Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae, “In Flanders Field”

…and to update the sentiment:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
— Robert Laurence Binyon,  from “For The Fallen”

It’s Not Charity

…or perhaps it is, in its finest form. Read this personal account about dealing with the Houston floods:

The response of Texans, and Americans from all across the country, to the catastrophic Houston flooding proves the power and resilience of the human spirit. The magnitude of the logistics, the care, and yes, the love, is beyond extraordinary. I know. I have seen it.
Dozens of organizations virtually built a small city almost overnight in a space the size of 10-12 football fields. Evacuees from the floodwaters in Southeast Texas came in by the hundreds, then by the thousands. Hundreds of volunteers rushed in from nearly every state.
The Red Cross set up 5,000 cots and provided people who had lost almost everything with blankets, toiletries, showers, laundry service, child care, relocation and job counseling, and many other services. Salvation Army volunteers fed everyone, including volunteers, three meals a day. Volunteers from churches brought in water, juice, snacks, clothing, pillows, and other essentials. Children were provided school clothes, toys, books, puppet shows, and supervised play areas. Chaplains were giving out Bibles and providing spiritual comfort.
A small hospital was put together, including units for triage, primary and acute care, and stocked with all necessary medical equipment and supplies. Scores of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff worked shifts lasting anywhere from eight to eighteen hours. Medical services included mental health counseling, social work, and transport to other medical centers for dialysis and other critical needs.
Walmart established a fully stocked pharmacy for critical prescription needs like insulin and heart medication. HEB set up a store providing food, clothing, and other personal items at no charge. Evacuees were given free transportation to the Dallas Zoo, Six Flags Over Texas, outdoor movies, museums, and other cultural attractions. I even saw a small boy getting a haircut in a makeshift barber shop.
Texas National and State Guard, local police, firefighters, and EMT personnel, and other first responders, were there to provide security and safety, while checking evacuees in and out of the building. Janitorial staff worked around the clock to keep the shelter clean and free of trash. Emergency management volunteers performed countless duties to ensure that the flood victims had whatever they needed. FEMA was there for logistical, equipment, and financial support. The VA was on hand to serve the needs of veterans. The administrative record-keeping needed to keep track of victims, volunteers, services, and supplies was immense.

And then there was this:

Funny: I didn’t see anyone there from Black Lives Matter, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democratic Party, Hollywood libs, or any other social justice warriors out there helping the thousands of black families who had lost everything in the flood.  No one but us heartless Christians, conservatives, and other deplorables.

Because actions speak louder than words, and all the above organizations do is spout empty words and cheap sentiment. We The People know what has to be done when catastrophe comes calling, and we get down and do it. They The Assholes couldn’t be bothered.

So if you now feel like punching a liberal in the face (not a very charitable act, I’ll concede), then go right ahead. I’ll hold your coat.

Should Have Been An A

From the Chateau comes this priceless ambition from a future leader:

(I know the thing is probably fake, but leave me with the illusion, willya?)

Had this young man (? if it was a girl, I’m gonna explode) been several years older, I would have pegged him as a Junior Reader. After all, I believe I once posted this little thought:

I think I’m going to get a few “Pinochet Was Correct” T-shirts printed. Hey, if the Left can do it with that murdering Commie bastard Che Guevara…

Bloody Immigrants

They come to your country, build successful multi-million-dollar companies while still in high school*… as I remarked to Mr. Free Market, he’ll probably end up marrying into the Royal Family.

Most teenagers of his age spend their school lunch breaks playing football or chatting to girls.
But Akshay Ruparelia used every spare moment to sell houses.The young entrepreneur – nicknamed Alan Sugar by his friends – set up an online estate agency while still at sixth form.
The teenager started his business after persuading family members to lend him £7,000 and already employs 12 people.
And his clever business model has been such a hit that his company doorsteps.co.uk has been valued at £12 million in just over a year.
Now aged 19, Akshay has had to put plans of studying economics and management at Oxford University on hold because the firm he set up at school is expanding so rapidly.

I’m curious as to why he’d bother with university at all, seeing as he seems to be doing quite well without the academic drag of “theory” (as opposed to actual, you know, stuff that works in the real world).

Good for him.


*For my Murkin Readers: “sixth form” is the equivalent to an extra year of high school — thirteenth grade, as it were — as a preparatory step towards university. It is one of my deepest regrets that I didn’t stay on for the Sixth myself; my life would have been considerably different had I done so.

The Dan

I was truly saddened by the death of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker earlier this week, and I was going to write something about him and Donald Fagen when I remembered that I’d already done so back in October 2007. I found the piece, re-read it and cannot add a single thing to it. Here it is.

No Pumpkins Here

After revealing my love for the music of ABBA and the BeeGees last week, I got an email from a Reader:

Okay, I can’t believe you like that commercial crap, with your taste in classical music and all. What is your favorite kind of music then?

Leaving aside the classical music for a moment, to concentrate on errrr “modern” music, I have to say that I prefer complex music when it comes to pure listening pleasure.

“Favorites” is a loaded term, because in making that decision, it almost depends what I last listened to.

You all know about my “art rock” preferences (eg. Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Happy The Man, and Jethro Tull), so I’m not going to talk about that stuff here.

