Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Groundbreaking on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center occurred today. This massive, 35,000-sq.-ft. museum will be built right next to the Lincoln Memorial.

It's the wrong idea. Dead wrong.

Is every monument to have a mini-museum next to it now? Why not a WWII museum right next to the World War II National Memorial? Why not a Korean War Museum right next to the Korean War Veterans' Memorial? An FDR museum right next to the FDR Memorial? Hey, we need a Washington Museum built around the Washington Monument, and there's all that empty space right behind the Lincoln Memorial for a fine Abraham Lincoln Museum.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center says it is not a museum, it's an "education center" designed to 1) Bring the Vietnam War alive to those who never lived through it; 2) Be a place to connect names to faces; 3) Be a place where vets can heal.

These are specious rationales.  None of them are unique to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, and none prevent a memorial from being built next to other memorials and monuments. So why is one being built here?  The first rationale is specious, because if people didn't live through WWI or WWII or the FDR years or Lincoln's assassination, why not build museums next to those memorials, too? The second rationale is a slap in the face to the Wall: It is an accusation that mere names on a black granite wall are "not enough" (a criticism hurled at Maya Lin's fantastic memorial since its inception), and it denies the power of the Wall to heal and elicit memory. The third rationale is yet another dig at the Wall, as well as a time-bound rationale. Once there are no more Vietnam War vets, does this meam the "education center" has lost its purpose and should be torn down??  Why build something "just"for Vietnam War vets?  You mean this isn't a place for all American people??

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center is a terrible mistake which will turn into a white elephant scarring the Lincoln Memorial grounds and opening the floodgates to peculiar, unnecessary, and ill-conceived projects everywhere.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SunTrust has a mobile app. Only, it won't download. And when it does, it doesn't work.

It's been like this for months, and SunTrust doesn't seem to want to fix it.

What a fucking awful bank!!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm waking up
To ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in
The chemicals
I'm breaking in, shaping up, checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse

I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my system blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
I'm radioactive, radioactive
I'm radioactive, radioactive

Ah, holiday memories. And holiday films! Who can forget Rudolph's first flight? Or Jimmy Stewart running down Main Street?

But one of my favorite Christmas movie moments comes in the made-for-TV movie, "Prancer."

It's a silly little made-for-television movie about a little girl whose parents are divorcing. She finds an injured reindeer, and believes it is Santa's lost minion, Prancer.

My favorite part of the movie?

Prancer has followed the girl to school. The handsome sheriff tries to capture the reindeer. He bursts out of a classroom door, gun raised, surprising Prancer.

Prancer backs up into the corner of the hallway... And about two gallons of reindeer pellets gush out of Prancer's ass.

Ah, Christmas memories!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The ideal mate helps me make the Thanksgiving meal. Notice how he checks the oven to be sure it's hot enough.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My parents thought that "the holidays" meant "put the kids in front of the TV so we can ignore them." To me, "the holidays" have always meant movies on TV: We watched The Sound of Music at Christmas, The Ten Commandments at Easter, and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang at Thanksgiving.

To this day, I spend my holidays mostly watching movies.

Sadly, there are zilch movies about Thanksgiving. Can you believe that? The Thanksgiving holiday has the most-traveled day of the year (the day before Thanksgiving). More food is sold during Thanksgiving than Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Independence Day. The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year. Thanksgiving is the traditional kick-off of the American year-end holiday season.

But nada on film.

Oh, I take that back. There are five movies...kind of. Only one film (Plymouth Adventure) is about Pilgrims, and it's amazingly non-historical. One film is about two guys trying to get home for Thanksgiving (Planes, Trains and Automobiles), but not about the holiday per se. One (The Ice Storm) occurs during the days just before and after the Thanksgiving holiday but is not about the holiday per se. One starts on Thanksgiving (Miracle on 34th Street), but is really about Christmas. One has just one scene set during Thanksgiving (Holiday Inn).


But two of these are two of my favorite films of all time.

Thanksgiving is coming!!!!!!!!! So enjoy this awesome Daffy Duck cartoon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Know what totally sucks?

That I can't find an image of a nude guy wearing a Pilgrim hat.
Americans are coming up on the Thanksgiving Holiday again.

Some background:

The first autmn feast observance was made by Pilgrim settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621. Of the original 102 immigrants, only 56 had survived. But the harvest of 1621 was bountiful, so Governor William Bradford ordered a celebration. More than 90 Wampanoag Indians joined them, for without the Wampanoag's help the colonists would not have survived. The three-day celebration included venison, duck, goose, fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams and plums.

No observance was made in 1622. After a drought broke in 1623, another "day of thanksgiving" was observed in Massachusetts.

In 1676, the town of Charleston, Mass., observed a day of thanksgiving on June 29 in order to celebrate the town's founding. No Indians attended; the celebration was meant partly to be in recognition of the colonists' recent victory over the "heathen natives".

The next Thanksgiving celebration was not held until 1777. A December "day of thanksgiving" was observed throughout all 13 English colonies in the New World to observe the American victory over the British at Saratoga. Congress and General George Washington then proclaimed annual "thanksgiving day" celebrations in December until 1783 (with the exception of 1782).

In 1789, President George Washington ordered a national day of thanksgiving in December to honor the Pilgrim settlers. But there was widespread disagreement over the holiday. Some felt the focus on the Pilgrims (at the expense of other settlements) was inappropriate; Thomas Jefferson argued that a "Day of Thanksgiving" was undignified. Washington proclaimed a "thanksgiving day" in 1795; President John Adams did so again in 1798 and 1799. President James Madison declared another in 1812 to celebrate the end of war, and declared two in 1815.

But the concept of a national day of thanks did not die. A number of American women kept up a small but steady drumbeat of support for a holiday through articles and essays in various publications. Several states held state-level "Thanksgiving Day" holidays. But many Southern states refused to to hold a holiday out of religious bigotry against Puritanism.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be "Thanksgiving Day." On November 19, Lincoln consecrated the national battelfield and cemetery at Gettysburg (delivering his famous "Gettysburg Address"). Deeply moved by what he had seen and heard, Lincoln ordered a national holiday to be observed.

The actual date of Thanksgiving moved a couple of times over the next 70 years.

In 1924, Macy's department store began holding an annual parade in New York City to celebrate Thanksgiving and "officially welcome" Santa Claus to the city. The first balloon appeared in 1927; it was "Felix the Cat." (The parade was suspended from 1942 to 1944 due to World War II.)

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the next-to-last Thursday in November to create a longer Christmas shopping season. But Roosevelt's decision was not mandatory, and half the states continued to celebrate the holiday on the last Thursday in November. In 1941, Congress established the fourth Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving holiday. (Sometimes this is the last Thursday and sometimes the second-to-last Thursday in November; Congress essentially "split the difference").

Because Americans are so poor at history, here is a brief run-down of settlements in the New World for those of you who want to know when the Pilgrims (and others!) got here.

- - - - - - -

1000 A.D. - Leif Ericson, a Viking, explores the east coast of North America and sights Newfoundland. He establishes a short-lived settlement there.

1492 – The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus makes the first of four voyages to the New World on behalf of Spain.  He sets foot on plenty of Caribbean islands, but never North America.

1497 - John Cabot of England explores the Atlantic coast of Canada and claims the area for the United Kingdom.

1499 – The Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci explores the northeast coast of South America on behalf of Spain.

1507 - The name "America" is first used in a geography book.

1513 - Ponce de Leon of Spain lands in Florida.

1519 - Hernando Cortes conquers the Aztec empire in the Andes.

1519-1522 – A Portugese, Ferdinand Magellan, becomes the first person to sail around the world.

1524 - Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian exploring on behalf of France, lands on the Carolina coast. He then sails north and discovers the Hudson River. He continues northward, entering Narragansett Bay and landing on Nova Scotia.

1541 - Hernando de Soto of Spain, wandering throughout the panhandle of Florida and along the Gulf Coast, discovers the Mississippi River.

1565 - The first permanent European colony in North America is founded at St. Augustine (Florida) by the Spanish.

1584 – English captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe explore Roanoke Island, Virginia, and claim the territory for England.

1585 – Sir Richard Grenville lands the first English colony in America at Roanoke Island, Virginia. The colony is abandoned in 1586 after the colonists engage in war with the Native Americans.

1587 – Grenville brings a second group of settlers to Roanoke. The first English child in the New World, Virginia Dare, is born in Roanoke on August 18. Grenville sails for home, and war with Spain breaks out. Grenville sells his interest in the colony to a group of investors. When the British return to Roanoke in 1590, the colony is found to have been mysteriously abandoned with no sign of any graves or dead.

1607 – Jamestown, Virginia, is founded by the London Company. By the end of the year, starvation and disease reduce the original 105 settlers to just 32 survivors. Capt. John Smith is captured by Native American Chief Powhatan and saved from death by the chief's daughter, Pocahontas.

1609 - The Dutch East India Company sponsors a voyage of exploration to North America by Henry Hudson. In September, he sails up the Hudson River to Albany.

