Tom D kindly provided a nice closeup of a pair of bald eagles.
Tom D kindly provided a nice closeup of a pair of bald eagles.
In addition to his other occupations, War Pig is a gifted story teller and that is an honorable profession. — photog
Since people seem to like my stories of life pre-1980, here is one from my callow youth.
Another tale from my youth.
When I was quite young, in the middle nineteen-fifties, I went out to watch my paternal grandmother catch, kill and clean a chicken for supper. It was my first time watching. I helped her catch a fat, old hen (her chickens were all free range, plus they got feed). She took it up and with her dangerously sharp butcher knife, she beheaded it in one fell swoop. That didn’t bother me. What got me is that the headless chicken was set down to run and pump out the blood. Chickens can run for an amazingly long time without a head.
Well, the chicken, by chance, came straight at me, spraying blood. That was too much for my young mind and I took off screaming bloody murder while the chicken followed me. I ran to the fence and climbed up the post and perched there, crying, while the headless chicken finished its act of terror by flopping on the ground, spurting blood. Mamaw was laughing so hard she could hardly bend over to pick up the chicken, tie the legs together and hang it on a hook on the side of the shed to finish bleeding out.
She eventually coaxed me off the post and to come and watch the rest of the operation. It didn’t help that the chicken’s head was still apparently alive, it’s beak moving as if to curse the both of us. I stood behind mamaw, putting her between me and the soulless fowl. She heated up a wash pan of water to boiling over a small gas burner, then took down the chicken’s body and drenched it in the scalding water. With a gloved hand she removed most of the feathers then used a small paring knife to pull the “blood quills”. She opened the chicken, keeping the heart, liver, gizzard and egg sack (the egg sack is what mamaw kept for herself, papaw got the rest) and throwing the rest of the offal, and the head, to the farm dogs and cats. A cat grabbed the head and ran off with it.
She then went inside and cut up the chicken. Mamaw had likely cut up hundreds, if not thousands of chickens and she took less than a minute to do it. Her butcher knife had been made for her by papaw from an old truck leaf spring and boot heel leather for handle scales. It was scary sharp. It seemed she just waved the knife over the chicken and it fell apart into the bowl. She then filled the bowl with water, added salt and set it in the fridge to brine. She put the back into the freezer for making chicken stock. She changed the water twice to get rid of leftover blood. Later, she put the chicken into buttermilk and let it set for two hours until time to cook supper. She got it out of the buttermilk, dredged it in flour, waited until the coating softened, then dredged it in flour again and fried it in lard. Better tasting chicken you never ate.
The brining and changing the water drew all the blood from the meat so mamaw’s chicken was always clean down to the bone, none of the red nonsense you see by the bones in restaurant chicken today. The buttermilk does something magical to the meat and frying it in real leaf lard imparts a flavor vegetable oils or shortening cannot match.
As she set the table, she told papaw the story and he almost choked laughing so hard. I got a wing and a drumstick all to myself to go with the mashed potatoes and fresh chicken gravy, made from the fond, melted lard/chicken fat and leftover bits in the pan and considered myself a lucky boy.
One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments. On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here. He kindly agreed and here is the third and final installment.
I saw an example of Patton’s care for the troops. After the mock battle a brigade commander went to see Patton. A spec 4 (equivalent to a corporal, more or less), a very good tank gunner had gone home on emergency leave as his parents had died in a car crash and his minor brother was now an orphan. The young man buried his parents and sent his brother to live with their grandparents, their mother’s parents. He had to borrow money from Army Emergency Relief and used up all his accrued leave as he had to settle the estate and all.