Those who know my dislike for jazz, however, may be surprised by a band whom I absolutely love, and whose albums I have in their entirety: Steely Dan.

There is a need and a time for straight-ahead rock, and then there’s a time to enjoy the dense, complex music patterns of Messrs. Fagen and Becker.

I started off with Steely Dan’s Royal Scam album—I’d heard their earlier hits like Reeling In The Years, but for some reason I never got round to listening to their albums. Then, on a whim one day, I bought Royal Scam along with a couple of other tapes, to listen to on a long car trip I was taking.

For the next four days, the Steely Dan album was the only music I listened to—none of the others could hold up. To this day, if I hear a single song off the album, I have to get the CD out and listen to the rest.

Lots of words have been written about Steely Dan’s music, so I’m not really going to add many of my own to the chorus. Suffice it to say that whenever someone asks me to list my favorite songs of all time, it’s really difficult for me—because I can’t even list my favorite Steely Dan songs, so much do I enjoy them. The arrangements are tight and dense. I use the word “dense” a lot with their music, because there’s really no other way to describe the busyness—there’s always a lot going on with the instruments, but even within each instrument, all sorts of stuff is happening. (The next time Donald Fagen plays a straight major chord will probably be his first.)

And all the musicians who’ve ever played with Fagen and Becker have been artists and craftsmen of the highest order. To see exactly how good these guys were, you have to try and play a few Steely Dan songs—and I don’t mean an approximation of the song, I mean an exact copy of the song, to see how good these guys really were. I think I only ever managed a few: The Fez, Don’t Take Me Alive, With a Gun [duh], and Boston Rag. Players like Skunk Baxter, Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton were the norm, not the stars—and current bassist Freddie Washington is beyond astonishing in his virtuosity.

But above all, one has to allow that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker themselves are brilliant musicians, and beyond-brilliant composers and arrangers. The cerebral, cultured Fagen and explosively-funny, irreverent Becker combine to make music that is… cerebral, cultured, funny and irreverent. And just to make things more confusing, they look like a pair of Ivy League college professors:

I’m also love with, in addition to the music itself, the wry, ironic feel to the lyrics and melodies. This is really unusual for me, because when it comes to that kind of thing, I’m an unashamed sucker and romantic. Hell, I’ve shed many a tear on maudlin ballads of the Streets Of London genre, but of course, tears are not what comes from listening to the hip, sly and obscure Steely Dan lyrics—that would not be cool, after all; and “cool” is a word which describes Steely Dan’s music better than any other. “Cool”, in lesser hands, could easily lead to “cold”, but it’s impossible to feel that way when listening to, say, Any Major Dude or Pretzel Logic.

And if you can’t see the comic genius and intellect of the people who wrote this letter and this article, you’re beyond redemption.

For the musicians among my Readers, I tend to prefer Skunk Baxter’s guitar work over Larry Carlton’s, not for any technical reasons—Carlton is a genius—but simply because I like Baxter’s sound for this kind of music. But that doesn’t stop me from preferring Royal Scam (a “Carlton” album) to any other of their offerings.

Did I imply from the above that I have a “favorite” Steely Dan album? Well, maybe. Royal Scam is certainly the first among equals, but then again, that’s just because I haven’t heard Countdown To Ecstasy or Pretzel Logic recently.

So I’m going to go and remedy that situation, right now. You could do worse than follow my example.

If you’ve never heard Steely Dan before (and there may be one or two sad souls who haven’t), and you like your music to have a complex, slightly jazzy feel, then here’s Amazon’s main Steely Dan page. Help yourself, to any one. You will not be disappointed, regardless of your choice; and how many bands can you say that about?

(I’d recommend the Citizen Steely Dan set for a starter choice, myself.)

And of course, not all Steely Dan’s lyrics were cynical and ironic.

Charlie Freak had but one thing to call his own
Three weight ounce pure golden ring no precious stone
Five nights without a bite
No place to lay his head
And if nobody takes him in
He’ll soon be dead

On the street he spied my face I heard him hail
In our plot of frozen space he told his tale
Poor man, he showed his hand
So righteous was his need
And me so wise I bought his prize
For chicken feed

Newfound cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid
Embraced the spreading haze
And while he sighed his body died
In fifteen ways

When I heard I grabbed a cab to where he lay
‘Round his arm the plastic tag read D.O.A.
Yes Jack, I gave it back
The ring I could not own
Now come my friend I’ll take your hand
And lead you home.

R.I.P. Walter

 

Another Dinner Guest

In an earlier post, I talked about my favorite all-time dinner guest, David Niven. Yesterday I was asked about my favorite living dinner guest, and I do have one, but I need to explain my rationale first.

A dinner party is not a place where I want to engage in deep philosophical discussions, or intense socio-political debate. At a dinner party, I want to be entertained, and the wittier, more erudite guest will always get the nod ahead of someone like, say, Thomas Sowell, who is beyond-words brilliant and a wonderful person to know withal. (My respect for Dr. Sowell is immense. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s ever written, and whenever I see one of his articles online, it’s “drop the baby and get over there” time.) But while Sowell is a brilliant man, he’s not a polymath like I am — most experts are pretty focused on their areas of expertise — and nah, I want a guy like myself, who’s interested in everything, the kind sometimes called a “Renaissance Man”.

Enter Stephen Fry. Read more