1613 - A Dutch trading post is set up on lower Manhattan island.

1619 - The first session of the first legislative assembly in America occurs as the Virginia House of Burgesses convenes in Jamestown. It consists of 22 burgesses (delegates) representing 11 plantations.

1619 - Twenty Africans are brought by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, marking the beginning of slavery in America.

1620 – On November 9, the Mayflower lands at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with 101 colonists. The colonists, known as Pilgrims, had broken from the Church of England and settled in 1607 in the Netherlands (which had a more secure tradition of religious tolerance). In 1620, the Pilgrims emigrated to America. On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed by the 41 adult male Pilgrims, establishing a government with majority rule. The Mayflower Compact set the precedent for other colonies as they established governments in the New World.

1624 - Thirty families of Dutch colonists, sponsored by the Dutch West India Company, settle in what is now New York City.

1626 - Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonist, buys Manhattan island from Native Americans for 60 guilders (about $24) and names the island New Amsterdam.

1630 - In March, John Winthrop and more than 900 Puritan colonists land in Massachusetts Bay. In September, Boston is established and named the seat of government for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1633 - The first town government in the colonies is organized in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

1634 – More than 200 Catholic settlers, fleeing a rising tide of Puritan intolerance in England, arrive in Maryland and settle the town of Baltimore.

1635 – The Boston Latin School is established as the first public school in America.

1636 - In June, Roger Williams founds the colony of Rhode Island and the town of Providence. Williams had been banished from Puritan Massachusetts for calling for religious tolerance and enhanced political freedom, including separation of church and state. Providence becomes a haven for many other colonists fleeing religious intolerance.

1636 - Harvard College is founded.

1638 - The first printing press in North America is set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1652 - Rhode Island declares slavery illegal.

1663 - King Charles II establishes the colony of Carolina and grants the territory to eight loyal supporters.

1664 - The Dutch New Netherlands colony becomes English New York after Gov. Peter Stuyvesant surrenders to the British following a naval blockade.

1664 - Maryland passes a law making lifelong servitude for black slaves mandatory. Similar laws are later passed in New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Virginia.

1673 - Dutch military forces retake New York from the British.

1674 - The Treaty of Westminster ends hostilities between the English and Dutch and returns Dutch colonies in America to the English.

1675-1676 - King Philip's War erupts in New England between colonists and Native Americans. King Philip (the colonist's nickname for Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoags) engages in bloody war up and down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts and in the Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies. More than 600 English colonists and 3,000 Native Americans die. King Phillip is killed on August 12, 1676, ending Native American independence in New England forever.

1681 - Pennsylvania is founded by William Penn, a Quaker. Penn receives a Royal charter with a large land grant from King Charles II.

1682 – The French explorer La Salle explores the lower Mississippi Valley region and claims it for France, naming the area Louisiana for King Louis XIV.

1682 - A large wave of immigrants arrives in Pennsylvania from Germany. They settle the area around Germantown.

1685 - Protestants in France lose their guarantee of religious freedom as King Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes. Many to leave for America and found the town of New Orleans.

1688 - Quakers in Pennsylvania issue a formal protest against slavery in America.

1690 - The beginning of King William's War as hostilities in Europe between the French and English spill over in the New World. In February, Schenectady, N.Y., is burned by the French with the aid of Native American allies.

1692 - In May, witchcraft hysteria grips the village of Salem, Massachusetts. Between June and September, 150 persons are accused and 20 persons -- including 14 women -- are executed. By October, the hysteria subsides and the remaining prisoners are released.

1693 - The College of William and Mary is founded in Williamsburg, Virginia.

1697 - The Massachusetts general court expresses official repentance regarding the actions of its judges during the witchcraft hysteria of 1692. Jurors sign a statement of regret and compensation is offered to families of those wrongly accused. In September, King William's War ends as the French and English sign the Treaty of Ryswick.

1700 - The Anglo population in the English colonies in America reaches 250,000.
More Miracle on 34th Street Movie Trivia Quiz!

1. The film opens with Kris Kringle walking down a street in New York City. He sees a store employee putting a model of Santa and his reindeer in a store window. Kringle says that the model and display are wrong, telling him that Donner's antlers many points?
a. Three.
b. Four.
c. Five.
d. Six.

2. The thing which breaks the ice between Doris Walker and Fred Gailey is Thanksgiving dinner. Does the film actually show them eating?
a. Yes.
b. No.
c. No, but the dinner conversation is quoted at length later.
d. Yes, but only in a montage.

3. When Mr. Shellhammer is sitting in his office bemoaning the fact that his Santa Claus is sending customers to other stores, his secretary tells him he's got how many other women waiting to talk to him?
a. Six.
b. Eight.
c. Thirty.
d. Just two more.

4. Fred Gailey asks Susan Walker what her father thinks of fairy tales. Susan says her father is:
a. Divorced from her mother and living in France.
b. Dead.
c. No one knows where he is.
d. Working for Gimbel's.

5. Kris Kringle talks with Alfred, the chubby teenage janitor, before going out on the floor of Macy's for the first time. Alfred tells him, "There's a lot of bad -isms floating around, but the worst is..." What?
a. Communism.
b. Capitalism.
c. Commercialism.
d. Selfishness-ism.

6. Fred Gailey takes Susan to see Santa Claus at Macy's, despite her mother's wishes. Susan says Kris Kringle is the best Santa Claus she's ever seen. Why?
a. Because his beard doesn't have wires going over his ears.
b. Because his suit is the shiniest.
c. Because his padding is real.
d. Because he has the best ho-ho-ho.

7. Doris Walker tries to explain to Susan that Santa Claus isn't real, that Kris is just a nice old man. When Kris Kringle arrives, she shoos Susan out and asks her secretary for Kringle's employee card. Does Doris Walker know Kringle's last name?
a. Yes, it's Kringle.
b. Yes, it's Claus.
c. No, she mistakenly calls him Smith.
d. No, she'd doesn't and is surprised to learn it is Kringle.

8. Kris Kringle's employee card lists his current residence. What's listed on the card?
a. North Pole.
b. Macy's Department Store.
c. Brooks Memorial Home for the Aged.
d. Jewish Hospital and Home.

9. When Mr. Macy gathers his senior staff to talk over the new "send customers to other stores" policy, he points to evidence of its success by citing....?
a. The fury over at Gimbel's.
b. The flood of customers into the store.
c. Telegrams from the mayor's wife and governor's wife.
d. A letter from the President.

10. After the meeting in Mr. Macy's office, Doris Walker tells Mr. Shellhammer that she fired Kris Kringle because he thinks he's Santa Claus. Shellhammer replies that it doesn't matter if he thinks he's....what?
a. The Easter Bunny.
b. Uncle Sam.
c. President Washington.
d. Mr. Macy.

11. After learning that Kris Kringle may be crazy, Mr. Shellhammer suggest that "Maybe he's only a little crazy, like painters, or composers, or..." Or what?
a. Mr. Macy.
b. President Roosevelt.
c. Mad scientists.
d. Those men in Washington.

12. While in Doris Walker's office, Mr. Sawyer and Dr. Pierce argue about whether Kris Kringle is insane. Sawyer asserts that Kringle's "entire manner" is aggressive. As evidence, he cites what?
a. Kris shouted at him.
b. Stomped out of the office.
c. Carries a cane.
d. Never takes off his Santa Claus outfit.

13. Doris Walker worries that if a policeman asks Kris Kringle his name, "Clang! Clang! Bellevue!" Someone suggests that Kris stay with a store employee in the city. Who makes this suggestion?
a. Dr. Pierce.
b. Mr. Shellhammer.
c. Kris Kringle.
d. Susan.

14. Doris Walker points out that Mr. Shellhammer has an empty room where Kris Kringle could stay. Shellhammer says it's fine with him, but his wife might disagree. He comes up with a scheme: "We always have martinis before dinner. I'll make them _________-strength tonight. I'll bet after a couple of them, she'll be more receptive!" How strong does he intend to make them?
a. Double-strength.
b. Triple-strength.
c. Volcano-strength.
d. "Man-strength".

15. Kris Kringle tries to get Susan Walker to have an imagination again. He tells her: "How would you like to make snowballs in the summertime? Or drive a big bus right down Fifth Avenue? How would you like to have a ship all to yourself that makes daily trips to China and Australia? How would you like to be the Statue of Liberty in the morning, and in the afternoon..." What?
a. Be a monkey.
b. Be a zookeeper.
c. Swim through the ocean with the dolphins.
d. Fly south with a flock of geese.

EXTRA CREDIT! Doris Walker asks Kris Kringle to see Mr. Sawyer first thing in the morning before reporting for work, to take a test. Kringle laughs, and says he's taken dozens of psychiatric tests. He then ridicules the tests by saying, "Who was vice president under John Quincy Adams? Daniel D. Tompkins -- I'll bet your Mr. Sawyer doesn't know that!" Is Kringle correct????

