Friday, August 31, 2018

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the critics.”

Sarge’s recent post about listening to critics inspired me a bit.  Specifically to his question about why he listens to them, it’s because we think they’ll save us time, money, or frustration.  However, critics, even more so than mainstream media reps, write with all sorts of biases.  I tend to think critics can do a decent job on a review of a major drama or suspense film, but anything else, they’re pretty much useless.

Critics abound.  “Everyone’s a critic” as the saying goes, and that’s even more true today.  These days there are really no shortage of critics because of the low barrier to entry that is the internet.  It’s not just for film, but every aspect of life today through social media, online news stories with online comments, fashion, music, even YouTube videos.  Even comics on the web offer a reader the ability to say something about that day’s strip.  Who slams on a comic strip for pete's sake?  A lot of folks actually.

Blogging has opened up the critic avenue even more, and the Chant is no exception.  We’ve written about movies on here countless times.  I tend to hold these reviews with a little higher regard than mainstream or more established ones however.  Why?  Keep reading.

In my New Year’s Resolution post last January, I wrote that one of my resolutions was to stop reading the comments.  I have for the most part, but sometimes they’re extremely entertaining.  Tons of trolls out there, just creating hate and discontent and riling folks up, but there’s also a lot of idiots.  You know the saying that starts with “better to be thought a fool”?  Through the keyboard, these idiots get to open their mouths and remove all doubt as to their 1. position on a subject or 2. their supreme lack of intellect.   

The mainstream movie critics are also overwhelmingly male- upwards of 90%, and so the female point of view is almost completely unrepresented.  Movie critics like to think highly of themselves and their “contribution” to art, but they are of no more superior intellect than any other movie goer or reviewer.  They might be very versed in film, having watching thousands of movies, but again, that doesn’t make them smarter than you.  Sure, some are educated in film or journalism, but that doesn’t necessarily help them with what I find to be the biggest problem with critics- They aren’t you!  These critics don’t share your tastes, interests, background, life experiences, etc. all of which help you form your own opinions on an article, painting, film, cartoon, TV show, etc.  Chanters?  We have something in common, and I know some of you well.  Others I at least know how you think due to what has been written by you here before.  I'm interested in your opinions.  Others?  It doesn't matter.

Burge Media

I tend to believe that those snooty critics don’t really care much about comedies and action movies though, both of which I love.  They prefer to review and lend their “skill” to more sophisticated works of art like serious dramas.  That’s why Marvel movies, Transformers, Armageddon and Bruce Almighty were routinely ignored or lambasted, but rake in the dough that we are happy to pay.  They are entertaining, even if they aren't a critics cup of tea (with pinkie out).
Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place then come down and shoot the survivors.    Earnest Hemingway
The internet has allowed a more diverse voice to critics however, women, the young, Joe the Plumber, geniuses and idiots, all are probably more represented now than before the internet.  They allow us mainstream people to filter out the mainstream critic and hear more useful reviews.  

When my wife and I spent a couple days at a B&B doing wine tastings, some of the best advice about the quality of a wine was this:  It doesn’t matter the points it’s been given, the awards it's received, or the hints and notes of this flavor or that, if you like it, it’s a good wine.  That’s more helpful for a wine you’ve already drank than some critic's commentary to help you find one, but the sentiment is the same.  Don’t worry what they think.

My apologies to Shakespeare for that title, but no, I don't wish them ill will.  No critic is perfect, but they can be useful.  Use them as you wish, but again, don’t let them stop you. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

I Got the Music In Me

A number of titles for this post ran through my head before I settled on what you see above:
  • When I was young...
  • In the days of my youth...
  • I've got another confession to make...
  • usw*
In junior high school I had delusions aspirations of being a rock musician. Purchased a guitar and everything. (Well - another confession - Ma & Pa Sarge bought the guitar for me. The paper route really didn't bring in enough filthy lucre to finance my rock and roll fantasy. Which would also have been a nice post title.)

It was a six string acoustic, very nice, very "inexpensive," in fact it still inhabits a closet somewhere at Chez Sarge. Provided of course The Missus Herself hasn't jettisoned it. She will throw things out which appear to have no useful function. I can't tell you how many times I've woken up next to the trash cans out by the curb.


The guitar itself was in pretty sad shape last time I looked, poor thing has far too many years on it. Sat at the ancestral homestead for many a year while I manned the ramparts of Empire, no one was playing it if I recall, maybe my brother The Musician played it on and off, but he's really picky about his instruments. (Once upon a time Ma & Pa Sarge gave him a mandolin for Christmas, he remarked that the instrument was poorly made and cheap. Ma & Pa Sarge were a bit pissed, the mandolin was returned to the store. When inquiring what gift he could expect instead of the mandolin, I seem to recall Pa Sarge mentioning "Not killing you for upsetting your mother." He may remember it differently.)


So yeah, two of my buddies and I decided to form a band. One of them would be the drummer, as he actually played the drums and had his own kit this seemed very logical. But I was pissed at him anyway. For back in the day, might have been elementary school, but was probably the first year of junior high (what some call "middle school" in these high falutin' modern times), it was decided that everyone would learn to play a musical instrument.

"Everyone should write down what instrument they want to learn." decreed the music teacher, a guy with a bow tie as I recall, not that I'm judging anyone mind you.

Of course, all of the boys wrote down "drums." Well, except this one kid who actually wrote down "clarinet." Which was the choice of most of the girls, when they weren't choosing flute of course. Again, not judging, but back then that's what most girls wanted to play. Well, there may have been one girl who wanted to play the saxophone. She was pretty cool.

