who was a silent man ruling a grim household. He was partially deaf and could not read. Lindsay was bedded with a crippled child. That evening Lindsay read “The Tree of Laughing Bells,” being compelled to trumpet into the ear of this dour North Carolinian. The diary now reads, “Hospitality now wanes, and I am far from home. I do not seem to have any fight in me today. Five dollars in my pocket would give me all the nerve in the world.” Where was the soul of Johnny Appleseed at this hour? Were there not the stars to sleep under in this May of North Carolina?

The diary now shows how far he was from the full philosophy of the road: “My book must have a few dreadfully cynical poems about money, dedicated to the merchants of the world. I must say, Brothers, though I have rebelled, I must acknowledge sometimes that there are a few things more honest than a trade. The soul is so seldom its high self in extremity that it cannot emanate enough spiritual glory to give a fair exchange, even for a night’s lodging, and we must get back to a money basis…

He now encountered a Negro preacher with whom he walked for many miles. Coming to Little Creek, Madison County, North Carolina, he was a quarter of a mile from the ridge of Ball Mountain. Here he received hospitality from a generous woman who gave him corn bread, beans, and buttermilk. She looked like the cartoon of a peasant in Simplicissimus, and played the banjo famously; while a sister naemd Diana danced in plough-shoes and red stockings, with her waist half open at the throat, around which was tied a blue handkerchief. This hostess was managing the little farm alone, her husband being in prison for moonshining.

She glad to have “The Tree of the Laughing Bells.” Look how quickly the temperamental spirits of Lindsay were raised! “As far as the raw material of womanhood in concerned I could love her forever,” was his tribute to Diana. “The hills have done wonders for me.” And he set forth again with “visions of brown-eyed womanhood to make me forget the perils of the way. Farewell to the fairest of all North Carolina. Biltmore and all its glories is not arrayed like the tigress who toils with the hoe because her husband is in state’s prison”; misdefended, the tigress had confided to the poet, by a lawyer named Lindsay...


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Generic Thanksgiving Post

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.
- Mark Twain

The proximity of a desirable thing tempts one to overindulgence. On that path lies danger.
-Frank Herbert

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.

If you cannot avoid overeating at a feast, leave the table and find relief by vomiting.
-The Wisdom of Ben Sira, 2nd Century B.C

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.
-Abraham Lincoln

To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
-Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 15

Just this time, I'm jumping ahead to Vachel Lindsay's travels in Tennessee. This is why I like him. From A Handy Guide for Beggars:

The Tailor And The Florist

Now the story begins all over again with the episode of the well-known tailor and the unknown florist. Just off the main street of Greenville, Tennessee, there is a log cabin with the century old inscription, Andrew Johnson, Tailor. That sign is the fittest monument to the indomitable but dubious man who could not cut the mantle of the railsplitter to fit him.

I was told by the citizens of Greenville that there was a monument to their hero on the hill. So I climbed up. It was indeed wonderful — a weird straddling archway, supporting an obelisk. The archway also upheld two flaming funeral urns with buzzard contours, and a stone eagle preparing to screech. There was a dog-eared scroll inscribed, "His faith in the people never wavered." Around all was, most appropriately, a spiked fence.

But I was glad I came, because near the Tailor's resting-place was a Florist's grave, on which depends the rest of this adventure, and which reaches back to the beginning of it. It had a wooden headstone, marked "John Kenton of Flagpond, Florist. 1870-1900." And in testimony to his occupation, a great rosebush almost hid the inscription. Any man who could undertake to sell flowers in Flagpond might have it said of him also, "His faith in the people never wavered."

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 14

I liked the concept of Chautauqua as soon as I heard about it many years ago. What’s not to like about a festival of the arts, sciences, philosophy and public affairs…from low-brow to high-brow and everything in between? President Theodore Roosevelt called Chautauqua "the most American thing in America."

The original summer assembly of adult education and recreation began in the little town of Chautauqua, New York in 1874. In 1904, traveling “Circuit Chautauquas” spun off from the assembly format, featuring many of the same lecturers and orators. Chautauqua, both itinerant and at fixed locations, remained popular for several decades.

Vachel Lindsay crossed paths with one Chautauqua lecturer during his brief time in Asheville:

I looked up a scholar from Yale, Yutaka Minakuchi, friend of old friends, student of philosophy, in which he instructed me much, first lending me a collar. He became my host in Asheville. It needs no words of mine to enhance the fame of Japanese hospitality. . . .

