Saturday, December 31, 2016

A River?

Connecticut River, Looking Towards Vermont, 29 Nov 15
In Einstein's equation, time is a river. It speeds up, meanders, and slows down. The new wrinkle is that it can have whirlpools and fork into two rivers. So, if the river of time can be bent into a pretzel, create whirlpools and fork into two rivers, then time travel cannot be ruled out. Michio Kaku (Source)
So the year 2016 is winding down. Many people died this year, many people were born this year. This happens every year and has since the moment God willed us into existence*. It will continue until it does not. I make no claims to know the how and the when of that. Only God knows.

My year started with a trip out to Sandy Eggo to witness the baptism of my youngest grandchild. It more or less ended with the annual pilgrimage to my Mom's for Christmas. Those were the highlights to start and finish my year. Lots of stuff happened in between, some good, some bad, but again, that happens every year.

I have yet to have what some folks call a "bad year." I suspect that if I were a farmer, or a rancher for that matter, that "bad year" thing would have a lot more meaning. Weather causing crops to fail, stock to die, those are bad things which can wreck a whole year. I've had bad days, bad weeks, even bad months, but that's all relative. Bad year? Not yet, knock on wood. (Said while rapping myself on the head.)

I live, I prosper, I love, I am loved. Everything else fades into the background noise if you can have those things.

Health is important as well. Mine has had its ups and downs this year, abdominal surgery is not fun, nor is any other kind. But hey, if it keeps you on your feet and moving forward, well it's something one must tolerate. I reckon.

I trust that 2017 will be much like other years. Good times, bad times, we'll all have our share.** All we can do is drive on - do our jobs to the best of our ability, help those who need it, and cherish our families and friends.

If time is a river, some of us are closer to the ocean than others, some are mired in the swamps, and some are out in main current, sun shining on their faces, the wind in their hair, and a smile on their lips.

Whatever happens will happen. All we can do is our best.

May 2017 find you happy, healthy, and loved.

* No need to leave argumentative comments regarding this sentence. It is what I believe to be the truth. Unless you can scientifically prove otherwise, sit down.
** Yes, I know what that's from.

Times Long Past*

I had a few ideas for a post today, but that's all in the wind, for now.

Found out that one of our long time readers, and a frequent commenter here, snuffyny, known to his friends and loved ones as Joe Welsh, passed away on the 29th of December.

He had a blog, though he hadn't written anything recently, he'd been doing it since 2011. He would often leave a link to one of his old posts in a comment. I enjoyed that.

Joe hadn't been well lately, though I had hoped he'd turned the corner.


It was not to be.

I'm going to miss him, he was a good man.

Joseph Welsh, self-portrait
"...witness to gone times, and to graces gone with time." - Sylvia Plath
Through many countries and over many seas
I have come, Brother, to these melancholy rites,
to show this final honour to the dead,
and speak (to what purpose?) to your silent ashes,
since now fate takes you, even you, from me.
Oh, Brother, ripped away from me so cruelly,
now at least take these last offerings, blessed
by the tradition of our parents, gifts to the dead.
Accept, by custom, what a brother’s tears drown,
and, for eternity, Brother, ‘Hail and Farewell’. 
Gaius Valerius Catullus
Ave atque vale!

* Auld Lang Syne

Friday, December 30, 2016

Administrative Down Day

The Gallery at Chez Sarge
Nope, no new stories today as we have a number of administrative tasks to accomplish. I know, I know, it sounds boring and it probably is, but get your notebooks and pens out, we have a lot to cover.

First item on the agenda is officially codifying Juvat's Cinematic Rating Tool, or JCRT for short. (Note to staff, it's okay for Juvat and Tuna to invent these kind of things, but I, Le Sarge, reserve the right to name them. Unless their names are better, then I'll probably just go with whatever they came up with. Yes, I know Tuna came up with a name for something, we'll get to that.) Anyhoo...

So in Juvat's Monday/Boxing Day post he introduced the first practical application of the JCRT, which he had proposed in a comment on my earlier "Top Ten" post. To wit...
We need to come up with a multi faceted rating system. Historical accuracy, Well Told Story, Death and destruction, Probability of being watched by your wife etc.
That was the proposal, and of course you got to see the first deployed use of the JCRT. Here are the facets of the multi-faceted JCRT:
  • Historical Accuracy
  • Well Told Story
  • Death and Destruction
  • Probability of Spousal Participation
Each facet has a rating from 0 to 10, 0 being the lowest, 10 the highest. We don't have any weighting for the various facets and as one might quickly ascertain, this is pretty much for "guy films" and not "chick flicks." (Though if someone would like to propose a system for rating "chick flicks," have at it. As the editor (that would be me, the Blog Inhaber), and both of the part-time, underpaid and abused writers, Cratchit, er, I mean Juvat, and Tiny Tuna are all guys, well, you get my drift...)

I did change Juvat's original fourth rating in order to more easily acronymize it, so within the JCRT we have the four facets. (I know, I know, I just like calling them facets, Juvat started it):
  • HA, or Historical Accuracy
  • WTS, or Well Told Story
  • D&D, Death and Destruction
  • PSP, Probability of Spousal Participation, i.e. will the wife watch it with you or retire to the other room mumbling that she should have married that nice Billy Johnson down the road who became very wealthy selling George Foreman grills. (Ha! As if!)
HA is rather self-explanatory, though one must have some knowledge of history in order to properly apply the facet. This facet is pretty straightforward, very objective. A movie is faithful to history or it's not.