At any rate, the bow-tie-clad music man decreed that not all of us boys could play the drums. When we inquired as to "why the hell not?" the real reason for all of this was revealed. It wasn't an attempt to teach we chilluns to play an instrument, nope, not at all. It was to fill the band, the high school band, eventually, after we'd learned to play. So only one drummer was needed, and the aforementioned buddy of mine was the lucky one. I so wanted to play the drums. (I think my Dad actually gave thanks to the Deity when I announced that I would not be playing the drums any time soon. I now understand why.)

To finish this particular thread, I was "voluntold" to play the trumpet. Said instruments could be purchased at a reasonable discount through a deal the school had with the local musical emporium. I was a bit excited at getting a nice shiny new trumpet. Alas, it was not to be. Seems the neighbors across the street had an old cornet (similar to a trumpet, not a cavalry subaltern if that's what you were thinking) and why yes the young pre-Sarge could indeed borrow it for his musical endeavors.

I was not very good on the cornet, probably would have been terrible on the trumpet as well. Even Dobbs sounded better than me...


My "prowess" on the cornet might have explained Pa Sarge's reluctance to spend money on a guitar. But Ma Sarge, being an incredible singer and rather musically inclined, insisted. So guitar in hand, I learned a few chords, and we formed a "band."

As my buddy Phil knew more chords, could pick a tune out, and had a nicer guitar, he got to be the lead guitarist and singer. While I didn't suck at back up vocals, letting me sing lead, or by myself would have probably killed our little band aborning. Lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, and a drummer, t'would be all we needed. Two things went wrong...

Jerry, our putative drummer, wasn't allowed to bring his drums to our practices, bloody things cost a pretty penny dontcha know? Why he can just drum on a sofa cushion or the like. So with that, and the lack of a bassist, our percussion section was a trifle weak.

Then there was Phil's love affair with The Monkees. While I liked them well enough, they weren't The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or any of the half-a-hundred other bands out there. The Monkees, for those who don't know, were "crafted" by Hollywood. (To cash in on the success of The Beatles' two films is how I recall it.) From my understanding, not a one could play an instrument when they starting filming that show. Sure they learned, but to quote the film, they weren't bona fide!

We went back and forth on the whole Monkees/Beatles thing for weeks, all the while slowly learning songs. Mostly Monkees with a couple of Beatles tunes as a sop to moi. But we didn't sound right, what with Jerry's thumping on cushions, my four or five chords, and Phil's eight or nine chords and the occasional slow riff.

That's when Phil suggested that I should take up the bass guitar.

"Uh Phil, I don't have a bass."

"No problem, just play the bass bits on your six string."

Which I got pretty good at, but still, we didn't sound right. Meanwhile I was agitating on the home front for a bass guitar purchase to be subsidized by Ma & Pa Sarge. "We can't afford that!" I was finally told one day, even though I knew where I could get a bass and a small amp for pennies, so to speak. (More pennies than I had but much cheaper than brand new.)

I was told, "We'll think about it."

Only to come home the next day to see Pa Sarge's brand new eight track player with a whole bunch of eight track tapes to play upon it. Ma Sarge figured I'd be miffed, and she was right, but I realized that after all, it was Pa Sarge's money, not mine.

The band died shortly thereafter. Phil and I had a spat over the whole bass guitar thing, seems that Ma & Pa Sarge were kind of willing to foot the bill for a school field trip to Germany with the language club, for to speak the Deutsch with real live Germans. Phil suggested that I forego the field trip and spend the money on the bass. Ma & Pa Sarge weren't amenable to that.

As it turns out, I didn't go to Germany either. But now we could listen to Pa Sarge's eight track tapes in the car AND the house. Yup, he bought another one. Again, his money, not mine. But the band was a no go.

One of my first purchases when I was working in the factory before joining the Air Force was a bass guitar. But didn't really have time to play it, factory jobs take up more time than school, and most of the guys I knew who played were already in bands with very good bass players. I was simply "okay."

"But pre-Sarge, can you sing?"

"Uh yeah, we'll call you."

Anyhoo, I went into the Air Force, did a lot of jamming with a few guys on Okinawa, playing the bass (and not singing). Got fairly decent at it. Played off and on for years, mostly to records. Just to keep my hand in.

A few years back, I bought a six-string electric and a bass, got a good deal. Started playing regularly, then life happened and didn't pick up the guitars for a good ten years. Until the junior granddaughter walked into my computer room, saw the guitars and announced, "Rock and Roll!" (She's almost three.) Which prompted the senior granddaughter to ask if I could play.

"Well, I used to..."

Looking at me, very wisely and seriously (you know how seven year old girls can be) and said, "You should start again. Seriously Grampa, start again."

So I plan to. (God forbid I'm also looking at electric drum kits, just in case ya know.)

Like I said, I got the music in me...

Said song is damned near my motto these days...

Ain't got no trouble in my life,
No foolish dream to make me cry.
I'm never frightened or worried,
I know I'll always get by.
I heat up (I heat up)
I cool down (I cool down)
When something gets in my way I go round it.
Don't let life get me down
Gonna take life the way that I found it.

Yup, I got the music in me.

* usw = und so weiter, literally "and so on," German equivalent of et cetera. You knew that I would throw German at ya, didntcha?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sagaen Fortsetter til Slutten.

I will now translate from the Sagas of the Eldest Elder Snorri… What? Ha. On 08-25-2018, OldAFSarge commented on my “The Arrowing Experience” post: “We seem to be turning into an episodic, long-running, Norse saga sort of blog, at least you and I seem to indulge ourselves in these multi-part stories.