Mirabilu mirabilis! Correct answers are behind this cut and in bold.

While growing up, Thanksgiving at my house was always stressful. My parents snarled and fought with one another, my brother J. and I snarled and fought with one another, and my brother and I snarled and fought with my parents. My father was a brutal, vicious, physically abusive person. His selfishness knew no boundaries. If he wanted quiet and you made the slightest noise, here came the fist. If he wanted dinner at 4 PM, it better be done right on time -- or out came the screams, the punching, the verbal abuse. My mother was like a wet cat around him: Hissing, arching, angry, spitting, howling. He didn't dare approach her, so he turned on anyone he could. She was the same: Interfere with her in any way, and the claws slashed. Her way was far more emotionally and verbally abusive, but it was not less damaging.

My mother did not cook often, and when she did her cooking was bland and mediocre. She had a Betty Crocker cookbook, but I don't think she used it except as a prop. So although we got a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the like on Thanksgiving, it was a mediocre meal made by someone who never practiced as a cook.

I, frankly, don't remember Thanksgiving Days much. They were never memorable. They all seem just one huge mash of anger, fear, and hatred. I seem to have always slept in very late on Thanksgiving, as a way of avoiding the day as long as possible. Usually, my father would break down my bedroom down, screaming, pulling the covers off, slapping at me to get out of bed. The question "Why?" always elicited more slaps, more anger.

Thanksgiving was a day of avoidance. Avoid the family by making the shower last as long as possible. Avoid the family by taking as long as possible to get dressed. Avoid the family by taking as long as possible to eat a bowl of cereal. Avoid the family by taking as long as possible to do whatever chores needed to be done (shoveling the walk, or raking leaves, or cleaning dog shit out of the back yard, or chopping wood, or whatever). Avoid the family by watching TV in the basement (or, if they were in the basement, in the living room). Avoid the family by spending as much time in the bathroom as possible. (Yeah, sure, mostly masturbating. I was a teenager, for chrissake!)

The most blessedly quiet, content times on Thanksgiving were during the grocery store runs. My mother or father would invariably discover that they had forgotten to buy butter, or buy evaporated milk for the pumpkin pie (or that they'd bought condensed milk!), or something. I'd always volunteer to go to the store to get it. Alone, in the car, was peace. An over-crowded grocery store with only one clerk meant peace. I always delayed my return home as long as possible, and it didn't matter if I was ruining dinner or not. (If you don't want it ruined, you should have bought the right ingredients, dipwads.) I'd peruse the magazines, I'd chat with people I'd only barely know, I'd scour the parking lot for "just the perfect parking space" (even if it were empty, or full). I'd drive slowly, letting every stop-light turn red. Anything -- anything to prevent going back home.

The hour or so before eating was the least stressful at home, mostly because it meant my mother was super-busy with food. My dad was the official turkey-carver and gravy-maker, so he was busy too. I always breathed a sigh of relief, because it meant the day was almost over.

Dinner itself was a rushed affair. No conversation, no laughing, no noise. You stayed quiet at the dinner table, and rushed through things. You said, "It's great mom", even if it tasted like shit, because if you didn't there'd be hell to pay. If my dad snarled about eating like hungry pigs, you mumbled that it was because it was so good. (A compliment to mom meant that he couldn't call you a fucking liar and start striking you, because then it meant her food sucked. And the angry, wet cat would come out -- claws extended, all four limbs aimed at his face.)

The danger was that my brother J. couldn't handle any chewing noises or he'd start screaming and punching, so dinner was a tightrope: Chew as fast as you could, mouth purposefully clenched shut, and hope he wouldn't throw a fit. If he did start screaming (and I do mean screaming -- at the top of his lungs), then you knew war was coming. You had to scream back, push back. Then the fight would begin. And within seconds, my father (who sat to my right) would begin pulling, punching, screaming. My mother (who sat to J.'s left) would lunge across the table to try to stop things. ("Can't we have a nice dinner just for once?!?!")

The fight might last only five or ten minutes, but it was always traumatic to me. I don't know why. Dinner would end with food strewn everyone (at least the dog had a good meal), everyone bruised and clawed and scratched and hot and angry. J. liked to not only punch, and punch as hard as he could, but also claw with his fingernails. I'd usually have some ragged cuts on my face or left arm. My dad punched, too, which meant bad bruises on my right side. (Even in his 20s, my brother J. would attempt to start fights with me at holiday meals. The last time he did so, we were at a great-uncle's home in Tacoma, Washington. My youngest brother was in the National Guard, and about to head off to Iraq during the Gulf War. In front of a room full of kids aged five to 12, J. began screaming, hissing, howling, and punching at me because he could hear me chew. I said, "What're you gonna do? Start a fight in front of these little kids?" He whipped around. Little children were open-mouthed, horrified at him. Quivering with rage, he controlled himself. I chewed with my mouth open, making the most disgusting noises, for another half-hour. He's never done that since.)

After dinner, my brother would skulk in his room, door closed. My parents would sit in the living room, arguing, drinking bad wine (mom) and bad beer (dad), blaming one another for their pig-children. My youngest brother would watch TV in silence.

When I was not yet able to drive, Thanksgiving meant usually going to a neighbor's house to hang out or to drive with my dad to the store. Once I could drive, I'd light out in the car afterward -- just driving around town. Needing to be anywhere but there. Needing to be away from the constant hatred, constant attacks, constant trauma, constant drama. Maybe I'd come home after a few hours and stay, but usually I went out again. "I'm going to a friend's house" was the best excuse (ignoring the demand that I provide this friend's name).

* * * * *

College in Seattle was too far away to return home for Thanksgiving. It meant hanging around school, ordering pizza, hanging out near Pike Place, and wondering what the Japanese students were talking about as groups of 20 made noodles and soup and fried rice in the tiny dorm kitchen. Seattle is cold and went in November, and a lonely town when it's wet like that. Everyone is inside, and the city is grey and silent. You can hear your own footsteps, no matter how much it rains.

One Thanksgiving in college, I felt so alone that I drove down to Tacoma and walked around for four or five hours near the Tacoma Dome, Pacific Avenue, and the pedestrian mall. I stumbled into the Pink Elephant Car Wash, and the nearby Almond Roca factory down there. I got a huge can of the stuff, then came back to my dorm room. I took a hot shower in my clothes, got back to my dorm room (with agog Asian students looking at me as if I had grown antennae), stripped, turned the heat up high, and chowed down on noodles, almond roca, and vegetables while watching Hello, Dolly! on KCPQ-TV.

It was one of the most peaceful, contented Thanksgivings I have ever had.

* * *

I've since learned to be a good (if not great) cook. I have made full-fledged, massive-meal, every-dish-but-mashed-turnips Thanksgiving meals. I've spent the day with the family of a boyfriend, or spent it entertaining friends, or spent it alone. But looking back, I find that many of these Thanksgivings have been difficult in one way or another. I have friends who say, "Every Thanksgiving I have is terrific. Friends, family, cooking, football, shopping, movies." I marvel at that.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In honor of Thanksgiving:
Tom Turk and Daffy

"Naw, even more obviouser..."

"SIR! Do you mean to insinuate that I'd hide your d-d-darn old t-t-turkey??!?"

"And with ch-ch-ch-chestnut dressing, too."
"No, no I won't! They can't make me! I'm no stool pigeon! I'm not - ...Cranbery sauce?"
"Yeah, and w-w-w-with mashed potatoes and green peas."
"Mashed potatoes and green peas? *gulp* No, no, they can't sweat it outta me! I won't be a stool pigeon! I won't! I won't be a s--...! And candied yams?"
"Uh-huh. And candied yams."
"The yams did it! The yams did it! The yams did ittttt!"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We're almost to Thanksgiving, and unfortunately this year I have to work Thanksgiving week.  Since Miracle on 34th Street (Fox, 1947) is my favorite Thanksgiving motion picture, here's a little trivia quiz for anyone who is interested.

1. The title of the film refers to 34th Street in New York City. But why?
a. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade goes from 1st Street to 34th Street.
b. Judge Henry X. Harper's courtroom -- where Kris Kringle is found not insane -- is on 34th Street.
c. Macy's flagship department store was on 34th Street.
d. The house which Kringle finds for Fred and Doris is on 34th Street.

2. The Santa Claus initially hired for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is drunk. He justifies his drinking with what rationale?
a. A man's gotta do something to keep warm.
b. Those reindeer make me nervous; this is just a little courage.
c. This? This is just hot tea.
d. I really wanted coffee, with a little cream.

3. Doris Walker is in charge of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the film. When Mr. Shellhammer offers to give her a ride on his motorcycle and take her back to the store, what's her reply?
a. She'd rather walk and enjoy the air.
b. She's going home to take a bath, and sleep until next Thanksgiving.
c. She brought her own car.
d. There's no room in the sidecar, so she decides to go home.

4. When Fred Gailey and Susan Walker watch the parade, Susan comments that the giant baseball player balloon used to be something else last year. What was he?
a. A clown.
b. A Pilgrim.
c. A football player.
d. Mr. Macy.

