Archive for December, 2007

War Buddies

Dad and Irwin

One day back in 1959 my dad received a visit from an old war buddy of his. He was an older man and had just moved into a very nice new home in La Puente not far from where we lived in Southern California. Dad called the man Irwin, but I don’t know if that was his first name, or his last name.

I wasn’t privy to any of their war stories so I don’t know what they had seen or done, or even what outfit they served in together. Dad was very respectful of him though, and called him sir, but in those days my dad called every man he met “Sir,” even the kid who dished up the pizza at the drive-in was accorded the better benefit of the doubt from my father. I don’t know if it had been drummed into him in the brig, or earned in the field, but it was a habit that he never lost, nor did he ever try to shake it. In Irwin’s case, I somehow sensed that he meant it a little more.

Dad wore a shirt that morning just for Irwin, a long sleeve shirt, which he never did. Til then, I didn’t know he owned a dress shirt, other than his special pearl-colored embroidered short-sleeve shirt that he wore to Vegas with his grey slacks and red ox-blood shoes. But that one was really special. He even had mom take a picture of them with me and my little sister, and just before the picture was taken he bent down and buttoned my top shirt button.

Dad had a lot of respect for Irwin, and it showed. After I learned a little more about the Army and WWII, I thought he might have been General Stafford Irwin, who had been a classmate of General Omar Bradley at West Point and was “his” war buddy in Europe. Irwin looked a lot like General Irwin. And Dad had always loved General Bradley, and would talk like he knew him when Walter Cronkite would mention his name on The Twentieth Century, which we watched together every week, and he even called himself a “loner” like the General. But General Irwin died in 1956, and this man was still alive in 1959. I guess he just had one of those common, everyday faces.

General Irwin

Note: If anybody recognizes the man in the top photo as Grandpa Irwin or Uncle Irwin, please send me an email and tell me all about him. I’d love to hear it.

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Christmas Time is Here

So much beauty and excellence passes us by every day, that we hardly even notice anymore. Now where have I heard this lovely melody before?

Could I ever learn how to play that on my old piano?

Note: This is not me, but I’m working on it, if the arthritis in my back will cooperate.

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My Favorite Photo

Photo Credit: Reader’s Digest Illustrated History of World War II.

This one always gets to me…

In the Reader’s Digest History the caption below this photo reads “NAZI VICTIMS Two huddled little figures aged by lack of food and heartless persecution, deprived of their very childhood, are photographed in the Warsaw Ghetto for the archives kept by SS chief Heinrich Himmler.”

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My Favorite Poem

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Doesn’t this poem make you want to just cuddle up in front of a warm fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and the one you love?

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My Favorite Online Thing

Battleground Europe is a massively multiplayer online game wherein thousands of players from literally all over the world recreate the battle for France that occurred in 1940 during WWII. Unlike other wargames, this one just gets better and better, and it’s 24/7, it never stops. It’s not cheap – a subscription costs $15.00 per month. That sounds like a lot, but the quality of play is excellent and it’s no more expensive than a magazine subscription or a month of Neflix movies. By the way, it requires a pretty up-to-date computer, but there is a client for both Windows XP and Mac.

Check out this demo video, bearing in mind that every soldier* and every vehicle that you see portrayed, moving or firing in the game is being played live by a real person sitting at their computer, somewhere in the world. It’s simply amazing.

The game is currently at version 1.27, but a new version 1.28 just went into open beta test for all subscribers, and will be released right after the holidays. On the average, the game is updated every two or three months, with new weapons and new gameplaying features. The following video starring one of the developers explains one of the new features appearing in the latest version.

The discussion forums are the best I have seen anywhere on the internet, particularly the Off Topic forum where everything from “airplanes on a conveyor belt” to “what I made for dinner (with photos)” is discussed. One of my favorite posters to the off-topic calls himself Molniya, perhaps after the orbit though молния literally means “lightning” in Russian. Molniya posts in his own uniquely inimitable style, and recently started this “humorous” thread about Chinese junk:

pole lamps..
you know them…probably own a few..
metal pole with 2-3-4 lamps stuck on them..
about 6 feet tall..
very..functional..if not beautiful..

went to tighten the nut that holds the heavy base and the tall
pole together..’twas getting a wee wobbly..

well..chunks of….stuff..fell out.