Sagas… The Snorris, Elder and Younger, wrote down many of the verbal sagas of the Norse and Icelandic people, codifying on parchment the pre-Christian stories that had been told around the night fires, on the longboats, in the longhouses of the settlements and farms. Many stories revolved around the epic continuing struggle of the Aesir and Vanir against the forces of the Djolk (the Dark) and their forces. Though many epic battles occurred, some of these Saga deal with the more, ah, human aspects of the Norse pantheon. Their practical jokes against each other, their forays amongst their enemy which resulted in copious amounts of ale and mead being quaffed, and scads of food being eaten. In some respects, these ‘barbarian’ gods were the most ‘human’ of all the ancient religions, as they ‘hung around’ with the mortals of Midgard. 

As I said above, some of the most memorable Sagas revolved around contests not of arms, but of the wit. One hero or god (small ‘g’) with his or her compatriots, would enter into poetic battles, or even into swapping puns and jokes or insults.

Thus, this is the epic story of our light-hearted hero, Herren Bønner, and his fellows, against the Djolkalfar and Dvuerger of den etiske håndtering av dyr. (You ain’t the only one who can use google-translate, OAFSarge…)

Dawn breaks wind… Beans, no, just… no.

Dawn breaks upon the noble field of contest at the Festival i Landsbyen Griser. Bored or curious readers will remember the setup of the Avlukke av Bueskyting. The Krigere were armed, the arrows were cleaned and ready, and the field was prepared. Everyone was eagerly anticipating the arrival of theBønder and… (Really, Beans? Come on man, snap out of it.)

So some time in the mid 2000’s, we at the Archery Booth(e) had finished our setup and preparations, and were now awaiting the hordes of fair-goers to come attempt to shoot the fighters in the face (and win a soda.) We warriors were warming up, playing Chop and other Stupid Squire Games (seriously, that's what we called all the juvenile frat game-stuff we did,) and the Booth(e) Minions had all the arrows checked, cleaned and ready to go. Bows were strung (one doesn’t leave regular bows strung, it’s a no-no) when suddenly we heard strange sounds coming from our (the warriors) right, at the main road. We heard chanting, and calling, and shouting. We heard the sounds of unwashed idiots. We heard… PETA. Not 'People Eating Tasty Animals,' nope. The other PETA, those jerks that break into fur farms and release all the non-native fur animals into the wild.. highway (no, seriously, has happened several times, martins and ermines and foxes all turned into road pizza. Jerks, jerks of the highest order of jerks.)

Your hero, Beans, thought they were there to protest people shooting at him, as it was the second weekend and Bean’s feet and clavicles hurt, along with his right moob (don’t ask, just understand Beans was somewhat rotundish at the time and we’ll go with that(somewhat more rotundish now.)) But, no. No rescue for Beans. Instead, the foreign PITAs (yes, they were bussed in by PETA Corporate, from down low in the state) were there to protest the animal acts. 

Animal acts? Yes, lots of animal acts at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire. There’s a ‘Birds of Prey’ show full of owls, falcons and hawks. There are the professional stage jousters who use pine closet rods for lances (because they blow up pretty)(about as scripted as pro-wrestling)(and,yes, there are real pro jousters, who use hardwood lances and really joust.) There are magic shows that have animals. There’s a guy with a bunny rabbit for to be petted for remittance. Sometimes someone will bring a goat or two for milking demos. There’re two camels to be ridden. Not to mention all the animals in various tasty preparations. And…. An elephant, also to be ridden.

The previous year, PETA and other animal ‘rights’ organizations had forced the City to make sure the animals had a visit by veterinarians before the show, above the inspections by the State of Florida Agricultural Inspectors. All the animals not being consumed passed with flying colors.  All the animals being consumed passed in other ways.

This particular year the PITAs and other idiots once again forced the City to get re-inspected above the State’s inspectors on the first weekend of the fair(e). And the result was… all the animals not being consumed passed with flying colors. (And there was much rejoicing. Yay.) The inspecting vet(from the local Cow College (vet school)) actually said, loudly to all, that the Elephant was probably more healthy than most people at the Fair(e) and that She was perfectly happy and frisky and good to go for at least another 30 years or more, and could the owner mind taking him (the vet) in and pamper him like he (the handler) pampered the pachyderm. (Seriously. I was there, along with lots others, we laughed, owner laughed, animal rights activists slunk away with their dreadlocks dragging on the ground.)

So, this particular Saturday morn, of the second week of the fair(e), instead of waving at and capering and making faces at all the people driving past us to go to the parking lot and the front entry gate, me and my mates stood at the fence (along with some cops and some fire-rescue people) and… stared at the protestors? Activists? Idiots? With their combination of hand-lettered signs and pre-printed materials, and their oh-so-clever chants, they presented a most un-fulsome opponent to the horrors of using animals. 

Did I say they were friggin idiots? No? Well, these friggin idiots were dressed for SOUTH FLORIDA, not NORTH FLORIDA, and since it was the first weekend of February, the wind was blowing and the temp was perfect for wearing armor and padding, which meant it was about 45-50 degrees and misting. Now, the fairgrounds are on the south side of the airport, in a long field surrounded by tall trees, and the wind will come whipping from the west-northwest and just rippppps through there. Which it was doing that day.  So frozen friggin idiots, who don't eat no meat.  (Maybe I should have fixed lamb.)

Here's the map of the Fair(e).
That dogleg heading south into 'the forest' is where the Archery Booth(e) is.
The road goes through a gate, and on the otherside is an access road that serves the parking lot.
Thus, the field of combat is shown, evil protestors outside the gate, Beans and his merry men and women inside.