5. Fred Gailey offers Doris Walker coffee when she comes over to his apartment to pick up Susan. Doris says she'd love a cup. But how many sips of coffee does she actually drink?
a. One.
b. Two.
c. Four.
d. Drains the cup.

6. Susan and Fred scheme to get Fred invited to Thanksgiving dinner at the Walker's. The scheme works (sort of), and Doris invites Fred to dinner. What time was dinner?
a. Two o'clock.
b. Three o'clock.
c. Four o'clock.
d. Five o'clock.

7. Before he goes out onto the floor of the toy department for the first time, Kris Kringle is told by Mr. Shellhammer that he should push certain toys that the store is overstocked on. He gives Kris a list of the toys. Alfred, the chubby teenaged janitor, tells Kris to do what with the list?
a. Hold onto it, they dock ya if you don't have the list.
b. Put it your pocket, and tell Mrs. Walker about it.
c. Ignore it.
d. Throw it on the floor (he's tired of just sweeping up dust).

8. During Kris Kringle's first day as Santa Claus at Macy's, a little boy asks for a certain toy for Christmas. What does he ask for?
a. A fire engine.
b. A real, regulation football helmet.
c. He can't remember.
d. A doll.

9. The mother of the little boy in Question #7, above, is played by famous character actress:
a. Thelma Ritter.
b. Mary Wickes.
c. Mercedes McCambridge.
d. HA!  Trick question!  She's a total unknown who is never credited.

10. Kris Kringle directs the mother in Questions #7 and #8, above, to what other department store?
a. Gimbel's, of course!
b. Sears.
c. He doesn't say, he just rips a page from his notebook and says to "go here".
d. Schoenfeld's.

11. Kris Kringle is shown asking a little girl what Christmas present she wants. The girl says she wants roller skates. This time, Kringle sends her to what department store?
a. Gimbel's!
b. Macy's!
c. Schoenfeld's.
d. F.A.O. Schwartz.

12. A little orphan girl from Europe is taken to see Kris Kringle. Kringle speaks to her in her own language, which proves to Susan that he really is Santa Claus. What language does he speak?
a. Dutch.
b. German.
c. I thought Dutch and German were the same thing...
d. Hungarian.

13. Every time Kris Kringle must leave his Santa Claus chair, someone puts up a sign that says "Santa Claus is..." What is he doing (according to the sign)?
a. Busy making toys.
b. Feeding his reindeer.
c. Off to the North Pole.
d. Seeing Mr. Macy.

14. The bitter, snarky, evil Mr. Sawyer conspires to have Kris Kringle declared insane. What function does Sawyer actually have at Macy's?
a. He administers intelligence tests.
b. He's the store doctor.
c. He's an accounting clerk.
d. He's a personal assistant to Mr. Macy.

15. When Kris Kringle finds out that Mr. Sawyer is psychoanalyzing Alfred and has told Alfred that he hates his father, Kringle becomes very upset. He accuses Sawyer of impersonating a psychologist...and then he says something very strange. What?
a. He confuses psychiatry with psychology.
b. He accuses Sawyer of hating his father.
c. He says Alfred has no father.
d. He accuses Sawyer of impersonating a medical doctor.

Extra Credit: After his meeting with the senior staff, Mr. Macy says that the ad boys should have dinner and get a good's night sleep. But then he also says that they should work on the problem overnight. True or false:  He contradicts himself like that.

All answers are in bold behind this jump-cut.

I love cranberry sauce.

2 cups cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Boil sugar and water for 5 minutes. Add cranberries. Reduce heat, and boil gently for four minutes. Cool. Chill for 24 hours to let the flavors meld and become subtle.

Enjoy your little slice of heaven!
Inappropriate Family Photo #17:


Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm going to cook Thanksgiving this year, even though I'm alone and have no one coming over to my house. I guess it's because cooking is a lot of fun, and I enjoy doing it -- even though I'll have leftovers for two weeks.

So let's talk turkey.

Yes, turkeys come from Turkey. Sort of. The guineafowl is a common wild bird with good breast meat common in sub-Saharan Africa. They were imported through Europe via Turkey, which is how they got the name "turkey fowl."

When Europeans came to North America, they thought the North American Wild Turkey was a guineafowl. They called it the "turkey fowl," and in time the name shortened to just "turkey." Now the name has stuck. The two species are utterly unrelated, however. (A number of birds in Australia and Asia are also named "turkeys," but are also unrelated to both guineafowl and North American turkeys.)

Wild turkeys will eat just about anything. They prefer the tender shoots of trees and shrubs; grasses; the nuts of the acorn, hazel, chestnut, hickory, and pinyon pine; berries; and roots. They are also voracious consumers of insects (and were often kept by early Americans for pest control). Turkeys have also occasionally been known to consume amphibians and small reptiles.

Wild turkeys can fly. Yes, they can! They are quite agile fliers, although they usually do not fly for more than a quarter mile. Turkeys prefer grassland or open woodland, and can easily maneuver among the trees and shrubs to evade predators. They can also fly up to 100 feet in the air, and often seek protection in the woodland canopy. Turkeys are very cautious birds and will flee at the first sign of danger. Turkeys often use their power of flight to forage at the tops of bushes and throughout the tree canopy, making them one of the most well-adapted bird foragers in North America.

There were most likely 100 million wild turkeys in North American around 1700. But massive overhunting and loss of habitat drastically reduced their numbers. By 1930, there were maybe just 30,000 wild turkeys left in the United States and none in Canada. Protection efforts helped the bird regain ground quickly, and by 1973 the population in the U.S. was estimated at 1.3 million. Today, there are about 7 million wild turkeys in the United States, and the wild turkey has been reintroduced throughout Canada.

There are six sub-species of wild turkey in North America.

The Eastern Wild Turkey was the turkey first encountered by European settlers. It had the largest range of all wild turkeys, extending from the Maritime Provinces of Canada down to northern Florida; as far west as Alberta and Montana and down to Utah and Colorado. It never quite crossed the Rocky Mountains, and never entered the Southwest. It grows to four feet (1.2 m) in height, and can weigh 30 pounds (12 kg) in weight. The upper tail feathers are tipped with chestnut brown.

The Osceola Wild Turkey is found only in Florida. It is smaller (about 16 pounds, or 6.5 kg) and darker than the Eastern Wild Turkey, and has very long legs. Its wing feathers don't have the white barring, and the body feathers are iridescent green-purple color.

The Rio Grande Wild Turkey is found in areas bordering the Southwest (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado). It, too, has long legs. The tips of the tail feathers are buff to light tan in color, and its body feathers have a green-coppery sheen. They weigh about 20 pounds (9 kg).

Merriam's Wild Turkey is found primarily in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana and Wyoming, as well as prairie areas in North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico. Hunting pressure has driven it over the Rockies into Idaho and Oregon. The tail and lower back feathers have white tips, and the body feathers are irridescent purple and bronze. Although physically about as big as the Eastern Wild Turkey, it weighs less -- about about 20 pounds (9 kg).

Gould's Wild Turkey is found primarily in the mountains of northern Mexico and parts of Arizona and New Mexico. It's the second-most massive of the wild turkeys, weighing in at about 25 pounds (10 kg). It has exceptionally long legs, very big feet, and very long tail feathers. Its tail tips are pink to white, and its body feathers are copper and greenish-gold.

South Mexican Wild Turkey is the first turkey encountered by the Spanish when they came to North America, and was the first North American turkey encountered by any Europeans. This turkey had been domesticated by the Aztecs, and it is this turkey which formed the basis of the modern domestic turkey you eat at the dinner table today. It is this turkey which the Spanish brought back to Europe, and the Pilgrims actually brought this turkey from England to the New World with them -- not realizing there were turkeys already here! The tips of its tail feathers are buff to pinkish-white, and its body feathers are copper and greenish-gold. It is one of the smallest turkeys, with an average weight of just 14 pounds (7.5 kg). Sadly, it is believed that the South Mexican Wild Turkey is extinct in the wild.

It's the Terror Turkey of Massachusetts!!!!!!!! This large tom turkey in Centreville, Mass., has been attacking a U.S. Postal Service mail truck as it goes by every day. The tom is defending his turf...

Apparently he doesn't like the eagle on the side of truck.

Go, turkey, go!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Isle of the Dead is a 1945 horror film by RKO Studios. It was directed by Mark Robson, and produced by the legendary master of horror, Val Lewton. The film was written by Ardel Wray, from a story by Val Lewton.