WTS is pretty subjective. One man's brilliant and riveting story could be another's "please kill me" film. (A story so bad that one would rather be put out of one's misery than being forced to continue watching it. Though I suppose getting up and walking out of the theater, or switching off the telly, would be preferred.)

D&D is another subjective facet of the JCRT. It all depends on one's capacity for gore and things blowing up, I suppose the best way to partially describe this is with a film clip...

And no, that's not Juvat and Yours Truly in the clip. (Though I do have a shirt like John Candy is wearing and I swear Juvat has a hat similar to the one sported by Joe Flaherty. Two of my favorite Canadians by the way. I still miss Mr. Candy. A lot. Oh and Joe Flaherty isn't really Canadian. He's from Pittsburgh.)

The most controversial facet of the JCRT is the PSP, or Probability of Spousal Participation. Controversial because we guys can't always fathom what our better halves are thinking or expecting from us. I mean, to me, "Fine!" means that The Missus Herself is totally okay with whatever I want to do. To wit...

"So honey, I'm going to buy this three thousand dollar entertainment system. Okay?"



"Honey, I'm going to go out drinking with the guys. Okay?"


Hhmm, now I understand a few situations where I may have miscalculated.


PSP is a guess at whether or not one's spouse is willing to sit down and watch Saving Private Ryan or Fury with you. A low rating here may be matched by a higher D&D rating. Too gory, and the spousal unit may not wish to watch it, so a high D&D rating might be offset by a low PSP. Hhmm, perhaps we should weight these things. That might make for a more complicated rating system, I don't know.

So, that's the JCRT, comments, suggestions, ideas, and just plain complaints are welcome.

In other news, I got a new phone yesterday, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and it hasn't blown up yet. I take that as a good sign. Had to replace the old S3 as it was just worn out and showing its age. Unplug it from the charger and it would drop right down to 80%. It also didn't like my Mom's place up in New Hampshire, wouldn't hold a charge to save its life I tell ya. (Hhmm, I replaced the cell phone equivalent of me...)

Meine neues Kommunikationsgerät (Source)
One final administrative thing I'd like to touch on is something Tuna brought up in the comments to yesterday's post. To wit...*
Happy New Year to all you Chanters though! (Did I just coin a phrase there- a la "Lexicans?")
To which I replied.
"Chanters?" Hhmm, I shall have to ruminate upon that. Grudgingly, it does have a certain something. As to "Lexicans," I preferred "Lexians," but was outvoted. (Not sure we actually had a vote, but there it is.)

If the readership is to be known as "Chanters," perhaps we should have a chant? (My vote is for "Who's buying?")
So what say you, the readers? Or Chanters? (Hhmm, not sure I like it. Perhaps it will grow on me.)

So that's it for now, and...


Yeah, the Top Ten lists, which are kind of a new thing here. I started it but called it "A Sarge Top Ten List," but Juvat kind of refined it with "A Chant Top Ten List." So from here on out, they shall be the latter, not the former.

Okay? Back to work, coffee break's over...

* And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, a new record for using the phrase "to wit" in one post has been set today, here at the Chant. Now watch Juvat or Tuna go out of their way to break that record. I double dog dare you! (And no, Juvat did not double dog dare me to stick my tongue to the flag pole at Kunsan Air Base. That was some other Sarge, who may, or may not, have looked like me. Hey, all us maintainers look the same in our olive-drab fatigues, neh?)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just Another Year?

Chez Sarge at night.
So I'm seeing on-line where folks want 2016 to just be over. So many people have died in this past year, this bad thing happened, and that bad thing happened, etc., etc. Like it's the year's fault.

Nope, people die every year, every day actually. Famous people, infamous people, every day people. It happens, it has nothing to do with what year it is.

Let me offer a bit of a disclaimer before I go on. I am not a big fan of New Year's, nor the celebrations thereof. For one thing, to me it's the passing of the Christmas season, my absolute most favorite time of the year. So there's that. I also don't care for the parties. I'm not really a party guy. I was for a time but it got old. Fast.

So to me, New Year's is just a way we measure the passage of time. Much like the hours, minutes, and seconds we used to mark the passage of a day, to me New Year's has no more significance than the ticking of the clock from midnight to just past midnight.

Maybe it's a flaw in my character, but every day is a chance to start anew. I don't need to change the number of the year for that. Then there's the whole check writing thing, remembering to increment the year by one. And yes, we still write checks. I'm not exactly sure why but there it is. Perhaps we're old school that way. I dunno.

Now mind you, I don't begrudge others celebrating the New Year. In fact in Germany we had fun doing that, firing off fireworks, in moderation mind you, drinking beer and champagne, again in moderation (well, maybe not). But as I get older I often wonder, what's the big deal?

To me, it's just another year. As 2016 passes into 2017, I will bid farewell to a most excellent year. 2016 was good for my tribe and me. We've seen worse, perhaps we'll see better to come. Who knows?

I certainly don't.

But 2017 will bring one change. I almost feel as if an oppressive burden is about to be lifted. I have been appalled by certain events and people in the past eight years. But I smell a change in the wind.