Cold, windy, wet, it was a perfect day for wearing a great cloak. Especially if one is male and there are lots of chilly ladies who need to be warmed up. Seriously. Wanna become popular at a Ren-Faire or SCA event during the winter? Get a great cloak, one with lots of room. As long as you’re not too pervy and you don’t stink, you’ll be able to avail yourself of lots of frozen friendly females.

Look at all that fabric to wrap around some poor, cold ladies...
the helm is a barbute, by the way, 15th Century Italian helm, nice, very nice.
and finger gauntlets (each finger armored,) again nice, very nice.

Oh, sorry, got distracted… Lots of good memories, a man and his cloak… Ah, good times. Especially since I’m a major exotherm. Seriously. I am a walking, talking heater. One lady I know had permission from my wife to stick her nitrogen-cooled claws down my shirt front or over my kidneys anytime she wanted. Do you know what it feels like to have ice crystals shoot through your kidneys? Thanks, Chabi. I still feel the cold… Brrrr.

Oh, sorry, got distracted… again.

Wet, cold, windy weather, blowing over the dreadlocked and unwashed protestors. Seriously. What is it about the ‘Au Natural’ people that makes them just so unappealing? Is it the moldy dreadlocks (with, I am sure, a plague’s worth of creepy crawly insects, maybe a dead bird or two)? Is it the lack of water used on their bodies for at least a month? Or their clothes that are so filthy that they’ve practically become sentient? Or as Agent Smith said it so succinctly in “The Matrix,” “I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can't stand it any longer. It's the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it.” The unwashed, odorific body stench of non-meat eating human(ish) bottom dwellers. Bleh. Every time I get near one I feel like huffing Hydrogen Peroxide and bathing in Clorox.

Did I mention they were unwashed, unkempt smelly troglodytes? Do you get the feeling that these cretins may have, ah, stepped in it?

The protestors kinda looked like this, mixed with a bucket of pure stupid.
These guys probably smelled better.

Oh, it gets better.

So the Rasta People (oh, yeah, they were also protesting, at the Medieval Faire, for legalization of pot, seriously, at a Family Friendly Event) start uncoordinatedly making random noises like “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, the animals gotta go!” and other such protest-drivel left over from the 1960’s. Seriously, would like to go back in time and hold the ‘writer’ of that particular line of stupidity under water until I felt better, like, maybe half an hour or more. Other stupid chants and statements were made. 

The Ire of Beans was rising. Not quite at rant-level, but Serious Ire-ness was close to being reached.

Then they picked on the pachyderm. Saying such stupid things like “Free The Elephant!” Okay, where? This is Florida, we’re in the middle of a Pine Forest surrounded by Oak Hammock Swamp. WTHeck?

This is what the wilds look like around me.
Great place for an elephant, eh?

And, “Send the Elephant back to Africa!” Wut? The Grey One was born in a circus, literally. She’s been with her handler all her life, and most of his. In These United States. Of America. So she (the elephant) would have no earthly clue what to do in Africa. Especially since she had… SMALL EARS.

Seriously. African Elephants are very tall and have BIG EARS, mainly because it’s AFRICA HOT in AFRICA. BIG AFRICAN ELEPHANT EARS because AFRICA and HOT.

Look at them big EARS!
This is an African Elephant.

Indian elephants, are shorter and have much smaller ears, practically dwarfish in comparison because they’re forest dwellers and smaller ears fit better in the forest and India is India hot but not AFRICA HOT which is pretty darned hotter than India hot, plus India has a lot more free water lying around for elephants to wallow in and cool off than the savannahs and deserts of Africa which are AFRICA HOT!!!

Teeny, tiny EARS!
This is an Indian Elephant, which the idiots wanted to send to AFRICA!

And to make matters worse, these fidjits (fracking idiots) were so starved for essential nutrients, proteins, fats and vitamins that these examples of pristine health could not hack standing and chanting for longer than 15 minutes at a time. They did not have the super vegan powers as seen in “Scott Pilgrim vs The World.” (A rather most excellent movie that is totally good, great music, witty repartee and don’t watch it on cable with commercials because all the best parts will be missing. Rent it, stream it or do whatever you kids these days do to watch movies. It’s worth it. Those losers attempting to be failures of protestors, not worth it. Movie Vegans-Powerful because of Vegan Pure. Real Vegans-Stinky unwashed lackwitted fools with their eyes on the sides of their heads like all good prey species.)

What the special people outside of the fence thought they were.
gif from:
"Scott Pilgrim vs The World" distributed by Universal Pictures
I think it's a great movie.  That may not be the best recommendation, come to think.

And that, my dear friends and readers, tossed Squire Beans into full Godzilla mode (seriously, Chabi (frozen lady hands lady) said “Oh, Carp, Beans is going Full Godzilla!” And I did.

Welling up from deep in my fertile and twisted brain came forth “The Tirade.” Quotes, capitalizations, ominous thunderclaps (or that could have been the sounds of the jousting field,) surrounding people drawing back as the powers of Good poured into my body like The Quickening from “Highlander.”

I… Vented. Not vented, like one does under their breath when your boss just leaves your cubicle after telling you that you need to come in on Saturday… No. This was like the throaty roars of the 5 mighty Rocketdyne F-1 main engines of the Saturn V rocket lighting off.

Beans, ranting!
Yes, those are 5, count them 5 mighty Rocketdyne F-1 engines, 1.1 million thrust pounds each
of solid RANT!
We could make these today, better, cheaper, more powerful...
But, nooooo, NASA suuucks!!!  Stupid RS-25s.