seems that the heavy base..that i sooo foolishly assumed was
entirely metal…thick aluminum..or perhaps 5 lbs of pig iron..under
that plastic base cover..


the nut that holds the base to the pole is pressing on ..plaster of some sort..
or the worstest gawd awful concrete you ever say..
and it all…crumbled away..

as it must..
plaster does not have the strength to hold up for any length of time
under the stresses and strains imposed by a [nearly] six foot tall pole…
with three lamps..

plaster..i never would have thot of that..
now..i have 5 lbs of crumbled plaster being held onto the base plate
with tape..for the moment..

plaster…wtf..is there no law?..
is there no god to protect innocent americans from the
ravages of the chinese?

..this is deliberate SABOTAGE..there is no excuse for this..
there are millions of these pole lamps all over the usa…all..
crumbling into uselessness…only to be purchased again?

no more
now it’s WAR.

nuke them.
nuke them all.

we can make our own lamps..
real lamps..
with real metal..

we have the iron ore..
[or we can steal it from canukistan..when they are not looking..

So anyway, that’s where I’ll be.

* Exception: There are a few stationary artificial intelligence or AI units around army bases and towns.

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Merry Christmas

Credits: Photo was capped from the Billy Joel “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” video at Youtube.

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Baby, Let’s Cruise…

Anaheim, California was a great place to be a cab-driver. The area around Disneyland is full of hotels and motels, and right in the center of it all is the Convention Center, that attracts professionals from literally dozens of industries to the area each year. One of the largest conventions was the yearly NAMM extravaganza, held each year by the National Association of Music Merchants. All of the major DVD and record companies were there, and always there were quite a few celebrities who would try to sneak in under our radar.

I didn’t always get to work the conventions like I wanted. Often I would get tabbed at the start of my shift to drive some handicapped kids to their school in the morning, and pick them up at the end of the day, leaving only a few hours in the middle of the day to work the area around the convention. It wasn’t hard work driving the kids around, but it could be heart-breaking – many of the kids had Cerebral Palsy and other debilitating diseases. I know I wasn’t always up to it. They were supposed to take the buses, which were better equipped to handle them, but some of them used cabs. One little boy wore a football helmet, and the first time I picked him up at his home, I had laughed. None of the kids could talk. He sat quietly in the back most of the time, watching out the window and drooling a little like most of them did, but one day he threw a tantrum and I understood why he needed the helmet. Another young girl named Jill literally broke my heart each time I would see her. She was in her teens, and she had a cute shape, like she could have been a high school cheerleader or something. Her parents would often dress her in short little skirts, and I would have to buckle her in to the back seat, and she would sit there, oblivious to me and the world around her, her sweet young face, all twisted and distorted by her disease or defect.

One morning I got a cab with a radio in it. It was nice to be able to listen to the music, but I wasn’t sure if the passengers would like it or not, so I left it off most of the day. I hadn’t had very many fares, and it was getting close to pick-up time for my kids, when a very pretty young black woman came out of the Hilton Hotel and got in my cab. She wanted to go to the train station over at Anaheim Stadium, and when I started up the Ford LTD the radio came on. She didn’t seem at all bothered by it, nor did she seem inclined to speak much, so I left the radio on and as I drove out onto Harbor Boulevard she began to hum along with the music that was playing. It was a song by George Michael that was a couple years old at the time, but still popular called “Careless Whisper,” and before long she began to sing along with the radio.

When the next song came on, she looked at me in the mirror and said, “I like your station.” “They play the nicest music,” she added. It was “Baby, Let’s Cruise” by Smokey Robinson. She began to sing that one too, but softer and more seductively now, and it was quite clear now that she was a professional singer, and had a lovely voice. I was getting close to the stadium, but there was plenty of time before her train would be there, so I slowed down to hear the rest of her number.

I waited at the station for another fare, and she smiled over at me once from the platform while she was waiting for her train to arrive. I didn’t know if she was famous, at least I didn’t recognize her. I asked some of the other cab drivers around if they knew who she was or who was in town at the time, and one of them said that Luther Vandross was giving a concert that evening, and Oleta Adams was with him. I had heard Miss Adams before, and I didn’t think it was her. She probably had just come down for the day for the NAMM convention.

That afternoon I picked Jill up at the special school in Costa Mesa, and drove her home.

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