Let's hope it's a good one.

No, belay that hope thing, let's work for that.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Time Travel

Going home for the holidays is a mixed bag of emotions. The anticipation of seeing everyone is always shadowed by the thought that all too soon the holiday will be over and it will be back to "normal."

While I have time off between now and the 9th of January, it no longer feels "Christmas-y." I suppose that's because I always enjoy the coming of the holiday, the build up. As each Sunday of Advent passes, one sees more Christmas decorations going up on the homes in the neighborhood and in the downtown area as well. (I don't count the shopping venues, Hell, their decorations go up just after Halloween, if not before. I don't begrudge them their profits and sales, those pay people's wages and the like.)

At any rate, it's almost as if the anticipation of the holiday is better than the holiday itself. But once I'm with my family, Christmas tree glittering in the background, all is well. But as the years go by, there is a shadow in the room.

I remember holidays with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in attendance. Many of those folks are gone. Some to other states, other towns, others to a place I cannot follow. At least not yet. I see my brothers and myself aging, and it's not imperceptible anymore. It's becoming obvious! Less hair, and what's left is grey. My mother is not getting any younger either. She's 86. There is a thought hovering just below the surface every time I visit her, I won't voice it, for that would be to acknowledge its presence. But it's there.

My kids are scattered from Virginia to California, such is the way of the world these days. My parents, when we were young, lived within 30 miles of their parents and siblings. Jobs were plentiful, or so it seemed, there was no need to travel hundreds of miles away to find a job. Now there often is. Having kids in the service pulls us further apart geographically. Another thing to consider. Now I know why my parents always bemoaned the fact that they never got to see their grandchildren as often as they wanted.

Me? I'll travel to see them, whenever I can. Still, it's not always possible. But we try.

Content may be light over the next week and a half. I've said before that when blogging becomes a "chore" or "too much like work," then I'd stop. I don't want that to happen over this long holiday, I enjoy doing this, but not at the expense of everything else.

It was mentioned on Christmas Day that I spend "too much time on the computer." So I need to balance things a bit. It's one thing to slap together a post at lunch at my desk, but spending all day writing when The Missus Herself wants to do stuff? I may be slow, I may be lax, but I ain't stupid.

I know which side my bread is buttered on.

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher, you were too young to die. You will be missed...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


The morning of Christmas Eve, The Missus Herself and I were up and about our business rather earlier than normal. For it was time to head north to my homeland for to celebrate the birth of the Savior with my Mom, brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, niece, and the niece's sweetheart. (I dunno, is it okay to say that in this day and age?) Anyhoo, he is a nice guy and City Girl is sweet on him, so there ya go.

The weather on the way north was très misérable, or as I would have pronounced it in the days of my youth, "trez miserable." (Yup, noose parlons frankase.) The rain came down in sheets and I, being something of a purist regarding my New England Christmases, had visions of a soggy Natal festival.

Normally at this time of year it's usual to see snow when one is about 40 miles north of Providence in Little Rhody, for Worcester (pronounced Wooster, no really) is in the heart of the Massachusetts snow belt. Not this year though. Off in the trees one could see the pitiful remnants of some old snowfall, the surviving whiteness huddled in the shadow of the pines, trying desperately to make the Sarge's Christmas white. I was beginning to despair, especially as we approached the New Hampshire border and it was still raining.

Though things started to look up when we got to Keene, New Hampshire. The rain had stopped and there was still a bit of snow to be seen nearer the highway. Not much but at least the rain had stopped.

The closer we got to the abode of Madame Mère, the more snow we could see. In fact, my Mom had told me that they had had a snow squall at the very moment I had called her from the flight deck of Chez Sarge as we were taxiing up to the cat to launch this Christmas sortie. I had high hopes as the snow was more in evidence.

Within ten miles of the homeland, the snow lay thick and crisp upon the land. And it was cold! Not an Arctic chill mind you, just cold enough to keep the snow from melting. While it wasn't exactly "deep and crisp and even," it was good enough to warm the cockles of the old Sarge's heart. (And yes, Juvat, I actually have a heart. Can you believe it? He wanted the entire day off on Christmas. It's unfair I tell you! "But Sarge, it's only once a year." A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!)

Christmas Morning, Charlestown, NH
(Truth be told, Cratchit, I mean, Juvat, did a fine job with the Christmas post, so fine in fact, that I'm doubling his pay! Hahaha, now Tiny Tuna can say, with gusto, "God Bless us, everyone... Whaddaya mean Juvat's getting a raise?")

Anyhoo, Christmas up north was excellent and well worth playing U-Boat captain for most of the way. (No really, it rained so hard that I thought we were underwater for part of the way.) I would write more but, I'll say it with photos...

I pray that your own Christmas went well and that you were able to be with people you love. I did and am thankful for that. "Ebenezer" Sarge here, good day.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Chant Top Ten List - Christmas Films

First, lest anyone think this post is late to the party, this is being written on Christmas Day.  Why, you might ask? One, two and half years ago, when Sarge hired me on to this gig, he looked at Christmas 2016 and saw it falls on Sunday. Ha! he says, Juvat will have to forego his long winter's nap and write a blog post on Christmas.  Second, many readers refer to him as Sarge, as an aside he refers to himself as Chris, a pseudonym if there ever was one.  No, dear readers, his first name is actually....Ebeneezer.  As in.........