To their pathetic chants of “Meat is Murder” came my very loud “Meat is Murder, TASTY TASTY MURDER!” and “MEAT, It’s What’s for Dinner!” and “They can take our land, but they can’t take our BAAAAAACOOOOOOOON!” (while doing the whole Mel Gibson interpretation of William Wallace.

To their mewling of “Send the Elephant back to Africa..” came my throaty roar of “YES, Send the INDIAN ELEPHANT back to Africa so it can be laughed at because of it's LITTLE EARS!” and “ONLY PETA would be so STUPID as to not know the difference between AFRICAN AND INDIAN ELEPHANTS!

As to their wish to send the camels away to Africa, well, “One camel was imported from Australia, THE OTHER IS A BACTRIAN!” “You’re Mother was a Bactrian and your Father smells of Elderberry!” “One Hump Good, Two Humps BAD!

In response to, well, their essence, “I’d Rather Smell Animal Poop than Animal Activists Anyday.

They started whining. 

You Know if you’d Just Eat Meat you’d be able to stand for longer than 15 minutes at a time.



And then imagine Beans, in armor, strutting around like Tyrannosaurus Rex himself in a ‘Natural Foods’ store, snarling. (Which I do, when I go to the natural foods stores in town to pick up stuff for Mrs. Andrew. Usually after eating a hamburger or BBQ. Food stench dripping from my mouth, fast, rapid motions as I stalk down the aisle in search of my prey. It’s one of my ‘quirks.’) And then having the said T-Rex mutter loudly as to the need to wash the unwashed prey in the river but how to do it with the little T-Rex arms.

Artist reconstruction of Beans going full T-Rex in the rain.
Yeah, those weak arms, only able to lift around 500lbs each...
photo still from "Jurassic Park" distributed by Universal Pictures

They really didn't like it when I squealed, like a pig.  No, really, one of my 'talents' is I can scream like a pig screaming bloody-pig-murder.  Loud, loud pig squealing.  (Hey, ya gotta be ready just in case you're canoeing down a river and someone says "Boy, I'm gonna make you squeal like a pig.") And I would do it after sneaking around behind them.  Ever have a pig squeal in your ear?  Ever been so malnourished you let a 270lb obnoxious guy in ARMOR sneak up to you?  Seriously?  My feet and ankles by themselves make more noise than a metal can full of nails bouncing down stairs.  Served them right.  (Squeeeeeeeeel, squ-squ-squ-SQUEEEEEEL!) (No, I won't attach a sound file, find one yourself.  Pigs are noisy and best served as ham or bacon.)

They protested to the cops that were standing at the gate. The cops were friends of mine, and were having to rotate out as they were laughing so much I think at least one almost peed himself. 

The audience loved it. I actually had a whole herd of munchkin Velociraptors stalking around behind my T-Rex several times.  Goofy Beans-Rex was popular with the kiddies.

I admonished the children and parents to eat their meat, else they would turn into those people, and they wouldn’t get their pudding, either.

(Meanwhile, the money was flowing in like water into a sub equipped with a screen door.)

All morning long, the Harangue continued. Visiting dignitaries from the Hague came by and declared what I was doing as “Crimes against Humanity” and since they were from the Hague, I channeled my inner Vlad and recreated a Wallachian Forest (no, not really, but one can dream…)

The Faire opened at 10 am. The protesters started whittling away by 11am.  Losers.  By 3pm there were 4 stalwarts remaining.

I took pity on them and brought over burgers.

They were not amused. One of the cops actually said, while laughing, that that was just too far.

The Moldylocks brigade left soon after.


For those who were concerned, no burgers were wasted, more like, um, waisted.  (Hey, A really good Rant-Heckle uses up vast amounts of energy.)

The next day, Sunday, Superbowl Sunday came, and no protestors. Fair(e) goers actually came up and asked me where they were? Answers ranged from “Dunno” to “Cowards” to “Well, we had a BBQ last night…(Burp)” and then I went back to more appropriate heckling.

The Elephant handler gave me a free ride on the Elephant. Ha.  In my armor.  Ha.  Went full Raj on the Fair(e).  HA!  (Just for Murphy, there were no integral ladder switches, nor integral ladders, so no buttons to push.  Mounting is by external staircase only, sorry.)

Beans. For. The. Win!

Next year came, no protestors. But the Fair(e)-goers remembered.

And so did Beans.

Elephant. I have seen the Elephant… And ridden her.

Oh, the title?  Sagaen fortsetter til slutten. - roughly translates as "The Saga continues to the End."  What?  Did you think I was talking dirty?  Silly people.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Why Do I Listen to Critics?

When I first saw the trailer for Hostiles, I was hooked, I really wanted to go see it. Then I read a review.

Silly me, I believed the review. "Politically correct," they said. "Liberal trash," they said.

I should have gone with my gut.

I watched it on Netflix over the weekend.

Moved and impressed I was.

It helps when one is a big fan of some of the cast. I've always liked Christian Bale, since I first saw him (as a kid) in Empire of the Sun. Rosamund Pike I've liked since Reacher. Not all of their work mind you, but enough to appreciate their work.

I didn't mention Wes Studi, one of my all time favorite actors. Dances With Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, and a short lived mini-series Skywalkers, with Adam Beach (who is also in this film) perhaps more famous for Code Talkers, and another favorite actor of mine.

The story here isn't a happy one, it's gritty and it rings true. And it's got some great acting in it. At least I thought so.