Three years earlier, the Cincinnati Post reported on Minakuchi’s wedding to a Kentucky socialite:

As the bride of Yutaka Minakuchi, one of Kentucky’s belles will be borne away across the blue Pacific to the tea gardens and rice fields of quaint Japan. An American girl of wealth, rare beauty and accomplishments, will bid adieu to a reign among Blue Grass belles and beaux to go far across the water, where jinricksha men, sandaled and straw-clad, replace the fast lythe trotter, and where tea gardens and Buddhist temples line the roads instead of tobacco barns and little red brick churches.

But this does not mean that Miss Olivia Buckner is going to live in a new religion, as well as a new environment, for her husband-to-be is a minister of the gospel, although he is a wealthy Japanese of partly royal blood. Yataka Minakuchi needs only the title of Ph. D. to make him satisfied with his studies in America, and he is going to get that at Harvard after his honeymoon trip. Then he and his fair-skinned bride are going to visit Japan and give the Oriental girls something to gossip about behind their fans, just as the young bloods around Lexington and Paris, Ky., are now discussing the success of their Japanese rival.

He has traveled extensively and before coming to this country to enter college he spent two years at St. Petersburg with his uncle, who was a Japanese minister to Russia. He speaks fluently in five languages, but most effectively, it seems, the language of love.

Journalism ain't what it used to be, eh?

Yutaka and Olivia resided at 77 Montford while he served a congregation in Asheville and maintained a busy schedule as a traveling lecturer. One evangelist endorsed Minakuchi as a stirring orator and philosopher:

He is a clean, strong, magnetic young chap of great intellectual power, and a speaker of tremendous ability. He captures the people wherever he goes. Though a Japanese, he has spent most of his life in America. If you want a “hummer,” get the American Jap. He is in a class all by himself.

One of Minakuchi's popular lectures was “The Border Land,” in which he discussed:

...certain contributions which the eastern and western civilizations have made toward world progress. An effort will be made to find the “border land” – the place of reconciliation between these two seemingly opposed civilizations.

Minakuchi’s career came crashing to an end during World War II. On March 24, 1942, the Associated Press reported:

Held for investigation to determine whether, as an enemy alien, he was "dangerous to the peace and security of the United States," the Rev. Yutaka Minakuchi, 63-year-old Congregational minister and former Chautauqua lecturer, was accused today of being in the pay of the Japanese Consulate.

A recent radio program on wartime internments of Japanese residents mentioned Minakuchi:

The fact that he was getting a stipend from Japan and had been ever since he had left his job in Peacham as the minister where he had been for ten years - people really latched onto that as proof that he must be a spy. And there had been a lot of talk that he was sending coded messages from a radio and there was an antenna up in back of their home in Glover. And it was true that there was a radio, but they searched for the antenna and never found anything like that.

After the war Minakuchi found work in New York and Pennsylvania as a butler, with [his second wife] Nellie as housekeeper. When it was finally legal for him to do so, he became a naturalized citizen. After Nellie's death, he returned to Vermont, where he died one year before President Gerald Ford apologized and rescinded Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, calling for wartime internments.


Much more on the life of Yutaka Minakuchi and his experiences during World War II:

Friday, November 19, 2010


O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet is nothing at all - what is it?

- Julian Jaynes

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rube Tuesday, 11/16/10

The treadmill guys have brought us one very ambitious Rube Goldberg machine:

Wired Magazine has an article on the making of This Too Shall Pass:

OK Go recruited a gang of very talented engineers to build a huge, elaborate Rube Goldberg machine whose action perfectly meshes with the band’s song, “This Too Shall Pass,” from the band’s new album, Of the Blue Color of the Sky...

Those builders were Syyn Labs, a Los Angeles-based arts and technology collective that has a history of doing surprising, entertaining science and tech projects that involve crowds of people, at a monthly gathering called Mindshare LA...

...55 to 60 people worked on the project in all. That includes eight “core builders” who did the bulk of the design and building, along with another 12 or so builders who helped part-time. In addition, Syyn Labs recruited 30 or more people to help reset the machine after each run.

More at:



Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Troubadour Tramps Through the Mountains - 13

Croquet on the garden terrace, Biltmore Estate, May 1906

Vachel Lindsay departed from the House of the Magic Loom and crossed Mount Toxaway en route to Asheville. In his diary, he recorded:

If I cannot beat the system I can die protesting, I can give things away and keep ragged. Count that day wasted in which you are not giving away the work of your hands.

In A Handy Guide for Beggars, Vachel Lindsay recalled that same morning in early May 1906:

All through the country there had been that night what is called a black frost. By the roadside it was deep and white as the wool on a sheep. But it left things blighted and black, and destroyed the chances of the fruit-bearing trees. All the way to Mount Toxaway I met scattered mourners of the ill-timed visitation.