So, ma's in her kerchef, and settled in for a long winter's nap.  I will be describing the official Juvat approved 10 best Christmas Films (for Guys).  Sorry, Ladies, "The Holiday" did not make the cut, despite starring Cameron Diaz.  The criteria for ranking these movies, as agreed upon by Ebeneezer,  are Historical accuracy, Well Told Story, Death and destruction, and finally Probability of being watched by your wife.  A total of 10 points is available per category.  Regrettably, "The Holiday" scored a whopping total of 10 points.  I'll leave it to your imagination on which category the points were awarded.

From the bottom,  then...

#10  "Trading Places"   Total points -17, Historic Accuracy - 0, Well Told Story - 8 (would have been 5 but bonus points were awarded for an excellent scene involving Jamie Leigh Curtis, Death and Destruction -2, Probability of being watched by the wife - 7 (provided you arrange for her to be out of the room in one scene involving Jamie Leigh Curtis).    A funny film with a well written comeuppance scene filmed back in the day when Eddie Murphy was actually funny.

# 9 Tie "Die Hard"  Total points- 20 Historic Accuracy - 0, Well Told Story - 10 (Any screen play that can include the phrase "Yippee Kai, Yo. M@#*@ F@#$@@!" by definition is well told). Death and Destruction -10 (Well...Yeah!), Probability of being watched by the wife -0 (I inquired if she wanted to watch it, she replied "Yippee Kai, Yo. M@#*@ F@#$@@!" which I believe is Swahili for "No, Dear").

#8 Tie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" Total Points -20 Historic Accuracy -0, Well Told Story-10 (What guy among us (guy being defined as someone who doesn't wear red and black pajamas in the living room while sipping a Latte) hasn't dreamed of putting enough lights on his house to require a nuclear power plant to drive them).  Death and destruction-5 Sleds, Sewer's, Christmas Trees (X 2), Yeah Baby!. Probability of being watched by the wife -5 (I think she sees herself as the Long Suffering Beverly D'Angelo to my Chevy Chase,  for some reason, so do I)

#7 "Scrooged"  Total Points - 21 Historic Accuracy-2 (it follows the Charles Dickens version well enough to garner 2 points.  The margins are slim here.)  Well Told Story-8  I mean the guy gets visited by 3 ghosts because he dumped Karen Allen.  What was he thinking? Death and Destruction-8.  "Some truths are painful" delivered by Carol Kane was probably the best line in the movie and very destructive. Probability of being watched by the wife -3.  I think she liked the Carol Kane line also.

#6 " A Christmas Story" Total points -22 Historic Accuracy-1 "Triple Dog Dare Ya" got Sarge to stick his tongue to the flag pole at the Kun , Christmas 1979, the whole Wing fell out to witness. Well Told Story -7 See Above.  Death and Destruction -7 A BB Gun and a 10 year old boy, nothing more destructive on earth, ask the red ants in Big Spring. Probability of being watched by the wife-7.  Guess who rescued the Sarge?  Seeing the re-enactment has to be a Christmas tradition.

#5 "3 Godfathers"  Total Points -23 Historic Accuracy-0 The Three Wise Men didn't carry 6 shooters to Bethlehem.  Well Told Story-10 John Wayne as a Bank Robber who rescues an infant and carries him on foot across the desert to safety?  What's not to like?  Death and Destruction -7 A 400 yard Winchester shot by Ward Bond that hits the water bag strapped to the side of a galloping horse, poking a hole in it, but not hitting the rider whose left leg is directly in front of it?  That's some shootin' there, Pard!  Probability of being watched by the wife-6 John Wayne taking care of an infant?  High Comedic value there!

#4 "Lethal Weapon" Total Points -26 Historic Accuracy -0  Well Told Story-10 What's not to like about two buddies from completely different backgrounds who manage to take down a well armed and well manned drug ring by themselves, all the while throwing pithy comments at each other? Death and Destruction -10 Two buddies take down a well armed and well manned drug ring by themselves?  It ain't done by sitting down and singing Kumbaya!  Probability of being watched by the wife-6 Two words....Mel Gibson.

#3 "Joyeux Noel"   Total Points -27.  Historic Accuracy -9 Sarge says it's accurate.  He was there in 1914.  Well Told Story -8 Sarge says it's well told, he was there in 1914.  Death and Destruction -8  Are you kidding?  WWI trench warfare?  Probability of being watched by the wife-2  Are you kidding?  WWI trench warfare?

#2 "Home Alone"  Total Points - 28 Historic Accuracy -0 History has no record of this story ever happening.  Well Told Story-10.  10 year old boy defends home against two middle aged white males, defeating them absolutely.  Oh....YEAH!  Death and Destruction-8 No Kumbaya here either.  Probability of being watched by the wife-10 Two middle aged white males being defeated by a 10 year old kid whilst the mother encounters numerous obstacles while she fights her way back to rescue her lion cub.  Yep, gonna be watched!