See it.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Senator McCain

Captain John Sidney McCain III, U.S.Navy (retired)
29 Aug 1936 - 25 Aug 2018
In my book, five plus years in the Hanoi Hilton and an honorable career in the United States Navy makes up for any number of perceived sins.

Lieutenant McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965.
I could not let the passing of this man go unremarked. I didn't agree with him on many things, but he served his country in time of war. Many can't say they served, let alone in wartime, let alone as a prisoner of one of the most vicious regimes on the planet. For that he has my respect.

Godspeed, Cap'n. See you on the other side.

Comment honestly, but judiciously, if you get my drift...

A Dog's Breakfast*

Well, as you may have heard, this monument is now out of date.  Another name needs to be added and adding it will be especially appropriate as the monument is on Lackland AFB,  home of Basic Training for the Air Force. 

The newest recipient was enlisted.   

(OK, quibble if you want, Joint Base Lackland. I think the Navy also does Basic there, as there are a lot of very young kids in Blue BDU's and no visible rank insignia there).


In any case, the President saw fit to present the Medal of Honor to TSgt  John A. Chapman.  The awards ceremony was conducted last Wednesday, August 22nd.  Unfortunately, MSgt Chapman was unable to attend having been called before a higher authority.  His widow received the Medal in his honor.

MSgt Chapman initially received the Air Force Cross for the actions he took on March 4 2002 in an action variously named "The Battle of Robert's Ridge" or "The Battle of Takur Gar".  It's called "Robert's Ridge" after the first casualty of the battle a Navy Seal named Neil C. Roberts.  Takur Gar was the name of the mountain in Afghanistan where it was fought.

I'm going to refer you to this source, as there's too much going on to adequately synopsize other than this operation was indeed a "Dog's Breakfast.  The statement I find especially damning (if true, this is afterall Wikipedia) is:
"The SEALs were not heavily involved in the Operation up to this point but the TF11 commander bluntly ordered their deployment as well as changing the immediate command in an ongoing operation, possibly so that the SEALs could gain combat experience."
Emphasis mine.

How many times in history has changing the chain of command at the last minute caused the ensuing engagement to result in calamity?

In any case, the video of the engagement has been released.  (They had a Predator overhead, the propeller of which is in the Air Force Chief of Staff's office.)

I've said before, the difference in the Air Force Cross and the Medal of Honor is either the writing talent of the award recommendation writer or the political climate.  The latter may very well have been the case at the time. 

Improved analysis of the Predator film MSgt, having been assumed KIA and left behind on the evacuation of the survivors, appears to have regained consciousness and resumed fighting killing an additional two enemy fighters before being struck by an RPG and finally being killed by a machine gun.

 However, the process to fix the situation started in January 2016 with SecDef Ash Carter's directive to review all Air Force Cross, Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross recipients from Iraq and Afghanistan for possible upgrade  to the Medal of Honor.

IMHO, MSgt Chapman fully deserves the upgrade. 

Rest in Peace, Warrior!

MSgt Chapman's Citation **:

Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as an Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller, attached to a Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002.
During insertion, the team’s helicopter was ambushed causing a teammate to fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants below. Sergeant Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted onto the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own. Without regard for his own safety, Sergeant Chapman immediately engaged, moving in the direction of the closest enemy position despite coming under heavy fire from multiple directions.
He fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants.
With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself once again to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sergeant Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire.Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice.
By his heroic actions and extraordinary valor, sacrificing his life for the lives of his teammates, Technical Sergeant Chapman upheld the highest traditions of military service and reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

*"Something or someone that looks extremely untidy, or something that is very badly done". source

**Yes, The Congressional Medal of Honor Society has already updated its website to include MSgt Chapman.  The official USAF site has not (a/o 8/26/18).  I wonder if the National Museum of the US Air Force will update their display since they're now behind by two.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Red Sky in Morning

Captain Pyotr Sergeivich Yershov was trembling nearly uncontrollably, the pain from his leg was nearly overwhelming him, but for the sake of what was left of his crew, he had to keep it together, at least until the expected Soviet counterattack rolled the fascists back to the East Prussian border.

Yershov and the crew of his KV-2 assault howitzer had been holding their own nicely, until just before sun up. Up until then, they had destroyed four German self-propelled anti-tank guns, one of their big 88 mm dual purpose guns, a lot of infantry and at least three Panzer 35s, the little Czech-built tanks that their opponent seemed to have a lot of.

Just after sundown the day before, an attack by a group of what had to have been German combat engineers had also been driven off, but the cost had been high.

Sergeant Major Tikhonov had reported in shortly after the last Germans had been seen to, he was badly wounded, bleeding profusely from a wound in his side, under his left armpit. At the time Yershov was still deafened by the explosive charges which had gone off against the side of their vehicle, crippling it and killing his driver, Private Pavel Ivanovich Zhukov.

"Tovarishch Kapitan! Beg to report, the Germans, they have..."

Catching himself, Starshiy Serzhant Tikhonov gripped the side of the tank, he could barely stand.

"Ivan Petrovich, I order you back to an aid station, your wound looks bad." Truth be told, Yershov wondered how the tough old sergeant was still on his feet at all.

"Yes, yes, but I must tell you, the Germans are not done with us yet. We can hear vehicles maneuvering out there in the dark, tanks and motorized guns most likely. Their infantry is quiet for the moment, we gave them quite a bloody nose. But..."

The sergeant major gasped and dropped to one knee. Yershov climbed down from his turret and told off the man with Tikhonov to bring a stretcher.

"Don't worry about all that, Ivan Petrovich..."

"Nyet, listen to me sir, one of my men says he saw another of their big 88s being prepared. It was being towed, we don't know where to, it..."