After he arrived in Asheville, Lindsay visited the Biltmore Estate, where his studies in architecture and gardening came into play. As was his style, he described the spring verdure of Biltmore as being
“like the Dutch Gardens, like Lord Bacon’s garden, like the Italian terraces.”

Vachel remembered one Asheville encounter as “A Not Very Tragic Relapse into the Toils of the World, and of Finance.” I don’t know the identity of the potential benefactor, (perhaps it was Asheville YMCA General Secretary Mr. O.B. Van Horn) but Vachel’s account of the meeting is hilarious:

Having been properly treated as a bunco man by systematic piety in a certain city further south, I had double-barrelled special recommendations sent to a lofty benevolence in Asheville, from a religious leader of New York, the before-mentioned Charles F. Powlison.

It was with confidence that I bade good-by to the chicken-merchant who drove me into the city. I entered the office of the blackcoated, semi-clerical gentleman who had received the Powlison indorsements. My stick pounded his floor. The heels of my brogans made the place resound. But he gave all official privileges. He received me with the fine manly handclasp, the glitter of teeth, the pat on the back. He insisted I use the shower bath, writing room, reading table. Then I suggested a conference among a dozen of his devouter workers on the relation of the sense of Beauty to their present notion of Christianity or, if he preferred, a talk on some aspect of art to a larger group.

Biltmore Farm Village, 1906

He took me into his office. He shut the door. He was haughty. He made me haughty. I give the conversation as it struck me. He probably said some smart things I do not recall. But I remember all the smart things I said.

He denounced labor agitators in plain words. I agreed. I belonged to the brotherhood of those who loaf and invite their souls.

He spoke of anarchy. I maintained that I loved the law.

He very clearly, and at length, assaulted Single Tax. I knew nothing then of Single Tax, and thanked him for light.

He denounced Socialism. Knowing little about Socialism at that time, I denounced it also, having just been converted to individualism by a man in Highlands.

The religious leader spoke of his long experience with bunco men. I insisted I wanted not a cent from him, I was there to do him good.

I had letters of introduction to two men in the city; one of them, an active worker in the organization, had already been in to identify me. A third man was coming to climb Mount Mitchell with me.

Edith Vanderbilt on the French Broad ferry, 1906

He doubted that I was a bona fide worker in his organization. Then came my only long speech. We will omit the speech. But he began to see light. He took a fresh grip on his argument.

He said: "There is a man here in Asheville I see snooping around with a tin box and a butterfly net. They call him the state something-ologist. He goes around and — and — hunts bugs. But do you want to know what I think of a crank like that?" I wanted to know. He told me.

"But," I objected, "I am not a scientist. I am an art student."

He expressed an interest in art. He gave a pious and proper view of the nude in art. It took some time. It was the sort of chilly, cautious talk that could not possibly bring a blush to the cheek of ignorance. I assured him his decorous concessions were unnecessary. I was not expounding the nude.

There was an artist here, and Asheville needed no further instruction of the kind, he maintained. The gentleman had won some blue ribbons in Europe. He painted a big picture (dimensions were given) and sold it for thousands (price was given).

"He is holding the next one, two feet longer each way, for double the money."

I told him if he felt there was enough art in Asheville, we might do something to popularize the poets.

In reply he talked about literary cranks. He spoke of how Thoreau, with his long hair and ugly looks, frightened strangers who suddenly met him in the woods. I thanked him for light on Thoreau. . . . But he had to admit that my hair was short.

Biltmore Village, 1906

He suspected I was neither artist nor literary man. I assured him my friends were often of the same opinion.

"But," he said bitterly, "do you know sir, by the tone of letters I received from Mr. Powlison I expected to assemble the wealth and fashion of Asheville to hear you. I expected to see you first in your private car, wearing a dress-suit."

I answered sternly, "Art, my friend, does not travel in a Pullman."

He threw off all restraint. "Old shoes," he said, " old shoes." He pointed at them.

"I have walked two hundred miles among the moonshiners. They wear brogans like these." But his manner plainly said that his organization did not need cranks climbing over the mountains to tell them things.

"Your New York letter did not say you were walking. It said you ' would arrive.'"

He began to point again. "Frayed trousers! And the lining of your coat in rags!"

"I took the lining of the coat for necessary patches."

"A blue bandanna round your neck!"

"To protect me from sunburn."

He rose and hit the table. "And no collar!"

