Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Disaster Preparedness Checklist - poem

Lawrence Hall

Disaster Preparedness Checklist

Double-A batteries, a map out of town
A tank full of gas, a mind full of plans
A flashlight, toilet paper, a radio
A can opener and cans to go, go, go

Leather gloves and duct tape, whistles
Waterproof matches, and match-proof water
Blankies and ponchos and a change of clothes
A medical kit and a pocket knife


No one ever lists a box of cigars,
And a Wodehouse for reading by lamplight

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Man Could Stand Up - column, 8.28.16

Lawrence Hall

A Man Could Stand Up

“A man could stand up.”
-Ford Madox Ford

Long ago and far away there was an isolated little island named Ioto. There were about a thousand residents, one primary school, one house of worship, and one police officer. The islanders lived by fishing, farming, and sulphur mining. A government mail boat visited once a month, and a freighter less often. The children probably complained that nothing ever happened on Ioto, and the adults were probably happy that this was so.

Things change.

In English the island is known as Iwo Jima.

The story of the battle in early 1945 is well-known, but lately there has been some unnecessary controversy about the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi: just who raised the flag?

At least two flags were raised over Iwo Jima at different times on the fourth day of the battle, 23 February, and several pictures were taken on both occasions, with different Marines and Navy Corpsmen in the frame. The most famous picture was a hasty, unposed grab shot by civilian AP photographer Joe Rosenthal. All of this was under fire. For the first time in 4,000 years a Japanese Home Island had been invaded, and the Japanese defense was fierce. No one had the leisure to take names as if the event were a class photograph, and most of the young men in the pictures were later killed in the battle, which continued for another month.

Less than a year before, in June of 1944, some of those young Marines and Navy Corpsmen had indeed posed for pictures, their high school graduation pictures, and the contract photographer with his Speed Graphic made sure he got the names right: “Haines…now is that spelled H-a-y-n-e-s or H-a-i-n-e-s or H-a-n-e-s…?”

Within a year those same young men as Marines atop Mount Suribachi were surrounded by angry, frightened Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen defending their island, and the Japanese were not taking names.

On the sea, ships of the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy (not often mentioned because American admirals, like French admirals, did not approve of the British, sometimes to the extent of forgetting who the real enemy was) shelled Japanese positions. Navy ground support aircraft made run after run. Most of the combatants on Iwo Jima were Marines, but there were also Navy Corpsmen, underwater demotion teams, chaplains, and Seabees, and Army airmen struggling to establish an air field, all of them constantly under fire, many of them killed, more of them wounded. Some of the landing craft never made the beach; they were destroyed by Japanese artillery, and their Navy crews and their Marines were killed without ever reaching the volcanic sand.

So who raised the flags over Iwo Jima?

We will probably never know the names of each man in the several pictures; the violence and confusion were that bad, and almost all those who survived 1945 have since been taken from us to join their comrades on another shore.

There should be no arguments in the matter of the flags, only quiet reflection. There should also be some kind remembrances for the Japanese defenders who, after all, were mostly teenaged conscripts misled by a bad government. That sort of thing has happened in many nations.

In a sense, every Marine on Iwo Jima, and every Navy Corpsman, Seabee, UDT, and Army Air Force soldier with the Marines, raised that flag, and in spirit the flag over Iwo Jima is still raised every day by every Marine and every Corpsman serving with the Marines.

“Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord, and make perpetual Light to shine upon them.”


Friday, August 26, 2016

Examining Room - poem

Lawrence Hall

Examining Room

“The nurse will be with you presently, sir.”
And you are left alone in a fluorescent cube
A little desk, a screen, two plastic chairs,
A tray of quaint and curious1 instruments

And here all earthly vanities are shed
Presumptions and assumptions are laid flat
Upon a roll-sheet bed where no one dreams,
Where auguries are gently divined out

The comfort-book remains unread, time stalls -
“The nurse will be with you presently, sir.”

1Poe, of course

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Roganville! Roganville! Don't Forget Your Shoes and Grapes!" - poem

Lawrence Hall

The conductor calls out:

“Roganville! Roganville! Don’t Forget Your Shoes and Grapes!”