With a sigh, the sergeant major fell onto Yershov. Just then the stretcher showed up.

"Is he?" one of the bearers asked.

"He's alive. Barely, get him to the rear, there was an aid station about a half mile back. Move out!"

As the stretcher bearers carried the unconscious sergeant major to the rear, Yershov looked around. The dead German had been dumped unceremoniously into the ditch alongside the road, but the satchel charges which he and his mate had planted had done enough.

The track was badly damaged, and they had no spare links to repair it, but the worst part was that a small piece of the tank's interior, just on the other side of where the charges went off, had spalled off and killed his driver. Young Zhukov's throat had been nicked, a trifling wound, had it not cut his carotid artery.

They had desperately tried to save the young private, but in the dark and confined space of the vehicle's interior, and with Zhukov's thrashing, he had bled out. The KV's interior now stank of blood and the contents of Zhukov's bowels. Private Vasiliev has volunteered to drag Zhukov out of the tank and bury him, but the continuing crisscrossing of tracer fire from the German and Russian lines made it too dangerous.

Though the firing had subsided before Tikhonov had made his report, Yershov had noticed that the tracers coming from the enemy weren't only to his front, the Germans were making their way along either flank. He assumed that by mid-day, they would be surrounded.

Unless the commander of their corps, Major General Alexey Vasilievich Kurkin, counterattacked, they were doomed.

About an hour before sunrise, a single German tank had managed to make it's way behind Yershov's tank. The Germans waited, by starlight the German tank commander could just make out the thin ribbon of road which the massive Soviet tank was blocking. In the shadows of the night, he imagined that he could see the big KV. But not well enough to open fire and kill it.

Yershov was up in his commander's cupola, keeping a look out while the rest of the crew managed to nap, fitfully, but better than nothing. Yershov himself had not slept in three days, no four, he thought. The Germans had stormed across the border on the 22nd, today was the 25th, at least he thought it was.

To the east, Yershov could see the first harbingers of dawn, but he was uneasy, an old nursery rhyme perhaps, something about "red sky in morning" and warnings, he couldn't quite remember. But the eastern horizon was as red as blood.

Feldwebel Jürgen Witzleben was staring intently through his commander's sight. Prodding his gunner with his foot he asked, "Do you see it Thomas? Big as a whale, stands out like a whore in church doesn't it?"

Gefreiter Thomas Benfeldt chuckled at his tank commander's characterization of the big KV, but yes, with the early dawn light, he could see the enemy tank in his gunsight. He looked to his loader, who nodded.

"Put one up his ass, Thomas."

Stretching, Yershov was knocked to his seat by the shock of a German anti-tank round penetrating the engine compartment of his vehicle which shook the tank. Though small at 47 millimeters, the round traveled at high speed and was fired from fairly short range.

It passed through the thin armor at the rear of the KV, missing all of the vital engine components and, more importantly, completely missing the fuel system, then entered the crew compartment where it disemboweled the assistant loader Private Arkady Petrovich Rogov, then continued on, nearly spent, to decapitate the bow gunner, Private Mikhail Gennadyevich Vasiliev.

But the German round had also peeled off a long piece of steel from the ammunition stowage and driven it lengthwise into Yershov's leg.

"Traverse left, Valentin Alexandrovich, the bastard is behind us!" Yershov shouted as he put his eye to his commander's periscope. As the turret moved to point the gun over the back deck, he saw a flash.

"Panzergranate geladen!" screamed the loader of Panzer 214.

"Feuer!!" bellowed the commander of Panzer 214.

"Reload, reload, reload, hurry up you bastard!" Gefreiter Thomas Benfeldt urged his loader, he knew that they had not killed the big Soviet tank, he could see the KV's turret turning in their direction. It was a race against time, who would fire first?

Benfeldt at that point, realized that he had wet himself. Scheiße, these bastards won't let me forget this I'll bet.

He was wrong.

The Panzer 35(t)'s second round had banged off the side of the KV's turret, leaving a trail of sparks as it ricocheted off into the sky. The German's third, and last, round hit the road about ten meters behind the KV then ricocheted off the road and into the tank's engine compartment where it burrowed into the tank's engine block.

Feldwebel Jürgen Witzleben was tossed like a child's toy from the turret of his tank as the 152 millimeter high explosive shell impacted the glacis in front of the driver. The explosion ripped the turret of the small tank from the hull and tossed it behind the tank. The other three members of his crew had died instantly. He marveled that he was still alive, though he couldn't catch his breath as he lay some 25 meters away from his tank.

He heard the sharp bark of an 88 just before he died of shock. At the very least they had bought time for the big gun to move into position. He would be awarded a posthumous Iron Cross, Second Class.

As the first 88 round tore most of the left side of his tank away, Yershov could see German infantry opening fire from his front. As Vasiliev's machine gun had been destroyed by the round which had killed him, they had nothing but the tank's main gun and it's coaxial machine gun left to defend themselves. Then he remembered Valentin Alexandrovich's PPD-34, which his sergeant kept nearby all the time. The men joked that he even slept with it, they called it "Smirnov's Baby."

PPD-34, Soviet Submachine Gun, Predecessor of the PPSh-41
"Valentin Alexandrovich, hand me Baby. You have the main gun, I will try to keep the fascists to our front busy while you deal with those behind us."

Yershov popped his hatch and sprayed a magazine at the German landsers making their way incautiously up the road, they assumed that the KV was dead. Bad assumption. As Yershov reloaded, he could see at least two Germans down, and not moving, a third was on his hands and knees, vomiting.