"Oh yes, I have a collar." I drew it from my hip pocket. It had had a two hundred mile ride, and needed a bath.

"I should like to have it laundered, but I haven't the money."

"Get the money."

"No," I said, "but I will get a collar."

- - -

*Charles F. Powlison was, at that time, with the Young Men’s Christian Association, and eventually went on to become General Secretary of the National Child Welfare Association. Powlison’s name popped up in a New York Times story, published just two months prior to Vachel Lindsay’s Asheville visit. Apparently, an incident amidst a crowd lined up for a Mark Twain lecture at the West Side YMCA ended with charges of police brutality. There’s a great line in the story:

Mark Twain was introduced as a man "well worth being clubbed to hear."

Mark Twain, ca. 1906

What the heck, here’s the whole thing:

The New York Times, March 5, 1906
Bungle at the Majestic Theatre Angers Y. M. C. A. Men.
Mr. Clemens Gives Some Advice About the Treatment of Corporations and Talks About Gentlemen.

Members of he West Side Branch of the Young Men's Christian Association found that entering the Majestic Theatre yesterday afternoon to hear an address by Mark Twain had a close resemblance to a football match. No one was injured, but for a few minutes the police were hustling the crowd backward and forward by sheer force, a mounted man was sent to push his way through the thickest of the press and the jam was perilous.

The doors of the theatre should have been opened at 3 o'clock, and about three hundred persons were there at that time. It was an orderly crowd of young men with a sprinkling of elderly ones, but Capt. Daly of the West Forty-seventy Street Station would not allow them to be admitted until he has summoned the reserves. It took twenty minutes for these to arrive and every moment the crush grew greater. Still there was no disorder and the police as they formed into line had to face nothing more dangerous than a little good-humored chaff.

The crowd was ranged in a rough column facing the main doors of the lobby. The Young Men's Christian Association authorities came out several times and asked the Captain to allow the doors to be opened.

"If you do it, I'll take away my men and there'll be a lot of people hurt or killed," he replied. "I know how to handle crowds."

Then he proceeded to handle the crowds. He tried to swing the long solid line up against the southwestern side of Columbus Circle and force them in by the side entrance of the lobby, instead of the one they faced. First he sent a mounted man right through the column. The patrolmen followed and in a moment the orderly gathering was hustled and thrust in all directions.

Capt. Daly's next maneuver was to open the side door. The crowd surged up, but he had them pushed back, and closed the door again. The crowd was utterly bewildered. Then the Young Men's Christian Association authorities opened one-half of the door on their own responsibility. Through this narrow passage the crowd squeezed. The plate glass in the half that was closed was shattered to atoms, and the men surged forward. A few coats were torn, but in spite of the way in which they had been handled everybody kept his temper. If there had been any disorderly element present nothing could have avoided serious accidents. In the end all but 500 gained admission.

Hold Police Responsible.

At the opening of the meeting, the Rev. Dr. Charles P. Fagnani, the Chairman, said: "The management desires to disclaim all responsibility for what has happened. [Cheers.] The matter was taken out of their hands by the police. [Hisses.] You have been accustomed long enough to being brutally treated by the police, and I do not see why you should mind it. [A voice: "You're right."] Some day you will take matters into your own hands and will decide that the police shall be the servants of the citizens."

At the end of the meeting, Charles F. Powlison, Secretary of the West Side Branch, stated he had been asked to submit a resolution condemning the action of the police, but it had been decided it was better not to do so.

Mark Twain was introduced as a man "well worth being clubbed to hear." He was greeted with a storm of applause that lasted over a minute.

"I thank you for this signal recognition of merit," he said. "I have been listening to what has been said about citizenship. You complain of the police. You created the police. You are responsible for the police. They must reflect you, their masters. Consider that before you blame them.

"Citizenship is of the first importance in a land where a body of citizens can change the whole atmosphere of politics, as has been done in Philadelphia. There is less graft there than there used to be. I was going to move to Philadelphia, but it is no place for enterprise now.

"Dr. Russell spoke of organization. I was an organization myself once for twelve hours, and accomplished things I could never have done otherwise. When they say 'Step lively,' remember it is not an insult from a conductor to you personally, but from the President of the road to you, an embodiment of American citizenship. When the insult is flung at your old mother and father, it shows the meanness of the omnipotent President, who could stop it if he would.

Mark Twain Got the Stateroom.

"I was an organization once. I was traveling from Chicago with my publisher and stenographer - I always travel with a bodyguard - and engaged a stateroom on a certain train. For above all its other conveniences, the stateroom gives the privilege of smoking. When we arrived at the station the conductor told us he was sorry the car with our stateroom was left off. I said: 'You are under contract to furnish a stateroom on this train. I am in no hurry. I can stay here a week at the road's expense. It'll have to pay my expenses and a little over.'

