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bear by san

March 2017



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twain & tesla

11:11 11/11

Jenna Mamina and Brian Gore cover John Gorka's arrangement of an anonymous poem.

“I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

“It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one and another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

“Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ day is not.

“So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

“What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

“And all music is.”

--Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut, 1973

Happy 86th birthday, Mr. Vonnegut, wherever you are.


We watched the live broadcast of the commemoration from the Cenotaph this morning.

Three of the last four veterans of WWI were all in attendance (Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone - 112, 110 and 108 years old respectively). Benedict Cumberbatch read Siegfried Sassoon's 'Aftermath'.

Very moving. It touches something so deep there aren't even words for it.

*Edited because, sadly, we weren't there and it sounded like we were.

Edited at 2008-11-11 04:20 pm (UTC)
...and I adore the coincidence that those three of the four survivors that we have can between them represent all three services: Army, Navy and Air Force. That's just excellent.

Tho' I'm still struggling to get my head around the notion that there are only four. Both my grandfathers fought all through WWI; granted I am no longer a kid, but somewhere inside I am still a young man, and that generation is still a part of my life.
and I adore the coincidence that those three of the four survivors that we have can between them represent all three services: Army, Navy and Air Force.

Yes :)

I know what you mean about it being inconceivable that there are only four left. We were talking about the memorial in town being defaced because it's hard to get across that it's about the people, not the war. I heard myself say, 'There's no connection because for many kids their great-grandparents barely remember the Second World War, never mind their parents or grandparents.'
Then I felt really old.

My great-grandmother lived until I was seventeen and she remembered Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. My early years were spent talking to someone who could tell me what life was like then. Shame I didn't think to ask the right questions *sigh*
Yup. That sense of loss, of broken connections, of stories not followed through: it's inescapable. My father's father, the one I knew well was born in 1892; as a child in rural Kent, he never saw a motor car. As a pensioner, he saw men walk on the moon. That kind of stretch. And he lived into his nineties, into my adulthood, and - yup, as you say. Never asked the right questions.
There is one left in the States, and I think four left in Canada. One in New Zealand, and a couple in Australia.

Germany and France I've no idea, but it can't be so many more than that.
None left in New Zealand I believe
It seems to be mostly personal footage of the parade on YouTube, but I did find these:

An interview with 112 year old Henry Allingham, intercut with footage.

Full BBC coverage here. If you want to skip to the ceremony itself, it starts at about 48 minutes. The 3 veterans about to lay their wreaths and so on starts at around 54 minutes.

I'm hoping that since it's given as a direct link you'll be able to get it. BBC iPlayer is only available in the UK, for some reason.
You're very welcome :)

We've got to pass this stuff on.
A pal in an eljay writing group made me this icon the other day, which inspires me when I'm trying to write, despite my miserable fucktitude--and I hope that even in his brilliance (because it makes me feel better), he really did stare at many a blank page, as well.

I really need to read that book again, I think.
I have this one for much the same reason.

He once described his writing process as slow and painstaking, just working to create jokes and then thread them together into a narrative.

So I would guess he did, yeah.
Amen to that.
Thanks for being the first and only person whose blog I read to say something which actually gets the point of Armistice Day rather than railing against anything with a hint of military history attached. It was never about war, it was always about peace and loss.

Also, thank you for the lovely song.
Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ day is not

That is sad. We have Remembrance Day which is still sacred and still very solemn. Just about everyone buys and wears a red poppy.

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

I wish it weren't necessary, but unfortunately, we're still losing men and women in conflict. We still need to remember the human cost of war.

We don't always manage to care for the survivors very well either. PTSD is a big problem. :(


In Canada, Rememberence Day 11/11 is important. Canadians show their support weeks in advance by purchasing little red plastic poppies and wearing them over their heart or on their lapel.

Lest we forget.
I was raised on Pogo, and so backward-looking enough to not appreciate any of these newfangled names for Armistice Day. One day, when I finally get my cane, I fully intend to thump it every November.

Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ day is not.

I love Mr. Vonnegut, but he was wrong about that.
Speaking as a Vet, I have to disagree. Today isn't about me, or any other vet, or it oughtn't be (so long as they live there will be the minor resification/personification of those who fought in The Great War, and that's fine).

It's about peace, and love, and death and fear, and shock and horror.

When it was made about "Veterans" that changed it, and they sing our praises, for something which matters, but wasn't important. Memorial Day is just fine with me.
With all due respect, as the relative and friend of many vets, what today is about is peace, love, death, fear, shock, horror, and veterans. It is important as Armistice Day, as Remembrance Day, and as Veterans Day.
Jimmy's Gone to Flanders, his fiddle lies upon his bed
It was his father's fiddle, though he's aye been shy to practise it
Jimmy's gone to Flanders, his fishing creel's a tangle
From the night he and Willie fished the Earn though there was no moon

Jimmy's gone to Flanders, he's spoilt the old dog rotten,
With scraps below the table, though I told him time and time again,
Jimmy's gone to Flanders, his football boots are sodden
For they've no been near dubbing since he bought them new frae Sandy Broon

When Jimmy's home from Flanders he'll be shamed to clean thae football boots
And sort out all thon tangle, for the Earn I hear is fishing good
When Jimmy's home from Flanders we'll be sat down by the table
And we'll coax his to his fiddle: "Jimmy give us the Bonawe Highlanders."
(Jim Malcolm)
I was just singing this in my head!
Thank you.
Oh ... so that's what they were doing shooting off guns in downtown Evanston just after I got off the 11 am train. I knew it was a Veterans Day thing, but didn't quite understand the timing.
Further to Mr Vonnegut (whom I met once, yay!):

over here, the nearest Sunday is Remembrance Day; 11/11 is still Armistice Day, at least to those of us with any direct connection to that generation. Tho' it's the stroke of eleven o'clock that we commemorate, not the eleventh minute after: I think his memory may have played him false there.
Well... wait now, I kind of want Armistice Day back now! How might one go about this?
Oddly enough, it's my younger son's birthday, as well. Too bad he's not old enough to appreciate Vonnegut yet.