The gunner got back and no more than two weeks later the grandparents were killed in a car wreck and now there were no more living relatives able to care for the younger brother. Patton was shocked, as anyone would be over such a horrible coincidence. He called the division Chaplain to get over to his office, pronto. He asked if the kid wanted a hardship discharge. The brigade commander said he did not, as he had no other job prospects to support his little brother, and that both of them were going to need mental health counseling, especially the brother. They held a skull session and Patton ordered the young man promoted to sergeant, wiped out his AER debt, got him a bigger loan and somehow took care of that, too, making it a grant, gave him 90 days “free” leave and said there would be housing available when he got back. Then Patton called base housing, demanded a two bedroom quarters for the pair, fully furnished down to towels and sheets, and to be full of groceries when the young man returned with his brother. From what I gathered, Patton paid for the groceries himself but I was back at DivArty before the kid got back so I never heard what happened.
But Patton did love the NCOs. When he was getting ready to leave for Germany the division NCOs threw him a party. There was barbecue and beer, lots of beer. Patton was there and we presented him with various sentimental gifts. As the party progressed, we were running low on beer. Patton sent two aides back to base (we were at a rec area away from the barracks areas) and had them return with several kegs of beer, for which he paid.
I did see him later, in (then) West Germany, at the Graffenwoehr training facility. He remembered me and shook my hand. He was the Deputy Corps Commander of VII Corps by then. He retired a little over a year after we shook hands. His old injuries were getting the best of him, and he developed Parkinson’s disease later. He retired in 1980 and died in 2004, aged 80. He was known as a soldier’s general. All I know for sure is that if the Soviets and Warsaw Pact had attacked West Germany in VII Corps’ sector, they would have been in for a hell of a surprise and one HELL of a fight.
When The Fat Man forwarded this review, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It seems like some bizarre sort of Kafkaesque nightmare. I asked the Fat Man to provide some kind of introduction to warn the reader if this movie is unsuitable for the Deplorables but he balked at my request. Being a Julliard trained Forensic Editor I sprang into action. Well, after investigating the movie it doesn’t seem to be an abomination, merely bizarre. Never let it be said that photog stood in the way of Art! — photog
Parasite is a new South Korean movie that has surprised the movie industry because of its success at the Cannes festival, followed by very good tickets sales in all major global markets. The movie is about a family that has been left behind by the rise of South Korea’s middle class in the country’s major cities, but as part of the traditional east Asian service class, is fairly well educated, that is to say familiar with the culture of their rich employers and their upper middle class (read bourgeois) aspirations and fears.
The family, mother, father, sister and brother, lives in a basement apartment with a half window that looks out on an alley where local bar patrons come to vomit and urinate. In the opening scene, we are introduced to the family’s current occupation and major goal, pre-folding fast food pizza boxes and eating as much junk food as they can consume. They seem happy, even comfortable in their debasement, cheerfully leaving their widow open as city officials fog the alley to kill insects, crying out triumphantly, “leave the window open, free fumigation”!
One day our heroes are visited by a school friend of the son and given a good luck gift as well as a good job tutoring the daughter of a rich architect. Their good luck expands when the son finagles his sister into a job teaching art to the architects five-year-old son. Soon the father and mother join in as the chauffeur and maid and the family is flush. Of course, once the inevitable descent begins things get extreme and what was attractively amusing turns bizarre.
Some young critical theorist, improbably named Thessaly La Force, wrote a long thought piece for the NY Times on how Parasite is an example of the dominance of “rage” as a theme in East Asian cinema. You can guess the socio/political source of the rage she describes. Another Times’ reviewer blames inequality for the rise of “dirty spoon” cinema described in a separate review. Undoubtedly there is some truth to these theories, but the film is really just another in a long line of Korean, and other east Asian movies, that indulges in the superstitious, the bizarre and the hyper-violent for their own sake. This tendency predates the current economic environment; indeed, it predates the regions current socio-economic structure.
Filial piety, we are told, distinguishes Confucian culture and in this sense, East Asians are never fully adults. There is always an older sibling, parent, ancestor or institutional structure that requires one’s family obeisance. This ubiquitous subordination allows a natural a fluidity of hierarchy that is at the core of slapstick in the West, but is less confined in China, Japan and especially South Korea. The rage that Ms. La Force describes in movies like “Parasite” and “Old School” is childish, more blood-spraying tantrum than sublimated political violence. Tantrums don’t mean to hurt. They are a young child’s natural message of inadequacy.