"Then the conductor called a grandee, and, after some argument, he went and bundled some meek people out of the stateroom, told them something not strictly true, and gave it to me. About 11 o'clock the conductor looked in on me, and was very kind and winning. He told me he knew my father-in-law - it was much more respectable to know my father-in-law than me in those days. Then he developed his game. He was very sorry the car was only going to Harrisburg. They had telegraphed to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and couldn't get another car. He threw himself on my mercy. But to him I only replied:

“Then you had better buy the car.'

"I had forgotten all about this, when some time after Mr. Thomson of the Pennsylvania heard I was going to Chicago again and wired:

" 'I am sending my private car. Clemens cannot ride on an ordinary car. He costs too much.' "

Definition of a Gentleman.

Mark Twain went on to speak of the man who left $10,000 to disseminate his definition of a gentleman. He denied that he had ever defined one, but said if he did he would include the mercifulness, fidelity, and justice the Scripture read at the meeting spoke of. He produced a letter from William Dean Howells, and said:

"He writes he is just 69, but I have known him longer than that. 'I was born to be afraid of dying, not of getting old,' he says. Well, I'm the other way. It's terrible getting old. You gradually lose things, and become troublesome. People try to make you think you are not. But I know I'm troublesome.

"Then he says no part of life is so enjoyable as the eighth decade. That's true. I've just turned into it, and I enjoy it very much. 'If old men were not so ridiculous,' why didn't he speak for himself? 'But,' he goes on, 'they are ridiculous, and they are ugly.' I never saw a letter with so many errors in it. Ugly! I was never ugly in my life! Forty years ago I was not so good-looking. A looking glass then lasted me three months. Now I can wear it out in two days.

" 'You've been up in Hartford burying poor old Patrick. I suppose he was old, too,' says Howells. No, he was not old. Patrick came to us thirty-six years ago - a brisk, lithe young Irishman. He was as beautiful in his graces as he was in his spirit, and he was as honest a man as ever lived. For twenty-five years he was our coachman, and if I were going to describe a gentleman in detail I would describe Patrick.

"At my own request I was his pall bearer with our old gardener. He drove me and my bride so long ago. As the little children came along he drove them, too. He was all the world to them, and for all in my house he had the same feelings of honor, honesty, and affection.

"He was 60 years old, ten years younger than I. Howells suggests he was old. He was not so old. He had the same gracious and winning ways to the end. Patrick was a gentleman, and to him I would apply the lines:

So may I be courteous to men, faithful to friends, True to my God, a fragrance to the path I trod.

When inquiries were made last night at the West Side Branch as to whether a complaint of the action of the police would be made by the association to Commissioner Bingham, it was said to be improbably that any official action would be taken.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918

Dulce Et Decorum Est*
-by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. --
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


*DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - (it is sweet and right to die for your country).

From The Wilfred Owen Association:

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) - who was born in Oswestry on the Welsh borders, and brought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury - is widely recognised as one of the greatest voices of the First World War. At the time of his death he was virtually unknown - only four of his poems were published during his lifetime - but he had always been determined to be a poet, and had experimented with verse from an early age….

In 1915 Owen enlisted in the British Army. His first experiences of active service at Serre and St. Quentin in January-April 1917 led to shell-shock and his return to Britain….

When Owen returned to the Western Front, after more than a year away, he took part in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Joncourt (October 1918) for which he was awarded the Military Cross in recognition of his courage and leadership. He was killed on 4 November 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.

Virtually all the poems for which he is now remembered were written in a creative burst between August 1917 and September 1918. His self-appointed task was to speak for the men in his care, to show the 'Pity of War', which he also expressed in vivid letters home. His bleak realism, his energy and indignation, his compassion and his great technical skill are evident in many well-known poems….

Also by Wilfred Owen:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, --
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Pumpkin

Tuckasegee Pumpkins

The Pumpkin
by John Greenleaf Whittier

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored,
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before,
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin,—our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rube Tuesday, 11/2/10

Out of the blue, a name came to mind the other day, a name I'd not heard in years. When I was a kid, I loved the intricate diagrams created by cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970). What came to be known as "Rube Goldberg machines" completed simple tasks in elaborately complex ways.

The life and legacy of Rube Goldberg deserves closer examination. For now, here's a contemporary creation inspired by Goldberg - the Falling Water Cocktail Making Machine. Brilliant!