It's 1913, and Greece, Bulgaria, Seerbie, and Montenegro have formed a coalition (the Balkan League) to defend southeastern Europe against the incursions of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). Boris Karloff plays General Nikolas Pherides, a Greek Army soldier whose ruthless efficiency and williness to slaughter his foes has garnered him a worldwide reputation. Oliver Davis (played by Marc Cramer) is a reporter who wants to interview Gen. Pherides after his latest victory. Dr. Drossos (Ernst Deutsch), Pherides' close friend, warns the general that plague has broken out because of the enormous number of dead on the field of battle. Pherides' troops rush to bury the vast number of corpses (and begin dying). Dr. Drossos says that any day now, a hot south wind should blow inland and kill the fleas which carry the disease. Pherides decides to decamp to an island off-shore with Davis and Drossos and avoid the plague. The island is home to a large cemetery, where Pherides' wife just happens to be buried.

The island, however, is deserted. Only a small boarding house, maintained by Madame Kyra (Helen Thimig), shows any sign of life. Staying at the boarding house is Prof. Albrecht (Jason Robards, Sr.), his beautiful assistant Thea (Ellen Drew), and the vacationing English couple, Mr. St. Aubyn (Alan Napier) and his wife Mary (Katherine Emery). Gen. Pherides visits his wife's tomb, but discovers that it has been robbed of its treasures and the body is missing. Dr. Albrecht makes a horrifying confession: He was looking for ancient Greek artifacts on the island. He promises the islanders money if they brought him more artifacts. He unintentionally turned the islanders into ghoulish graverobbers -- as they began plundering the island's many graves, tombs, and mausoleums. The police arrested nearly all the islanders, and some have been imprisoned and many others shot.

The general and his party are appalled at what has happened. But they bring bad news, too: Everyone on the island must remain there, so that they don't go to the mainland and become infected with plague. But it's too late: Madam Kyra's servant dies a gruesome death from plague. Everyone is encouraged to stay in their room until the wind comes. But Madam Kyra doesn't believe in any plague. She believes Thea is a vorvolakas, a Greek vampire. Her accusations begin to cause panic among the island visitors. The paranois engendered by her is worsened by the ghoulish graveyard locale, the tendency of various people to go off by themselves, and the eerie island geography itself.

Dr. Drossos falls ill with plague and dies, and soon General Pherides himself comes down with the dread disease. As Pherides becomes feverish, he begins to believe in Madam Kyra's ravings about a vampire. He kills Mr. St. Aubyn, but everyone comes to believe that it was the vorvolakas (as they assume Pherides is too ill to move). Mrs. St. Aubyn, too, dies -- although it appears to be from plague. They bury her in one of the tombs.

The next day, there are strange screams heard throughout the island. Thea and Cramer discover that Mrs. St. Aubyn's sarcophagus has been opened and her body removed, and Thea begins to fear that the vorvolakas is indeed among them. As Pherides nears death and his insanity worsens, a white shape is seen flitting among the tombs and empty homes on the Isle of the Dead...

The concept for the film came from Arnold Bӧcklin's painting, "The Isle of the Dead." (It hangs on the heroine's bedroom wall in Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie!) Val Lewton's favorite themes of "supreme rationality in the face of the unknownable spiritual" and "paralyzing superstition in the modern world" come together here. General Pherides is a murderous soldier who seems to think he can control a plague the way he has controlled his troops. Swiss archeologist Dr. Albrecht thinks he can control the islanders by offering money for any artifacts they find; instead, the people turn into graverobbers and burn all the bodies (including Pherides' wife) they find in an attempt to find treasure.

In contrast, the housekeeper Madam Krya doesn't believe in the plague. She thinks the girl Thea is a vampire. The little band of European travelers also quickly fall victim to superstition and paranoia. The ultra-rational Pherides proves most susceptible to this, and yet it's the timid Mrs. St. Aubyn who turns into the movie's mythic force of nature after her catalepsy leads to her premature burial and, in Poe-tic fashion, a murderous madness. (The Poe story "Premature Burial" was used as a source for the script by the writers.)

Karloff always said he preferred "terror" movies to "horror" movies, and his biographers have said that he and Val Lewton had extremely similar ideas about this film. Interestingly, Karloff's chronic back problems caused a six-week delay in the start of this film. By the time he was able again, the rest of the cast was working on other pictures. So Lewton and Karloff did the fantastic The Body Snatcher, and then reassembled the cast to do this film!

The sets and art direction are by Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter Keller, Albert Greenwood, and Darrell Silvera and are spectacular. The Expressionistic sets go a long, long way to setting the atmosphere. There's the gruesome statue of Cerberus which greets people at the landing dock; there's the creepy Greek ruins all over the place; there's the pitch-black tunnel cut through the mountain in the center of the island that connects the boarding house with the cemetery and abandoned town. Jack Menzies handles the camera work, as he did for most of Lewton's films. The first five minutes are visually outstanding; but the middle half-hour is awfully static and talky.

One of Lewton's typical film tropes is to send the heroine on a long walk in the dark. He does it here, too, but it's very effective due to those terrific jump cuts of the "vampire" and the surreal tunnel set.

There are aspects of I Walked With A Zombie and The Seventh Victim (other Lewton films) in this picture. But amazingly you never realize it while watching. I think the last half hour is one of the most effective, sustained, atmospheric horror films ever made.
I am a true-blue, drink-the-Koolaid believer in making homemade turkey stock at Thanksgiving. It is absolutely the key ingredient to turkey gravy. And if you're going to make any turkey soup, you'll want to double this recipe in order to make tons of stock.

Forthwith, my contribution to society:

Tim's 100 Percent Sure-Fire Perfect Turkey Stock
4 pounds turkey parts (wings, necks, and/or giblets)
1 pound of yellow onions (about 2 medium), coarsely chopped
1/2 pound of carrots (about 4 large), coarsely chopped
1/2 pound of celery stalks (about 3 medium), coarsely chopped
12 cups of water
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
3 bay leaves

Toss everything into a large pot. If you use giblets, do not use the liver, or your stock will taste bitter. If you want your stock to have a darker color, keep the skins on the onions when you chop them and throw the skins into the pot with the onions. (Just make sure they are washed clean ahead of time!)

Bring the whole thing to a boil. Skim and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 to 2.5 hours.

Strain the stock, throwing away all vegetables and herbs. You can, if you want, strip the meat from the turkey parts and refrigerate the meat for use in a stuffing or as part of your meal on Thanksgiving. (I'm a frugal gourmet.)

Let the stock cool in the refrigerator or in an icewater bath. Stock should be room temperature if you are going to use it immediately. Skim any fat off the top, and reserve it for use later in gravy. (Turkey fat makes the most delectable gravy!) If you don't use it right away, keep it refrigerated for up to five days.

* * * * *

Stock can be frozen without any harm at all. It'll keep for up to a month in the freezer.

I like buying a bunch of carrots and celery while making this stock. I'll wash and cut lots of extra celery and carrot sticks while making the stock. Then, while the stock is cooking, I sit and watch a movie while snacking on carrot sticks, pickles, and celery. (A little bowl of ranch dressing and some peanut butter for the celery at hand, too!)

By the way: Your house will smell like HEAVEN while cooking the stock. So don't do this at night, or you'll be famished!
General William Tecumseh Sherman began the famous "March to the Sea" on this date in 1864. Sherman won approval from his superiors for a plan to cut loose from his communications and march south, advising Grant that he could "make Georgia howl."

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty and you cannot refine it, and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority wherever it once had power. If it relaxes one bit to pressure it is gone, and I know that such is the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the National Government, and instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war, this army becomes at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may. I know that a few individuals cannot resist a torrent of error and passion such as swept the South into rebellion, but you can part out so that we may know those who desire a government and those who insist on war and its desolation. You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home is to stop the war, which can alone be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

- Major-General William Tecumseh Sherman, letter to the city fathers of Atlanta, delivered from the field, September 12, 1864

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Every year, Teri Hu -- a teacher at Washington High School in Fremont, Washington -- submits a list of books to be taught in her Advanced Placement English class.

Every year, those books are banned by the school board.

The books that are banned? National Book Award-finalist Bastard Out of Carolina. Angels In America, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about AIDS in the 1980s.

So nearby Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation has hired Hu to teach the banned books in a class sponsored by the church.

Just a note: Fremont’s school board is the only school in the entire United States to have banned Angels in America.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12 marks the anniversary of the sinking of SS Vestris in 1928.

The Vestris was a British cruise liner built in 1912. She was a regular cruise ship which made a run from New York City to the Río de la Plata in Uruguay.

The Vestris left New York on November 10, 1928. She ran into a severe storm on November 11. An improperly closed coal port (for receiving fuel) allowed her to take on water during the storm, and she began to list to starboard. Still under way, coal and cargo began shifting inside her, worsening the list. (That the ship was overloaded with cargo did not help.) The crew discovered numerous leaks in her hull, and that the ship was taking on more water. Although the Vestris had radio, Captain William J. Carey refused to send an SOS.

By November 12, the Vestris was 200 miles east of Hampton Roads, Virginia. With the ship now clearly sinking, she came to a stop. Vestris sent her first SOS at 9:56 AM local time. She gave her position incorrectly, however: She was actually 37 miles northeast of the position she radioed. Her second SOS went out at 11:04 AM. Shortly thereafter (but before noon), the order was given to abandon ship. There are conflicting reports about crew behavior, but at least some of the crew left before the passengers, others took supplies from some lifeboats and put them in lifeboats used only by crew, and others did not aid the passengers. The Vestris sank at about 2 PM.