The Doodle Bug rattles on the Santa Fe
Through cut-over woods and hot sunset fields
From Kirbyille, where they have a traffic light
And a picture show, and they don’t milk cows

Oh, don’t forget your shoes and sack of grapes
A brand-new shirt from Mixson’s store, for church
The memory of a soda at City Drug
And city kids, who wear shoes all the time

I’m going to live in the city someday

But for now

The Doodle-Bug rattles on the Santa Fe

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Church Ladies and Chariots - column, 21 August 2016

Mack Hall, HSG

Church Ladies and Chariots

“School is just around the corner.” No it’s not; it’s a few miles down the road. Simply follow the big yellow bus on which the wheels go ‘round and ‘round, and be a grownup about the amber and red lights. Certain functionaries in the democratically-elected government of the State of Texas regard children as but medical waste, but we know better. Children are precious. Even when they’re making faces at you from the back window.

+ + +

Why do internet service providers and computer manufacturers seem to be universally dishonest? My latest famous-name-brand disposable computer and its shadowy operatives in Shanghai keep sending me exclamation-mark notices about important software updates which usually turn out to be camouflaged games. Settings / apps / uninstall.

+ + +

The International Olympic Committee is a shadowy organization composed of sinister, secretive, and powerful men operating from inconspicuous bases in Europe – perhaps the I.O.C. is really T.H.R.U.S.H. from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

+ + +

Remember when Bill and Hillary were the cool kids?

+ + +

The InterGossip reports that the latest version of Ben-Hur is not doing well at the cinemas. There is much discussion about possible inadequacies in plot, casting, or direction, but few consider two other possible explanations: cartooning and color.

In the previous movie adaptations of General Wallace’s novel crowd scenes really were crowd scenes. Thousands of folks were employed to fill the stadium at Cinecitta Studios in Rome in 1959 for the chariot race. Now, with electronic cartooning, the producers need only hire a few dozen extras and then manipulate the images into unreal thousands. There is nothing ethically or artistically wrong in this, but it just doesn’t feel right. One almost expects Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck to appear in the next chariot, with Elmer Fudd as the Emperor of Rome intoning “Wet the Wames Bewin.” Cartooning is perfect for Frozen, but wrong for live-action.

The Mediterranean world is reported by reliable sources to be in color. Modern movie-makers, however, seem to want to persuade viewers that Creation is mostly sepia-toned, with little sparkle to relieve the gloom. The previews of the new ‘n’ improved Ben-Hur indicate a continuance of this drab fashion. There are two artistic choices in imaging – sharp, crisp black-and-white is one. The other is color, glorious color, color flung energetically onto the screen, color that stands up and yells “Here I am!” and not the doughy, pasty pseudo-color that looks like a palette of date-expired buttermilk.

+ + +

On Sunday the beginning of the liturgy at Notre Dame de LaSalette was paused for about thirty seconds while the in-training Nonna / Abuela / Babushka / Oma / Meme’ / Church Lady adjusted the hoods of the habits – the albs, not the behaviors – of the young altar servers. God gives us church ladies because if some things were left to men they simply wouldn’t get done, and Sunday observances would collapse in an existentially bleak wilderness of askew hoods and flowerless altars. In the hierarchy a church lady is superior to a priest (just ask the church lady) but inferior to a bishop, and more knowledgeable than either about how matters of faith and practice ought to be accomplished.

In a world of uncertainties how thankful we should be for the constancy of church ladies and young people who volunteer to serve, and for the freedom of all of us to attend divine services without being shot for doing so.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Death of a Country Gentlemouse - poem

Lawrence Hall

Death of a Country Gentlemouse

In a golden cloak and a white waistcoat
Reposes an elegant little field mouse
Neatly laid out for the visitation
Attended not by aunts now, but by ants

Luna-Dog, separated from her kill
Poses prayerfully at the back-door screen
Or predatorily, as it might be, before
With work-gloved hands the mouse is bade farewell

Tossed respectfully over the garden fence
In a golden cloak and a white waistcoat