#1 "White Christmas" Total Points -34 Historic Accuracy -8 -2 points for having an air attack on the US Army in WWII after the Kasserine Pass, didn't happen.  Well Told Story -10 Army Buddies stick together after the war, achieve fame and fortune, help another Army Buddy (ok, Generals, even retired, are never "Buddies", but still...) out, meet girls and woo them.  Yep, got all the categories checked there. Death and destruction -6 Building almost falls on the hero.  The "Theatah!" gets demolished.  Yep, good there also.  Probability of being watched by the wife -10.  Singing? Check! Dancing? Check! Girl dumps guy? Check!  Guy sees error of ways and comes back? Check!  Girl takes him back? Check?  Probability of watching-100%.

So, There you have it folks.  A completely unbiased, systematic evaluation and ranking of the 10 best Christmas Flicks for Guys 2016 edition. 

In all seriousness (or all that I can muster after writing this), Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah or just plain Happy Holidays and may your New Year be even better than last. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7 (KJV)
 To all of my family, my friends, my valued readers, and to all the world...

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:16-20 (KJV)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Festival of Lights

Lest I forget my Jewish friends and readers...


Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds, Govert Flinck
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. Luke 2:8-15 (KJV)

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Promise

The Annunciation, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

USAF Phantom Phinale

Screen Capture from 1st Video Below
Reader .45ACP+P alerted me to this the other day. Seems that the old F-4's last flight in the Air Force took place yesterday (the 21st of December) out at Holloman AFB, NM. The guys and gals at Airshow Stuff have some nice footage of a couple of Rhinos up at Oshkosh this past year. (Did you get over there for that Aaron? I don't recall, my memory ain't what it used to be. One of these days I'll make it out to Wisconsin. You know, come for the airshow, stay for the Packers and the cheese. I hear tell that Michigan has a nice "little" airshow as well. And I know Aaron went to that one.)

Anyhoo, here's two Phantom videos, one outside the cockpit, one inside the cockpit. I tell ya, seeing those big birds taxiing out brought back a lot of memories.

Here's the look and sound from the front seat, up in the air. (I'm sure Juvat, Dave, and Virgil might remember that well. That front scope isn't what I remember. I guess all the cool kids are going digital, besides, don't need a front radar scope if you're not shooting missiles, do ya?)

Sigh, the good old days...

The Phantom first flew on 27 May 1958 (I was five, so I wasn't working on them yet). I do believe the Greeks, Japanese, Iranians, Turks, and Koreans still operate the old bird, but she's out of work here in the U.S. of A.

She had a good run.

Editor's Note - I will be "oot and aboot" for the holidays, not to worry though, I have posts preloaded and set to post everyday up to (but not including) Monday, when Juvat gets to drive the boat, ring the bell and all. I will be reading (and sometimes responding to) comments. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all, see y'all next week.

Tip o' the hat to .45ACP+P.


Adoration of the Shepherds, Charles Le Brun (Source)
Magical - beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life...

Long ago in the Land of the Morning Calm, it was Christmas Eve, the snow was gently falling outside and did not appear to be letting up. The young Staff Sergeant (SSgt) gazed at his bride of almost two years and sighed quietly to himself. The love of his life was sitting on the bed playing with their first born, a lad of four months. It would be his first Christmas, for the young SSgt it would be his first Christmas as a Dad. He was pretty excited about it but, he would have to work all night out at the air base before coming home to enjoy Christmas with his little boy and his lovely wife.

Ah well, such things happen, some of his buddies at the base were 9,000 miles from their families. He was lucky that he had met and married his lovely lady here in Korea. While you couldn't bring your family to Kunsan, if they already lived there what could the Air Force do? Make you ship them back to the States?

So while he had to work Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day, he was a happy man. As he donned his uniform and bundled up before heading into the cold Korean night, he spared one last glance at the Christmas Tree in the living room (truth be told, their apartment only had two rooms, bedroom and living room, but it was better accommodations than the guys had in the barracks), then kissed his wife and son and headed out, into the snow. On a winter's night that was oh, so deep.

Catching the bus a couple of blocks from his apartment, the SSgt watched the sparse traffic and noted, with some appreciation, that the Koreans seemed to be pretty good at snow removal. Though the snow was coming down, not heavily but steadily, the roads were pretty well plowed. As were two or three people on the bus who had, no doubt, got into the Christmas "spirits" a little earlier. Ah well, he had to smile at that, in different circumstances he might have hoisted a glass with those folks. But not tonight, duty called.

It was a slow haul to the base, while traffic was sparse and the roads were being kept fairly snow free, there were still slippery spots. The bus driver was being careful, good man. Eventually the bus rolled up to the gate, IDs were checked and the bus rolled in. The SSgt got off at his stop to catch the base bus down to his shop. Kunsan back then had two "sides," the operational side of the base where the jets lived, and the residential side where the troops lived. From the bus stop on the residential side to the shop on the operational side was about six-tenths of a mile, give or take.

After waiting for 15 minutes, the SSgt and the other guys waiting at the bus stop had the suspicion that the buses on base weren't running. No doubt some headquarters staff puke had decided that, as it was Christmas Eve, the Koreans who drove the buses should have the night off. Who cares if the troops had to walk down to the operational side? The fat-ass staff puke didn't have to go anywhere in this weather, it was not his problem.

So the SSgt and the other troops did what troops have been doing for thousands of years, they started walking. The snow, which looked so lovely and Christmas-like earlier, was now a total pain in the ass. Visibility on the road down to the flight line wasn't all that good, though the buses weren't running, maintenance vehicles were still out and about, one couldn't walk on the road, one had to walk in the plowed up snow on the side of the road. Which made the footing treacherous as Hell.