Of the 128 passengers and 198 crew on board, 111 people lost their lives. None of the 13 children and only eight of the 33 women aboard the ship survived. Captain Carey went down with his ship. Two lifeboats (containing mostly women and children) were not told to get clear of the ship, and were swamped when it sank. Their occupants drowned. Many of the survivors had lifejackets, but the lifejackets were not designed to keep people face-up in the water.

I made the "Did You Know...?" section on the front page of Wikipedia yesterday. Not by choice, because I don't submit my work to DYK any more. (The process merely tortures contributors, it no longer promotes good work.) But someone else thought it was good, and submitted it to DYK.
... that to enhance their performances, a "prescored" soundtrack of violent noises and voices was played during the filming of the 1963 film The Haunting to give the actors something to which to react?

"The veneer of civilization is paper thin - we are its guardians, and we can never sleep."
- Tom Lantos, Congressman and the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress

Tom Lantos grave - front - Congressional Cemetery - Washington DC - 2012
The grave of John Philip Sousa in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

John Philip Sousa grave - Congressional Cemetery - Washington DC - 2012

There was an EXCELLENT article about apple ciders and applejack in the New York Times on November 11.

My favorite hard cider is Scrumpy's. It's an organic cider from Michigan. I learned about it four years ago, after searching high and low throughout the city for a liquor store that carried something other than Woodchuck. I fell in love with it. It's one of my favorite things to drink. I wish I had a case of it.

Deadline at Dawn is a 1946 film noir from RKO starring Bill Williams, Susan Hayward, and Paul Lukas. It's based on the 1944 book Welcome to the City by Cornell Woolrich (published under the pseudonym "William Irish"). Woolrich sold three novels to RKO in 1946, and this was the first to reach the big screen. One of Woolrich's old left-wing Group Theatre buddies, the stage director Harold Clurman, was induced to direct the film. Clifford Odets, another Group Theatre friend, did the screenplay.

Nicholas Musuraca shot the film. He'd helped establish the film noir look in the 1940s with films like Cat People (1942), The Seventh Victim (1943), The Ghost Ship (1943), Curse of the Cat People (1944), and The Spiral Staircase (1946). (Yes, this has an odd Val Lewton connection that I didn't know of!) He'd later shoot such classic noirs as Out of the Past (1947) and Clash by Night (1952) (as well as one of my all-time sentimental favorites, 1948's I Remember Mama). The film was shot entirely on sets and back lots, but Musuraca's photography is pure, deep noir. The shadows in the film even lengthen as the night passes, a sort of "reverse daytime" that subtly indicates the passage of time.

Critics have generally dismissed the film as meaningless. They're upset that most of Woolrich's book was jettisoned in favor of a WWII setting, and they dislike that most of Woolrich's vignettes were junked in favor of new settings by Odets. Clurman himself thought the film "meaningless." (That's Clurman's fault. He stages the action like a play, with people barely moving from foreground to background and rarely side-to-side. And no one ever exits stage-right or stage-left.)

Well, boo-hoo for them. Musuraca works overtime to light the sets so as to give Clurman's static staging some depth and motion. For example, in one scene, our three heroes are caught in the dead woman's apartment by a woman they think might be her murderer. Musuraca puts everything in the foreground in pitch blackness, so that when the intruder comes in through the door and moves across to the bedroom there is a strong sense of depth, of movement, and of suspense (will she see them?).

June, the logic you're looking for... logic is that there is no logic. The horror and terror you feel, my dear, comes from being alive. Die and there is no trouble. Live, and you struggle.

At your age, I think it's beautiful to struggle for the human possibilities... Not to say "I hate the sun" because it doesn't light my cigarette.

You're so young, June, you're a baby. Love's waiting outside any door you open. Some people say, "Love is a superstition." Dismiss those people, those Miss Bartellis, from your mind. They put poison-bottle labels on the sweetest facts of life.

You are 23, June. Believe in love and its possibilities, the way I do at 53.
The film is a noir's noir: A sailor (Bill Williams) wakes up from a drunken binge sitting at a newsstand, with $1,400 in his pocket. Confused and not quite sober, he goes into a dance hall to sit down. He notices an exhausted dance hall girl (Susan Hayward) who must put up with sex-obsessed immigrants with skin conditions and octupus-handed servicemen. The sailor dances with her, and his naiveté and boyish charm begin to win her over. He confesses his dilemma to her, and they return to the apartment the sailor remembers last -- where they discover a floozy dead on the floor. It's 2 AM. They have just four hours to solve the murder before the sailor has to board his bus back to his naval base. He can't stay any later than that, because then he'd be AWOL and be jailed.  If he returns to his ship without solving the crime, he will probably be arrested for murder.

The two quickly discover that a blond woman was seen leaving the apartment, and the girl finds the cab driver who took her home. She leaves. The sailor sees a man leave the apartment building in a hurry, and follows him in a cab driven by Paul Lukas.

The film is full of seeming dead-ends, criminal, evidentiary, moral, and physical. Like any great noir, you have an innocent person oppressed; night and deep shadow conceal everything; the girl is world-weary and exhausted; and the city itself stymies the heroes at every turn. Deadline At Dawn is fairly episodic, just like its source material. But unlike the source material, the film tends to hold together because it has a stronger plot thread. Yes, Hayward turns in a decent performance. But this is no I Want to Live! There are moments of brilliance, though, such as when she breaks down in the dead woman's apartment and agrees to help Williams. Or when she begins to weep in Lukas' cab, realizing she's found some reason to keep living. Williams is nothing but a blond, dumb hunk, but that's enough to make his role work. (He's a decent enough actor, but the role requires little. He rises to the material.) Lukas is perhaps the film's best performer, as the philosophical Norwegian cab driver. What could have been a kitschy, even smarmy role holds a lot of sincerity -- and that's solely due to his acting.

The script has a lot of good lines. But, frankly, it falls apart in the final 20 minutes or so through a series of improbable, jaw-dropping, over-determined coincidences that make no sense at all. (If you think The Big Sleep has problems... hoo boy! This has it beat!) But up to that point, it's a top-notch noir. I recommend it, because it's just that good for the first 70 minutes.

It really is one of my favorite film noirs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It's interesting how Veterans Day came about.

Former Major General John A. Logan was, by 1868, head of the "Grand Army of the Republic" -- an organization for Civil War veterans who fought for the Union. Lots of local customs were springing up here and there across the country to decorate veterans graves. Choosing a date when flowers would be in bloom throughout the country, as well as a date on which no Civil War battle occurred, Logan declared that "Decoration Day" should be observed nationwide on May 30. The holidays' name remained "Decoration Day" for almost a century. The term "Memorial Day" was first used in 1882, but did not become common until after World War II. When the holiday began, it was the states who adopted it as an official holiday. The federal government did not change the name formally until 1967 (at which time it moved the commemoration from May 30 to "the last Monday in May").

Veterans Day has a much more tenuous hold on the American spirit. World War I ended at 11:11 AM (local Versailles time) on November 11, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that "Armistice Day" on November 11, 1919, be a national holiday. But no observance was made again until 1926, when Congress asked President Calvin Coolidge to issue a proclamation asking the country to observe Armistice Day again. From 1926 to 1937, each president did so. Many (but not all) states made Armistice Day a holiday as well. Finally, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved legislation in May 1938 making Armistice Day a federal holiday. The purpose of Armistice Day was not to pay tribute to the military, or veterans, or war machines, or battles, or victory. Congress officially established the purpose as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks began pushing for Armistice Day to be expanded into a "Veterans Day." Weeks won the immediate support of General Dwight Eisenhower, then Army Chief of Staff. Weeks began leading "Veterans Day" celebrations in 1947. The notion began spreading across the country, and in 1954 Representative Ed Rees (R-Kan.) introduced legislation to make Armistice Day into "Veterans Day." Now-President Eisenhower signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954. In 1971, Congress tried moving Veterans Day from November 11 to the fourth Monday of October, but this failed and they moved it back to November 11 in 1978.

It's odd that Weeks did not choose Memorial Day for his celebration. It's not clear why. Perhaps it was because Weeks was from the Deep South, and the idea of celebrating veterans on a day in which Southern racism was crushed would not go over well... Perhaps it was because Civil War veterans were no longer around to help him promote his idea, while plenty of WWI vets were still around. Weeks was a member of both the Veterans for Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. Whereas Memorial Day was a day of remembrance, and Armistice Day a day for seeking peace, both the VFW and American Legion were seeking to do things for their members. They both actively lobbied for Veterans Day, willing to toss out commemoration of the end of World War I in favor of a generic holiday that honored all veterans (whether they sacrificed anything in combat, or spent their entire career in peacetime at a desk in Omaha). It was, in a way, a brilliant stroke: So long as the United States maintains a standing army (in contravention of the advice of George Washington), there will always be a ready-made constituency ready to lobby Congress against any attempt to move or get rid of or change or devalue Veterans Day.