Another 88 round slammed into the KV, penetrating the turret this time and mortally wounding Captain Pyotr Sergeivich Yershov. But Sergeant Smirnov had managed to drop a 152 round on top of the German 88, disabling it and killing most of its crew. He heard a sharp intake of breath from his captain as he and Corporal Shukov traversed the turret to the front, to bring the coaxial machine gun to bear. The main gun had been disabled by the 88's last shot.

"Captain, keep firing until we can crank the turret around! Captain?"

Smirnov turned to see his commander sitting placidly in his commander's seat. The PPD was a mangled pile of junk, as was his captain's chest. Shrapnel from the gun breech had exploded back into Yershov as the 88 round had hit it, then ricocheted up through the turret roof, leaving a gaping hole in the armor.

"Kill them all Valentin Alexandrovich," Yershov managed to say, before he coughed up a gout of blood, and died.

"Covering fire!" bellowed the German infantry captain as he led his maneuver element to the left of the big KV, he wanted to keep away from the Soviet's coaxial machine gun. As at least three German MG-34s opened up on the Soviet tank, ineffective in damaging the tank, other than scratching the paint, the noise of the rounds hitting the steel should distract the crew long enough for...

German MG-34 Light Machine Gun, Predecessor of the MG-42
Hauptmann Christoph von Waldfeucht saw the Soviet MG "twitch" in their direction. The grenade he was holding was fused and tossed in the tank's direction in an instant. Again, no hope of killing, but a distraction was needed.

Shrapnel from the hastily thrown German grenade, which had exploded nearly perfectly over the hole in the turret roof, sliced down and killed Shukov instantly. Shrapnel had also torn into Smirnov's upper thigh and upper arm. The wound in the upper arm hurt, the one in the thigh concerned him. He felt warm down there, too warm.

All of that had flashed through his mind in an instant as he triggered the tank's coaxial Degtyaryov machine gun, missing the German who had thrown the grenade, but hitting the two men behind him.

Just as the bolt slid home onto an empty breech.

Waldfeucht gestured to his men to climb up on the beast. The young officer surmised that the Russki's were reloading, now was the time. Fusing two grenades, his sergeant held them for an instant, then dropped them into the tank's hatch. Diving to the ground, he thought he had seen the Russian tank commander, just sitting there, as if he hadn't a care in the world.

"Blyad'!" Smirnov muttered as he saw two grenades drop into his dead captain's lap. Realizing that he was a dead man anyway, he racked the bolt back on the machine gun and began to fire. A moment later, both grenades detonated.

Hauptmann von Waldfeucht took a long drink from his canteen, then turned to his sergeant, "Anyone survive that mess?"

Oberfeldwebel Heinz Martinsohn shook his head as he watched the members of his squad removing the dead Russians from the KV. "Nein, Herr Hauptmann, all of them dead at their stations, it's a mess in there."

"Very well, dig those graves quickly, we need to be moving on." He saw Oberst Raus's Kübelwagen rolling towards him, pulling over from the long column of trucks heading towards Leningrad, now that this Soviet tank had been killed.

Raus jumped from his vehicle even before it had come to a complete stop, "Christoph, how many did you lose?"

"Seventeen men dead in my company alone, twenty-three wounded, five seriously. Counting the four Panzerjägers this beast killed, the two 88s destroyed, the three Panzer 35(t)s and the combat engineers that were killed last night, too many Herr Oberst. Too many."

"What are you doing now? We don't have time for this, the rear echelon will take care of burials."

"Sir, we found six Russians inside that tank. Everyone of them died at his post. It took us two days to deal with them. Brave men. My guys suggested a proper burial was in order, these men fought bravely and well. We should honor that. These are not subhumans, these are men, they were damned good men. We could use some like them."

Colonel Raus stared briefly at the young captain, "I had no idea you were such an idealist Christoph. While I agree with your sentiments, keep them to yourself. The Führer doesn't hold to your point of view. Nor do the Feldpolizei or the Gestapo."

"Idealist," the young captain spit into the dirt to his right, "I'm a soldier, these men were soldiers. If I fall, I expect the same courtesy I extend to these men. Regardless of the color of their uniforms."

Colonel Raus clapped the younger officer on the shoulder, "I like you Captain, but I fear for your safety. Stay alive, Germany needs you." With that Raus jumped back into his car and headed north.

Christoph von Waldfeucht would not see Erhard Raus again until 1945. Waldfeucht was badly wounded in the battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy pocket, where he commanded an infantry battalion as a major, and wasn't returned to duty until late in 1945. Assigned to the XI SS Panzer Korps as a Lieutenant Colonel, which puzzled him until he learned that Erhard Raus now commanded that ragtag unit. Raus had asked for him by name.

Raus and Waldfeucht both survived the war.

Author's Note:

Many of the men mentioned in this account actually existed. There was a marker at the grave of the KV-2's crew with two names, Yershov, P.E., Smirnov, V.A., one set of initials, Sh., N.A., and mentioning three unknown warriors.

Colonel Raus, Lieutenant Wengeroth, and Lieutenant Gebhard were actually there at Raseiniai, I got their names from an order of battle for the German 6th Panzer Division which was the main unit engaged with that Russian tank.

Captain von Waldfeucht is a product of my imagination, you'll note that he has the German version of my first name, Waldfeucht is where we lived in Germany.

This story of the KV-2 at one of the earliest battles in Operation Barbarossa, the name for the German invasion plan to conquer the Soviet Union in 1941, really intrigued me. Brave men doing a thankless job for no better reason than in defense of their native land.

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