It wasn't long before a half-empty International Harvester "six pack" (a pick-up truck holding six people in the cab) stopped and picked up the men trudging down the road. The SSgt jumped into the bed of the pick-up with a couple of other guys, while the rest filled the cab. In minutes he was at his destination, joining his comrades-in-arms at the Weapon Control Systems shop of the Component Repair Squadron.

Day shift was gone, the SSgt was prepared to get his ass chewed for being late, but the boss knew about the buses so let it go.

"Sarge, I just got the word. Nothing is flying tonight, we've got no jet in the radar cal barn and the Wing King decided that everyone should go home. The word went out this afternoon, nobody thought to let maintenance know until about 30 minutes ago."

"So we can go home Skip?"

"Yup, wanna grab a beer at the club first?"

"Yeah, don't mind if I do!"

So the SSgt and his boss, TSgt Skip, locked up the shop, caught a ride to the other side of base, quaffed a cold one at the NCO Club, then caught their respective buses downtown. About three hours after he had left the warmth of his cozy little apartment, he banged on the door downstairs (the bell was busted), the landlord let him in, he stomped upstairs, brushing snow off as he went, and arrived home.

Home to the arms of his loving wife and his precious little boy. Their first Christmas as a family. It was magical.

That was a long time ago, 1979 to be sure, at least I think it was 1979, The Naviguessor was still a baby and Christmas of 1980 was spent in New England, not Korea. So I'm pretty sure it was 1979. But it's a true story.

While I don't remember who else I was stationed with at that time, though "Tank" had to be there, probably Gary and Tatro were still there as well, it was my first year in Korea. Skip though was definitely there. He was a Technical Sergeant (TSgt) at the time and he ran our shop. He was gruff, knew his business very well, and took care of us like we were his own children. A lovely man, as the Irish might say.

I heard some years later that Skip's lovely wife, also Korean, like mine, was killed in a car accident on the way home from bingo, down in Florida. Probably near MacDill AFB, near Tampa. Word has it that after that Skip just pulled up stakes and left. No one knew where. Safe to say, I loved that man, would have followed him anywhere.

Most of all though, I remember that Christmas Eve, packing up the shop with Skip and heading home. Home to my wife and son, on a Christmas, so long ago.

God Bless you Skip, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winding Down

As 2016 slowly comes to an end, there are fewer people at work, the parking lot isn't so full, and many of us at my place of employment start thinking about what we're going to be doing during the annual company shutdown.

We forego four of the ten Federal "public*" holidays (Martin Luther King Day, Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day) but we make it up during the period from Christmas to New Year's Day. I don't mind missing four long weekends all that much as my company is now on a 9/80 schedule. Which boiled down to its most basic means that over a two week period we work 80 hours, only we do it in 9 days rather than 10. So every other week we have a long weekend.

While the nine hour days can be a pain (especially in the winter, dark when I get to work, dark when I get home), the thought of having that long weekend gets me through the 9 hour days. I don't know why the 9 hour day seems so much longer than an 8 hour day, but it does. (This coming from a guy who regularly used to work 12-our days in the Air Force! About which there's a story. POCIR)


A lot of folks save some PTO for the week prior to the "winter" break (which I, and many others,  still insist on calling the "Christmas" break) so that they might have two weeks away from work. I normally try to do that but for the second year in a row I had to use some of that PTO while I was out for medical reasons. (One of the reasons "they" don't like us calling PTO "vacation" is that we also use it for sick leave. Sort of. We used to have sick days but they were abused by some. So we lost them. Bastids.)

So I am at work for four days this week, this Friday coincides with our every other week long weekend, which, as it's Christmas, makes for a longer Christmas, er, I mean, Winter Break. Because I want to, and I can, I will be taking the first week of the year 2017 as vacation, using my PTO, not "vacation" days. Confused yet? Don't feel bad, it confused me the first five years I worked here. And I will still slip up and call a vacation, "being on leave." Which is a military thing.


The days, while short in ambient light, have not been short on cold as of late. Though we had temps in the 50s over the weekend, we're back down in the teens and 20s again. (Had a real cold snap a couple of weeks ago, hence the use of "again.") Oddly enough the wind, which seems to blow all the time here in Little Rhody, has been conspicuous by its absence. So wind chill hasn't been a factor. (See what I did there?)

Very little snow here, which is typical for Little Rhody in the late fall/early winter. The bulk of our snow seems to come in January and February. While there hasn't been much snow, there hasn't been much sun either. So the days tend to be gray and somewhat morale weakening. (I don't get depressed by such weather, though many do. It does, however, have a detrimental effect on my morale. Makes me all gloomy and such.)

While I am aware of the horror, the evil, and the turbulence of the world outside of my own, I try not to let that get me down. The world has always had its share of assholes, evil-doers, and idiots, I keep them at arm's length, mentally anyway. I refuse to let the world "harsh my mellow."

Because it is the Christmas season. While, like the reformed Scrooge, I do hold the holiday in my heart year-round, I enjoy the decorations, the lights, and the carols at this time of year. Truth be told, when the lights start to go dim and the decorations come down, I do get a little depressed. I truly do wish it could be Christmas forever. But (apparently) it can't, but as the year winds down, I'll enjoy the season, come what may.