Isn't it odd, though? Other countries have "National Teachers Day" as a national holiday, or "National Honor Policemen" day as a national holiday -- all in in addition to a veterans' holiday. In the U.S., we don't. We only have a holiday for soldiers. Teachers, police, firefighters, and other public servants sacrifice as much as soldiers do. But America refuses to honor them with a national holiday.

Maybe it's not so odd. America is, after all, the most war-like democracy ever in history. It has gone to war far more than any other democracy. Even major dictatorships like the Soviet Union and Maoist China have invaded countries only.... well, once? twice? But the U.S. has invaded Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, the Dominican Republic (twice). Hmmm.

My prediction: Mississippi will be the next state in the Deep South to begin voting Democratic. Look for that shift within 10 years.

Most Deep South states are 60-40 for the GOP. Not Mississippi. In Mississippi, it's just 55-45 -- and that's striking distance. Georgia is even closer (53-45 for the GOP), but the Georgia GOP is in really strong shape and seems determined to use any means possible to destroy Democratic candidates there. (Max Cleland, call your office.)

Mississippi's Republican Party is not well-organized. Furthermore, the Democratic base along the Mississippi River is incredibly strong. GOP weakness begins in Madison Country (just north-northwest of the Democratic stronghold of the state capital in Jackson) and continues all the way to the northern border.

The GOP's strongest holds are on Rankin County (southeast of Jackson), Tupelo (Lee County) and its environs, and Biloxi (Harrison County) and its environs. Oddly, some major Democratic counties (Kemper, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Clay, Chickasaw) are just south of Tupelo, and Monroe, Lowndes, and Winston counties are just barely being won by the GOP.

Romney won Mississippi by 140,000 votes out of just 1,182,000 cast. Mississippi has a population of 2.9 million, and turnout is pretty high in presidential elections. What's needed is for some heavy-duty Democratic organizing in a few counties near the base, and some undercutting of the GOP strongholds.

And Mississippi will fall.....

Aristophanes was right -- it's all about the clouds!

Climate models predict anywhere from 3 to 8 or more degrees F rise in world temperatures by 2100. Which of these are right? Since clouds bounce sunlight back into space, clouds play the most important role. But computers are not powerful enough to model cloud behavior 90 years into the future.

Clouds are related to humidity, however. And matching climate models to existing world humidity levels shows.............

UGH! Those models which predict 8F or more temperature rises appear to be the best. Yikes.
I watched Stage Door the other day day. It's a 1937 movie from RKO directed by Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey). It's based on a play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, and was written by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller.

It's terrific.

Katharine Hepburn stars as a rich girl from Wichita who conceals her wealth and goes to New York City to become an actress. She ends up in a boarding house that's just for actresses. The residents include Ginger Rogers (the golddigger), Gail Patrick (the snooty one), Constance Collier (the old dame), Andrea Leeds (the kind-hearted one), and Lucille Ball (the snarky one). Eve Arden and Ann Miller also have minor roles as members of the house.

Adolphe Menjou is the producer and ladies' man who dumps Gail Patrick for Ginger Rogers, and Hepburn tries to stop Rogers from doing something she'll regret later. Meanwhile, Collier takes Hepburn (whose character can't act) under her wing. Leeds wants to win the starring role in a new play, but Hepburn's wealthy father (Samuel S. Hinds) has secretly financed the play and demands that his daughter play the lead. This creates tragedy for Leeds, but turns Hepburn into a star.

The film was nominated for Best Picture and Leeds for Best Supporting Actress. Hepburn got such good reviews that she was cast in Bringing Up Baby. Along with My Man Godfrey, it is one of La Cava's best films.

The film has little to do with the play. La Cava sent his mistress and his continuity girl to board at the Hollywood Studio Club, where many young aspiring actresses in Hollywood stayed. They took notes about story lines and dialogue, which were delivered to Ryskind and Veiller -- who incorporated these stories into their script.

Ryskind and Veiller then sat in on the casting sessions, and listened to each actress joke and talk. La Cava, Ryskind, and Veiller then agreed on which actress to cast. The two writers subsequently adapted much of the dialogue to each actress' way of talking. La Cava allowed the actresses to ad-lib lines so long as they followed the general script and managed to include one or two key lines of dialogue. That dialogue CRACKLES -- and 1939's The Women is clearly influenced by the lines and interaction of the characters in Stage Door.

Hepburn had appeared in a Broadway flop titled The Lake. She had the line "the calla lilies are in bloom again". Dorothy Parker reviewed the play, and said, "Miss Hepburn runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." Ryskin and Veiller put that line into the film, and had Hepburn's character repeat it endlessly as an in-joke. It became one of the most imitated of all of Hepburn's lines.

The film also made Ginger Rogers' career. Her dance films with Fred Astaire were winding down, but this film showed off her comic and dramatic talents so well that it rejuvenated her career.

Ann Miller was just 14 when she made the film. Ginger Rogers felt she was too tall, but Miller blurted out, "Couldn't you wear higher heels and a taller top hat, and I could wear lower heels and a smaller top hat?" Lucille Ball stuck up for her, and Miller got the part. Hermes Pan, the choreographer, taught Miller to speak and dance at the same time -- which saved her career.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On this date in 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald -- the largest ship on North America's Great Lakes -- sank in Lake Superior with the loss of 29 lives.

Okay, Gordon Lightfoot. Take it away.

Veterans Day is a day to celebrate the end of war -- not to celebrate veterans.

Veterans Day was established in 1919 as Armistice Day. Armistice Day celebrated the end of World War I and the mass carnage which engulfed Europe, America, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. In France (where most of the fighting occurred), 1.4 million soldiers died and another 4.3 million would severely wounded. A quarter of a million civilians died due to disease, starvation, or bombings. In all, France lost 4.3 percent of her popuation -- and nearly all of her men aged 16 to 25. In the German Empire, 2 million soldiers died, 4.2 million were crippled, and 425,000 civilians died of disease, famine, or war. Germany lost 3.8 percent of her people.

Most of Europe was enguled in the war beginning in August 1914. The United States only entered the war in 1917 after a secret cable from Germany to Mexico (the "Zimmerman telgram") was discovered in which Germany pledged to help Mexico militarily if Mexico invaded the U.S. to take back Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and southern California. The U.S. had a mere 116,700 dead soldier, and another 205,000 wounded. None of her population starved or died in the war, and just 0.1 percent of her people were affected. Nonetheless, World War I proved deeply traumatic for the American people.

Why World War I? Most Americans today would blame President Woodrow Wilson for "getting us into war", while others cite "entangling alliances" or a misplaced desire to "make the world safe for democracy". Many blame European royalty for having too much pride, and not being willing to back down or find a diplomatic solution.

So let's discuss.

Rise of Germany and Austria-Hungary In what is now Germany, there were 39 (by some counts 114!) separate nations. Some were almost miniature (like Luxemburg or Monaco), while others were sizeable. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Britain and Russia felt that a counterbalance to France was needed in continental Europe. The Congress of Vienna therefore organized these German principalities into a "German Confederation". The German Confederation had slowly gotten stronger, and in 1864 successfully defeated then-powerful Denmark. In 1866, the German "state" of Austria waged war with the rest of the German Confederation. The outcome of this was that Austria was ejected from the German Confederation.

Seeking to improve its military capacity and gain access to population and natural resources, Austria's Emperor Franz Joseph I signed an agreement with the Kingdom of Hungary. This agreement made Franz Joseph the emperor of Hungary, and made the two nations co-equal: Largely autonomous in internal affairs, they were represented in trade, diplomacy, and war by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor.

In 1871, the German Confederation defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Louis XVIII and then Charles X had ruled France. But the Bourbon monarchs were again deposed in 1830. A "Second Republic" was established. But it was roiled by internal dissent. In 1848, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, was elected President of France. His father, Napoleon II (and Napoleon's brother), had lived as a virtual prisoner in Vienna since 1814, and then died. Louis-Napoléon seized power in a coup in 1851, and in 1852 had himself annointed Napoleon III, Emperor of France. Napoleon III was determined to destroy the German counterbalance imposed on Europe in 1814. Meanwhile, in Germany, the prime minister Otto von Bismarck was determined to find a way to get rid of the German Confederation and replace it with a modern, unified state. In 1871, von Bismarck published the "Ems telegram", a communiqué about a meeting between the German emperor, Wilhelm I, and the French ambassador. Bismarck altered the telegram to make it seem as if Wilhelm had snubbed the ambassador. Napoleon III was incensed, and six days later, on July 19, 1870, declared war.