And tantrum is the appropriate mode of communication for a society of people frustrated by the challenge of integrating the degenerate western fantasies reflected in K-Pop with the demands of high test-scores and traditional service roles. These contradictions are infinitely more damaging than income inequality or homophobia. The two big news stories out of South Korea the same week “Parasite” was taking the U.S. by storm is the second suicide of a girl band member this month and the discovery an enormous global kiddy porn network is based in Seoul. In yet another story run in the NY Times we are told that South Koreans do not see child exploitation as a major problem. The article quotes one police source describing the sexual abuse of children as basically “natural”, citing that more than half of South Korean prostitutes are underage. The officer described one suspect as “unlucky” for getting caught at something “everyone does”.
We might safely assume, therefore, that the societal problems working themselves out below the surface of “Parasite” are likely not to be inequality, or racism or even sexism as defined in the West, rather something entirely different, but familiar to South Koreans. Confucianism taught these cultures a millennium ago how to live with the barbarian in their midst and how to seek for the “Mandate of Heaven”, even when incarnated in a foreigner. In China, Chairman Xi’s new authoritarianism is fueled by what he calls the century of “humiliation” at the hands of the West. He poisons America with fentanyl to avenge the Opium War. The thought that their own imperial war brought about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and has left Japan neutered, their population shrinking, their only weapon trade. In their eternal occupation and division, the South Korean’s embrace Kim who embraces Trump. And now they have sent us ‘Parasite”. The movie makers of these countries direct these conflicting forces into ordinary characters as they vomit out bizarre cultural concatenations to amuse us, to frighten us and to implicate us.
One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments. On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here. He kindly agreed and here is the second installment.
I drove for Patton the Younger at Ft Hood, Texas when he commanded the 2d Armored Division in the mid seventies. His regular driver was on leave and he called my brigade commander for a replacement. The colonel sent me. It was interesting, and he was as spectacularly profane as his father had been. It seemed to me he must have gone straight from West Point to a captain’s commission as he despised lieutenants. When he saw a young lieutenant doing something stupid, which young lieutenants often do, he was almost overcome with apoplexy. At such times he was wont to become obscene, profane and entirely disrespectful, to the delight of sergeants and privates in earshot.
One day he had me take him down to the division’s motor pool and as we drove around a lieutenant saw us and came running. Patton turned to me and said; “Look a that! The sonuvabitch must think he’s a f***ing unguided missile.” The Lt ran up, saluted and reported. Patton told him to go back to his business and asked where the motor sergeant was. The Lt did not know and Patton blew up like Mt Vesuvius. After the tirade we found the motor sergeant and Patton spoke to him about maintenance (Patton was big on supply and maintenance). Then he called the Lt over and made the motor sergeant sign a hand receipt for the Lt, and told him to take charge of the Lt and to train him in maintenance on all wheeled vehicles. Basically he put a Lt under the command of a Sergeant First Class. Patton then said’; “And you WILL f***ing learn, lieutenant, or I’ll have your f***ing bars, your f***ing ass and the honor of your motherf***ing family. Then I’ll nail your d**k to my trophy board!”
Maybe Patton didn’t despise all lieutenants. If they had common sense, listened to their sergeants’ advice, showed initiative and, most of all, if they took the blame when they screwed up and didn’t try and lay it off on the troops or NCOs, Patton liked them. He liked them even better if the lieutenant took the blame when the troops did screw up, then handled it himself within the platoon.