* Public because while Inauguration Day is a Federal Holiday, only Federal employees in the District get it off, and it's only once every four years. I won't begrudge them that holiday because can you imagine trying to get to work on Inauguration Day in DC? Traffic is bad enough on a "normal" day!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Sarge Top Ten List - War Films

Scene from Joyeux Noël (Source)
Tuna posed the question the other day of what were my ten favorite war movies. Now your Old AF Sarge has been to the movies before, but that was a partial list of favorite movies of all genres. There were some war movies on the list, a few were missing, as I said, that post was a partial list. (And before folks start commenting with "You forgot this one..." rest assured, I didn't miss or forget anything. This is my list. Yours may be similar, but this one is mine.)

This was a very hard list to pare down to just ten. My first cut at the list had over 30 movies on it, so I figured I needed some firmer criterion than "Oh yeah, I really like that one." After much thought I decided to include movies which I thought were very accurate historically and which also elicited a powerful emotional reaction from me upon seeing it for the first time. (And still cause an emotional reaction when I watch them.) I didn't try to rank these movies from top to bottom because, quite frankly, a film's position in the list could vary depending on what I was in the mood for on any given day. So, this top ten is in no particular order, consider it a list where all the films are equally good in my eyes. But there is one film which I consider to be "first" among equals. (The first on the list.) So here we go...

1. Saving Private Ryan - I first watched this movie on the base at AFCENT (as it was called then, now it's AFNORTH) in the Netherlands. So it was a theater full of American G.I.s and their dependents. It was a very quiet audience, I can tell you. From the opening scene at the American cemetery at Normandy, to the final scene at the same place, it stayed very quiet. Bear in mind though, this was not a quiet audience because of boredom or a lack of caring, the tension in that theater was palpable.

While there are a few inaccuracies in the film, for the most part the film was very true to life. And death. One minor detail which I was completely unaware of until just recently, concerned the scene right after the Americans had broken through the initial defenses and were mopping up behind the beach. Two German soldiers come out of a trench with their hands up, obviously beseeching the Americans not to kill them. Which the Americans promptly do.

Turns out the two "Germans" were not German at all but were Czechs drafted into the German Army. A nice touch which your average movie goer wouldn't notice. There were all sorts of folks drafted into the Wehrmacht who were in Normandy. Including a number of Koreans. No, I'm serious, there's actually a movie based on that little-known fact, My Way.

This film did, and still, evokes strong emotions. We would do well to remember the men who stormed those beaches. It is my considered opinion that those who fought for freedom in World War II, did indeed, "earn this..."

2. The Longest Day - Yes, we're still in Normandy in 1944. I have probably seen The Longest Day twenty times. Including the colorized version, which didn't bother me at all, I'm not a purist. And, as The WSO likes to say, "fun fact" - WWII was actually fought "in color." All wars are.

This movie has a huge cast of great actors, which added to my enjoyment of the film, but what I really liked about the movie was that it was based on the Cornelius Ryan book of the same name. It's not just the Americans at Normandy. The British, the Canadians, the French, and the Germans are represented as well.

A magnificent film which, I think, has to be on any list of great war movies. Seeing that American helmet on the beach at the beginning of the movie has always stayed with me. Always will I think.

3. Das Boot - Another film based upon a book, though this book was a novel written by a German war correspondent who went out on patrol with a U-Boat, Lothar-Günther Buchheim. I had read the novel well before the film came out. So when the movie came out, I couldn't pass it up.

This is a very accurate film which portrays the German U-Boat sailors extremely well. Seventy-five percent of whom did not survive the war, in fact, most of whom still lie in their boats on the bottom of the Atlantic.

For those who must know, Das Boot, translates to "The Boat," which anyone familiar with naval parlance would tell you is what a submarine is called. The term U-Boat (U-Boot auf Deutsch) is short for unterseeboot, literally "under sea boat." For what it's worth, I prefer the director's cut and I always watch the movie in German, my German is rusty enough that I need to turn the subtitles on but watching it in English is just a "no go" for me.

For me, the final scene where the U-Boat captain lies mortally wounded, watching his boat sink at it's pier, so many of the crew dead or dying in an air attack on their home base, is emotionally wrenching. It doesn't matter that these are men serving an evil cause, most of whom didn't think of it that way, they are still men who when called to serve, did so. At great cost.

To survive all the perils of a wartime patrol only to die upon reaching home port, describes very well the trials, tribulations, and eventual destruction of the German submarine fleet. It also drives home the ultimate futility of war.

4. Tora! Tora! Tora! - I tend to think of this film as being epic, which can be defined as "a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation." While it isn't a poem, it certainly narrates heroic deeds from folks who are now legendary, or should be.

While the lead up to the attack itself is interesting, and pretty well done in my estimation, it is all only prelude to that moment when the Japanese aircraft roll into their attack runs. The shock on the part of the Americans as they realize that this is the real thing. An armed enemy is attacking. The time for negotiations is over.

I can only image the thoughts and feelings of the men of Enterprise as they returned to Pearl to see the shattered remains of the battleships and the devastation inflicted by the Japanese. From what The WSO says, steaming into Pearl Harbor today, manning the rails and rendering honors as they passed the wreck of the Arizona, it's a hard thing to remember. A hard thing to think about.