It was clear from the outset that German forces were superior. Germany had impressive railroads that allowed it to get men and material to the front quickly. Furthermore, the Krupp factories were not only turning out steel (rather than iron), they were turning out steel artillery. At the Battle of Sedan on September 2, Napoleon III and his entire army were surrounded (the "double envelopment") and forced to surrender. Trying to stop defeat, a coup occurred in Paris and the Third Republic declared on September 4, 1870. French resistance continued, outraging Germany. Over the next five months, German armies repeatedly defeated the French in northern France. Paris fell on January 28, 1871.

The war had an electrifying effect on Germany. On January 18, 1871, von Bismarck and Wilhelm I declared the German Confederation dead, and that the nation would now be united as the German Empire.

Causes of World War I France was humiliated by the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. She was forced to pay a massive war indemnity of 5 billion francs, which Germany thought would keep France's economy hobbled for a decade. (The French paid it off within two years.) Germany also won the city of Strasbourg, the city of Metz, and the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which France desperately wanted back. (Ethnic Germans were a majority in both provicences, but they contained 80 percent of French iron ore mines.) The French military, seeking to blame anyone but themselves, discovered in 1894 that a senior French military office was passing secrets to the Germans. Rather than expose the spy, the French military blamed Captain Louis Dreyfus, a Jew from Alsace. Dreyfus was convicted and sentenced to solitary confimnement at Devil's Island. Evidence came to light in 1896 identifying Major Ferdinand Esterhazy as the real culprit, but French generals suppressed the new evidence. Additional evidence against Dreyfus was manufactured by Lt. Colonel Hubert-Joseph Henry on the orders of the generals. Convinced of Dreyfus' innocence, in January 1898 the writer Émile Zola published his famous letter "J'accuse!" on the front page of a Paris newspaper. Zola was tried and convicted for libel and fled to England. But as more and more evidence of Dreyfus' innocence came to light (and Henry's forgeries exposed), a pardon became the only recourse. Most of the French generals resigned (for others reasons) or retired, and Dreyfus released in 1900. The French government passed a law in 1906 exonerating him and reinstating him as a major in the French Army.

France was nonetheless still determined to win back Alsace and Lorraine, and to regain her national honor after the defeat of 1871.

Meanwhile, Bismarck was determined to keep France down. He an agreement known as the League of the Three Emperors in 1873 between Austria–Hungary, Russia, and Germany. Although Russia withdrew from the pact over who would get to control the Balkans, Germany and Austria–Hungary reaffirmed their alliance in 1879. Italy joined the alliance in 1879. Wilhelm II ascended to the throne in 1888, and Bismarck retired. To counter Germany, France signed an alliance of mutual support with Russia in 1894. In 1904, France and Britain signed the "entente cordiale" in which Britain agreed not to invade France. This allowed France to remove all its troops and defense from its northern coast and shift them toward the German border. This was followed in 1907 by a similar "entente cordiale" of mutual military support between Britain and Russia in 1907. Worried about these developments, the new Chancellor of Germany, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, came to believe that Germany must once again wage war on France in order to fully resolve these tensions.

Meanwhile, the "powder keg" of the Balkans was ready to explode. In 1299, Osman Bey declared the formation of the Ottoman Empire in the northwestern Turkish state of Anatolia. It conquered Bosnia in 1463. By 1600, it was one of the most powerful nations in the world. It ruled Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, southern Ukraine, and Russian territory along the Black Sea. It ruled Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. It conquered Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and the entire coast of Arabia bordering the Red Sea. It ruled all of Egypt and the Nile all the way through to southern Sudan, and and held the entire coast of Africa along the Mediterranean all the way to Algiers. It was astonishingly powerful. It began a long period of decline beginning in the 1700s. But the Ottoman Empire was shrinking, and in 1876 the independent nation of Serbia declared its union with Bosnia in an attempt to from a Greater Serbia. In 1878, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria declared war on the Ottoman Empire. They won. But at the Congress of Berlin (which ended the war), the great powers believed that a Greater Serbia-Bosnia would be too strong and unbalance the region. So they Bosnia was transferred to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was supposed to be ruled as an autonomous state, although Austria-Hungary was eager to incorporate it completely.

In October 1912, the Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria) engaged in the First Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire. Almost all remaining European territories of the Ottoman Empire were captured. Bulgaria wanted a larger share of the spoils, however. Just two months after the First Balkan War ended, the Second Balkan War broke out. Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece, and Romania did so as well. Bulgaria was defeated, and ceded territory to to Serbia, Greece, Romania, and the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria and Russia had agreed to support one another in time of war, but Russia had failed to do so (citing Bulgaria's aggression). This caused a break-up of the Russo-Bulgarian alliance.

Now only Serbia remained as Russia's ally in the Balkans.

In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the 82-year-old Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz Joseph I. Not particularly well-liked and a bit of a wet rag personally, Franz Joseph had sent Archduke Ferdinand on a tour of Bosnia as part of a regular "show the flag" effort. On June 18, 1914, three Bosnian men attempted to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand. One of them succeeded. Two were captured, and it was quickly ascertained that they had been trained by the Serbian government.

The initial reaction to Ferdinand's death was muted. But to Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Leopold Berchtold, this was just the thing he was looking for that would allow Austria-Hungary to invade Serbia and annex it. Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, chief of staff of the Austro-Hungarian army, believed that Sebia would collapse within three days of any invasion. Emperor Franz Joseph wanted an assurance of German support, however, and Kaiser Wilhelm II gave it on July 4. (How could he do else, given the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy?)

Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia on July 23. It demanded that Serbie start censoring all anti-Austrian press and books, dissolve all Serbian nationalist political parties and associations, fire all anti-Austrian officers in its military, arrest and execute all those involved in the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, allow Austrian police to operate in Serbia, and cease support for Bosnian independence. Serbia was willing to accept all the demands except that of allowing Austrian police to operate on its soil. Serbia mobilized for war on July 23, and Austria broke diplomatic relations later that same day. Secretly, the Germans began planning for a thrust into Serbia.

In Germany, the Kaiser waffled. At first, he said that Serbia's reply removed all pretext for war. When Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg expressed his outrage, Wilhelm changed his mind and said Serbia had to be defeated in order to force it to keep its word.

In Russia, the government of Czar Nicholas II was worried. The Russians had been soundly whipped by the Japanes in the Sino-Russian War of 1904-1905. But the Russian military was corrupt and incompetent, and a rearmament and industrialization program was at least two years from being finished. (In fact, it had barely started.) If Russia was to support Serbia, it would have to mobilize. But mobilization would take weeks! Nicholas agreed that a partial mobilization was needed, and it began on July 29.

This was just what Germany had been waiting for. General Erich von Falkenhayn was the chief of the German general staff. His predecessor, General Helmuth von Moltke, had worked out extensive plans for fighting a two-front war in Europe. Von Moltke's plans called for a lightning strike at France through neutral Belgium, and a knock-out punch against Paris before the French could mobilize. The Germany would turn against the much slower Russia, and with all its forces blast through the ill-prepared Russian armies and take out Moscow. Von Molkte knew Germany could not fight on two fronts at the same time. France was too powerful, and Russia had too many men under arms. Germany's powerful new artillery and the new rifles issues to its infantry, combined with Germany's incredible railroads and logistical superiority, could make the difference. The key was adhering to the timetable. Take too long in France, and Germany would be stuck with Russia attacking is undefended rear. The German Empire mobilized on July 30.

Could the Germans have stopped? Any mobilization can be stopped. But the German high command was putting intense pressure on Bethmann-Hollweg and the Kaiser to keep to the timetable. No plans had been made, they said, to stop. Troops were due to rendezvous with their supplies at given points at given times. Halt the mobilization, and there was no guarantee that you could start it again...or that troops would be able to pick up supplies once they got back home. Confusion would rein. And then, if the French attacked...or worse, the Russians... Well, let that be on the Kaiser's head. The pressure of timetables was intense, and it overwhelmed any minimal misgivings any other Germans may have had.

The French were cagey about the war, too. They, too, realized that the only way Germany could win any war in Europe was to hit and defeat France in the first few weeks, then turn east and defeat Russia. A lightning strike at France, however, could not come through the mountains of Alsace and Lorraine, nor through the dense Ardennes Forest. Rather, the Germans would be forced to plunge through Belgium -- a country whose neutrality had been guaranteed by Britain since 1839. That would bring the British into the war, and a combined British-French force could easily hold back Germany's armies until Russia finished mobilizing. Faced with Russia at its rear, Germany would be forced to capitulate. Therefore, when the French government learned of Germany's mobilization, it did not order its troops toward the border. Rather, it pulled them back 6.5 miles (10km) to make sure that no French soldier would fire the first shot. Britain must see that it was Germany that violated Belgian neutrality. The French were relying heavily on joint military war plans which they and a few British officers had been working on for the past few years. The French were convinced that the British would mobilize quickly and would immediately take on the role outlined in the war plans. This would prevent any French collapse, and allow France to hold the German tiger by the tail.

On the evening of August 2, Germany invaded Belgium. It declared war on Russia on the same day. France mobilized on August 3, and Britain declared war on Germany on August 4.

And World War I was under way.