When I was driving for him it was time for the annual battle simulation between the First Cavalry and the 2nd Armored division, both stationed at Ft Hood at the time. It was supposed to be a heavily scripted battle. The First Cav was to attack from one side and represent the Warsaw Pact, while Patton and the 2nd AD defended. Patton treated this mock battle as if it were life and death for the entire nation. Ft Hood was divided by Cowhouse Creek. The First Cav was to attack across the creek into “West Germany”. The 2nd AD was to absorb the attack and slowly give ground, a fighting withdrawal as was the plan for the US Army in Europe. Patton said, simply; “F**k that”. He had his engineers dam up Cowhouse creek so that it was too deep to ford with tanks except at certain points. At those points he had his engineers lay down beautiful simulated mine fields. As the First Cav advanced they’d be slowed and concentrated into choke points where we had camouflaged tanks sitting, covering the points with interlocking fields of fire and the divisional artillery had the choke points zeroed in for a barrage and the Cobra attack helicopters were loaded and waiting, too.
The First Cav commanding general complained that he could not cross the creek and start the battle because it was flooded. Patton refused to remove the log and earthen dams. “I was told to defend, and Goddammit, I’m defending.” The corps commander had to fly out, chase Patton down and order him, in person, to open the dams. They reset the beginning of the battle for two days later to let the creek drain. Patton changed his battle plan and HE attacked. A “spoiling attack”. He got yelled at again, which he found to be quite funny. Finally the First Cav crossed the creek and the battle began in earnest but by then the Cav had little chance. Patton had kept recon very busy and we knew where all the Cav’s assets were and their likely avenues of approach so it was a pretty big show, but for naught for the First Cav. Patton and the 2nd Armored Division won the Battle of Cowhouse Creek pretty convincingly. In victory he had his Cobra attack helicopters fly in the formation of a big “X” across the First Cav areas and that of the III Corps HQ.
One of my very interesting readers, War Pig, was inspired by the General Patton quotes this week to provide a personal remembrance of General Patton the Younger in the comments. On hearing that he had more stories I asked if he’d provide them and allow me to post them here. He kindly agreed and here they are.
Some personal anecdotes about Major General George S. Patton IV (son of the WWII Patton).
General Patton the Younger (as we called him) was every bit as much of a firebrand as his father, and could be as spectacularly profane as his sire.
I was a young sergeant assigned to the 2nd Armored Division at Ft Hood, Texas in the middle 1970s. Patton commanded the division back then. He spent as much time as he could riding in his specially modified jeep and out of headquarters. You never knew when or where he’d show up. His jeep had a bar on his side for him to hold onto. He disliked sitting as he had a bad hip. He also had a flasher light and a siren installed. His driver was on leave for some reason and he called my brigade for a replacement. I was a counterintelligence agent and I was attached to the division artillery. The Command Sergeant Major wasn’t too fond of intel types so he tasked me to drive Patton for almost 6 weeks.
As I have said elsewhere, Patton despised lieutenants. He said to me, once; “A private knows nothing and we expect him to do nothing more than to follow orders. Unfortunately, lieutenants also know nothing yet they are allowed to give orders. Without a good sergeant, a lieutenant is the most dangerous thing on the battlefield – to our own cause.”
Patton had a high regard for NCOs. But had little time for officers below Lt Colonel. He also trusted the troops, the enlisted men. My time driving for him was interesting, to say the least. He had a deep respect and care for the enlisted men under his command.
One day that summer it was a Black Flag day. It was so hot and humid that training was to be kept indoors if possible. The heat index that day was, I believe, 110 degrees. Of course, I drove Patton’s jeep as it was open-topped and we were moving. We were heading to corps headquarters for some briefing or another. As we were driving along Patton yelled; “Stop this f**king jeep!” I stopped as quickly as I could without throwing him head first over the windshield. Between two barracks was a platoon of soldiers doing close order drill on the dry grass. In the heat, on a black flag day. “Pull over there!” he yelled. I drove across the concrete median, over the sidewalk and up to the platoon on the grass. Patton’s jeep went where Patton said, and screw the traffic laws. In the shade stood a platoon sergeant, looking pissed off.