This movie has that impact on me.

5. Fury - In World War II our armored units were at a severe disadvantage when facing the German panzers. While our tanks were easier to produce, maintain, and use, their tanks were better armored and better armed. The scene in this film where a platoon of Shermans face a single German Tiger tank illustrates that nicely.

Our Shermans could, and did, destroy Tigers (and Panthers, another tough opponent) but, as in the film, it usually took the Sherman having to get in close for it's weaker gun to be effective. Also, typically, a number of Shermans would be destroyed before the Tiger was.

But the guys who manned the Shermans were tough bastards, and the film shows that. The ending is a bit unbelievable to some. But, without spoiling the ending, the Waffen SS, who are "Fury's" final opponents, were rather infamous for attacking heedless of casualties and with ofttimes very little tactical finesse.

This is an awesome tank movie and, as I like to say, does for the WWII armored force what Saving Private Ryan did for the infantry, show the absolute horror of war for the men serving in those respective branches.

Another film that I left the theater feeling somewhat shaken by what I had just seen.

6. Glory - This film is, to me, an apt illustration of the experience of some black Americans during the Civil War. Many wanted to fight, many whites were terrified at the thought of arming black men.

The story of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts is a familiar one to me, having grown up in New England.

My great-great uncle Pliny was there at the final battle depicted in the film, the assault on Battery Wagner. So there's a personal connection as well.

A great film about men whose country treated them terribly, yet they still fought for her. This film stirs such emotions in me that it's hard to even write about it. Let's just say this...

Well done.

7. Patton - How could this film not be on my list? One of our country's most brilliant combat leaders while at the same time a most controversial figure in our nation's history. Great acting, lots of great action, and a superb soundtrack. Love the music.

George C. Scott does an excellent job in the lead role. Though truth be told, his voice is way too gravelly and low pitched, which is always somewhat jarring when watching actual footage of the real Patton speaking.

Still and all, an excellent film. The last lines of which always haunt me, "All glory is fleeting..."

8. City of Life and Death - Very few in the West are familiar with the events in China prior to our entry into the Second World War. This film depicts one particular atrocity committed by the Japanese, the Rape of Nanking. Nanking (now known as Nanjing) was the capital of the Republic of China in 1937.

Japanese troops seized the city after hard fighting and proceeded to act more like an ancient barbarian horde than a modern army. Buildings were destroyed, Chinese POWs executed out of hand, women brutalized and raped. Men, women, and children murdered without mercy.

This film (the version I saw was in Chinese and Japanese with English subtitles) depicts all of that. It's not a film for the faint of heart, the atrocities are depicted with brutal realism. This film goes a long way towards giving one an understanding of why the Japanese are still hated in many parts of Asia.

They have long memories over there. From this film, I could see why.

9. Defiance - An excellent film of resistance to the Nazis in World War II.

Many times people see the Jewish victims of the Nazis in World War II as being herded to their deaths placidly, like cattle. Of course, most film footage of those events was taken by Nazi cameramen who had a vested interest in showing the Jews as being less than human.

This film, based on a true story, shows the Bielski brothers and how they went from ordinary people to extraordinary heroes. The Bielski brothers were Polish Jews who fought back against the Nazis.

Very moving, well-written, and well acted. Daniel Craig (he's not just James Bond) and Liev Schreiber give powerful performances as the two older brothers.

Most excellent, well worth your time.

10. Joyeux Noël - As the title suggests (Merry Christmas in French) this film is set at Christmas. But this Christmas is in 1914 on the Western Front, where the armies of France, Germany, and Britain are all striving to destroy each other.

This film, like the previous one, is based on a true story. Despite the horrors of war, the men in the trenches, not yet completely brutalized by trench warfare, stop the war. They meet in "No Man's Land" to celebrate the birth of the Savior. This really happened. No, the generals were not happy about it. (When are generals ever happy?)

Back in the day when Blockbuster still existed, back when you could go to the video store and browse the various titles on offer. Back when you didn't have to know which movies you might want to see, The Nuke and I went to our local video emporium to select a couple of films to watch on a Saturday night. We had no specific films we wanted to see, just one of those "let's see what they have" kind of nights. (I miss that. A lot. One of the problems with online shopping is the inability to really browse, just wander the aisles only half paying attention until something strikes your fancy. One of the things I really dislike about these modern times. And why I still spend a lot of money at Barnes & Noble!)

We picked up one movie, a fairly recent release at the time whose title escapes me, yeah, not a very memorable film I guess. Then I saw the box for Joyeux Noël and brought it to The Nuke's attention. We both thought, "What the heck, let's watch it!" It was well-worth it. Sure, the movie was a little Hollywood-ish, perhaps a tad overblown, but the sentiment was superb. We both loved it. (I think The Missus Herself did as well, I can't recall The WSO's reaction. No doubt she enjoyed it, her tastes and mine are similar.)

If you can find this movie, especially at this time of year, watch it. It's worth your time.

So there you have it...

Not what you were expecting for my list of top ten war movies? I am a mixture of stubborn realist, hard core historian, little boy, and hopeless romantic. Sometimes that's reflected in my taste in movies, books, and music.

But there it is. What's in your top ten list of war movies?