The lieutenant saluted but Patton yelled; “What the f**k do you think you’re doing? Where in hell’s your platoon sergeant and why isn’t he kicking your ass right now? Who’s your company – your battalion – who’s your brigade commander lieutenant?!”
The lieutenant tried to stammer out a reply but Patton was on a roll. “What the f**k are you doing? Answer me!”
“The platoon needed discipline, sir.”
About this time Patton saw the platoon sergeant. “Why aren’t you kicking his ass, sergeant?” To which the sergeant answered that he was ordered to stand aside.
“You!” Patton said to the lieutenant, “You will have yourself and your entire chain of command in my office at sixteen hundred. You got me?!”
“Sergeant, you are now in command of this platoon until further notice. Dismiss the men.”
We went to the meeting/briefing/conference. We were back in Patton’s office before 16:00 Waiting outside were the lieutenant, his company commander, the battalion commander and the brigade commander. They were called into the office in order of seniority, the door was closed, and loud voices were heard. By the time the lieutenant was called in I was sitting by the door and could hear what was said. Patton was swearing up a storm and the young lieutenant was catching it for disobeying a training directive, putting his troops in danger of heat stroke, and refusing to listen to his platoon sergeant.
“Well, you’re f**king fired. Relieved of command of the platoon and a commanding general’s official letter of reprimand will be placed in your records.”
War Pig put up a comment on my Reclaiming the Family thread so I asked him if I could add it to his folder and so here it is for anyone who didn’t see it on the comments. – photog
We moved to California from Ohio in the 60s when dad got transferred from North American Aviation to Rockwell/Rocketdyne and went to supervise the making of the boosters for the space program. Mom took a fall at the ice-skating rink at the Topanga Plaza and had to have bone chips removed from her brain. Her father came out to stay with us kids until mom was back on her feet. Six months. Dad had to keep working to provide the health insurance and also to feed us and pay the rent (even back then California rents were horrible compared to Ohio). Since papaw was retired and his other daughter lived across the street from his home, he could leave mamaw there while he came out. He cooked, made us kids clean, took us to school functions and all the rest of the things mom would have done. He took us to visit mom at the hospital so she could remember us (she had temporary amnesia and did not know she was married or had kids, initially). She had lost twelve years or memory in the fall and skull fracture.
Papaw was always a hoot. He had a little larceny in his heart and was a lot more lenient than mom had been about what we did. He aided and abetted me and my brother’s carbide cannon incident, for instance. We had fruit trees in the yard and he’d go out and pick oranges and make fresh squeezed OJ for us at breakfast. He makes pancakes and biscuits using buckwheat flour.
Later, after the space program ended and massive layoffs happened in the aerospace industry, we moved back to Ohio. Dad got a supervisor job at a plant that made wheels for US military vehicles. We were close to both sets of grandparents. We kids worked on our paternal papaw’s farm and also rode with our maternal papaw when he delivered frozen chickens. Me and my brother loaded and unloaded chickens and papaw drove the truck. On the farm we drove tractors and other farm equipment and the pickup truck, too. We baled hay and straw and put it up in the barn. Me and my brother ate like starving Clydesdales but worked it all off on the farm or the chicken runs. Sis stayed with mamaw on the farm and helped her. At our other papaw’s house, she helped mamaw bake pies for the local restaurants while we helped papaw with the chickens.
Later, when I was a papaw, I took care of my grandson. My wife got to see and hold her grandson before she passed. Since I had no wife and was retired, I concentrated on being papaw for my grandson. I babysat while my daughter and her husband worked. They dropped him off for breakfast and picked him up after supper. All day we played and did things together. To the playground, fishing, walking in the woods. When he was school age, I picked him up from school and we goofed off or I helped him with homework and we had supper together. I would not trade my time with him for a billion dollars. This year he graduates college. Hopefully, I’ll live to see some great grandchildren.
The movie, Joker, could be easily dismissed as an attempt to extend on the successful formula established by Christopher Nolan in his turn at the Batman franchise, launched in 2005. But beyond the constant “dark” refrain, not enough was said about Nolan’s reformulation of the DC comic book character. When Tim Burton in 1989 first attempted to bring the character to film his movie temperament and the last shreds of maturity that remained in American popular culture required that he make it in its essence, comic. It’s true he leavened the film with instances of “adult” gravity, but no more than in his other comic book movies.
But Nolan did something that it took the success of the ‘80s and ‘90’s Batman movies to make possible, play Batman straight. By 2005 struck upon the formula for converting the comic book into a “serious” movie by making the films “dark”, thereby removing the tongue from Batman’s cheek. Nolan took the comic out of the comic book hero and the films became blockbusters. I suspect they did for the same reason space movies from 2001 to Star Wars were also so successful. The baby boomers and later Gen X-ers had a choice between the narcissistic atavism of their peers or withdrawal. The comic book fans were always outsiders so it was easy to choose withdrawal, and so they did, in droves. What has been truly remarkable was that most of the rest of America follow along, in even bigger droves.
But what does it mean to movies and America to make comic book movies without the comic? One might say that comic books, at least of the super hero variety, always played straight. They were more like the serial genre fiction that anticipated both the “soaps” and the novel. Fair enough, but the illustrations, primitive graphics and primary colors, were a comic proscenium, perhaps helping to suspend disbelief for the comic book reader, but not his sense of humor. Theatrical movies have no such proscenium, they have long been understood to be psychological, subconscious, in their effect. They do not afford the comic book distance, the healthy separation. We needed Burton’s fantasy gloss to create distance from the film. But Nolan’s success argues that this view was wrong, or at least obsolete, that audiences yearned for the Dark Knight’s subconscious payload, unmediated by winks at the camera.
Todd Phillips’ new contribution to the franchise, Joker, suggests that we might still need the winks. The movie attempts to use psychological clichés and bathos to establish a “natural” backstory to the one-dimensional villain. The attempt exposes the naiveté behind Nolan’s original reformulation. What is a joker, can one have a backstory? Lear’s fool never needed one. Jokers are allegorical place holders for dramatic elements like plot and action, even fate, but never character. They are anti-characters, devices, not anti-heroes. Ah, but Phillips would counter, I wrote Borat and most people thought he was real. Isn’t character fluid? Yes, it is fluid but not superficial. But what about the epics, they were full of the very same placeholders? Wasn’t Hephaestus allegorical? The answer is Hephaestus may be a myth and allegorical to us, indistinguishable from a joker, but to the Greeks he was a god.
Is Joker a god, is Batman or Thor, to us? The mind reels. So, Phillips may have wasted much of his runtime trying to pose Joachim Phoenix’s anorexic torso to evoke St. Sabastian and paint the decay of ‘70’s New York in renaissance yellows and gold. The adolescent retreat in the face of adulthood beaten by the American movie going public, however, is not a Christian martyrdom. Phillips’ attempt to tell Joker’s story as such is the latest landing in the vertiginous descent of American society into an arrested underworld. Must we now analyze the cardboard cutouts populating our comic book movies first as patients, to remove any moral question of their actions, then as victims, to instead apply a moral test to “society” and finally as martyrs, to establish our newly reconstructed deities? Foucault would be proud. This mental ritual has become so routinized by academic and political rehearsal the director seems unaware of its emptiness.
And that can be the only verdict reached for Nolan’s vision and Phillips’ realization. Empty. This explains the need to go to further lengths, to go darker, with each successive relaunch. The writers, producers and directors, even the actors, know they must work harder each cycle to pump up the crowd and distract from the inevitable descent. But by trying to make serious our comic book carnival posters, the Hollywood hucksters have drained the fun from their movies, and our laughs on the rollercoaster.