Sunday, February 18, 2018

Beethoven and the fall of the Berlin Wall

Beethoven's life was basically out of a soap opera - it was all so impossibly over-the-top as to defy belief.  It was a clichéexcept that it was all new then: A towering intellect, writing music like nobody had written before, tragically struck with deafness so that at the end of the premiere of this piece he couldn't hear the audience roaring its applause and the contralto Caroline Unger had to take his hand and turn him around so he could see.  Sadly, she did not get appropriate credit in the scene from Immortal Beloved.

Even in death, he maintained his flair. He died during a huge thunder storm, and witnesses said there was a prodigious thunder clap at the moment of death itself.

His 9th Symphony was so popular in Japan that when the Compact Disc was being engineered, it was decided that the disc had to be physically big enough to get the entire Ninth Symphony on a single disc. Musicologists were employed, searching the archives of recordings. It turned out that the longest recording took 74 minutes. The disc was resized from 11.5 cm to 12 cm to accommodate this symphony.

But that wasn't the end of the Soap Opera.  Beethoven put to music Friedrich Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" which was, well, about Freude (Joy).  And thus to the final, improbable Beethoven story.

Fast forward from 1824 when Beethoven composed this to 1989.  The East German Politburo decided that they would not order their border guards to machine gun the people lined up at the Brandenburg Gate, trying to visit their relatives in West Berlin.  The Berlin Wall had divided that city for 28 years, 2 months, and 27 days.  But when the Politburo ordered the guards to stand down and the gates were thrown open, the populations on both sides of the wall took things into their own hands and tore down the wall in an orgy of Freiheit (Freedom).

Soon after, Beethoven came to East Berlin.  Leonard Bernstein conducted a symphony from both Germanys where the word Freude was replaced with the word Freiheit.  It was so improbable that if you had written a novel with that scene, nobody would have published it.  Only Beethoven could pull it off.

The Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up.  Berlin - and indeed all of Europe - has been transformed beyond recognition.  28 years later the dreams of Freiheit have cooled somewhat but have not been extinguished.  Beethoven's ghost looks down, waiting for the next improbable chapter in his continuing Soap Opera.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

From The Comments

Jeffrey Smith said...
Cough cough.
If you make history-based arguments, please ensure your history is correct.
German gun control laws were put in place by the Weimar Republic well before the Nazis came to power. And given that the overwhelming number of Jewish victims were living outside of Germany in September 1939, the relevant gun control laws are those of the Soviets, Poles, French, etc. 
I will be blunt and say this: anyone who thinks a group of citizens can outfight the government is the one living in a fantasy world. Bundy faced down the government not because he utilized his Second Amendment rights but because he utilized his First Amendment rights.

This deserves to be on the front page and deserves a reply, thanks to Jeff for taking the time to comment.  Here goes.

1. I know when the laws were passed in Germany and who passed them. Then the Nazis came to power and put them to use. This perfectly proves my point. Trusting the current government with more control because it seems benign sets you up for any future government to misuse power.

2. If you want to discuss the gun control put in place by the USSR, the outcome was more horrific than Germany's. The collectivization of the Stalin Era, the gulags, and resultant famines exceed the deaths in the Nazi extermination camps.

3. The Poles and French, along with other conquered countries including most of the USSR west of Moscow, fell under Nazi control and Nazi martial law, and then the Jews in those countries were rounded up for transport.

4. If you think that it would be possible to disarm the American populace without their active cooperation, you haven't thought it through. All we would have to to do is refuse. Look at drug laws, prohibition, and immigration.

5. There would be no need and no reason to outfight anyone, no one goes up against a superior force. If the people actively resisted, however, it would be impossible for the government to even begin a confiscation. Any indigenous populace on their own land can resist a military force. Consider Vietnam and Afghanistan when you want to talk about the limits of what an army can do. Then, who is going to do it? Are you thinking of using the Army to invade cities and go house to house? Do you think local police will do it? Are you going to assume that either of those groups would even follow those orders when it meant knocking on doors of fathers, brothers, sons, and close friends? Then, do you think the populace would sit in their homes and wait for that knock? Think hard about who the gun owners are. There would be, planned or not, what would amount to a general strike by the very people that are the ones paying taxes, working farms, keeping the lights and water on, etc.

6. Bundy and the people that came out to support him, right or wrong, most definitely used their 2nd Amendment rights along the 1st. You don't have to fire a weapon for the weapon to have the desired effect. Neither side wanted it to come to shooting or it would have. On a more individual level, there are far more many times that a weapon is used to stop or prevent a crime than they are used to shoot criminals. This is true both for police and the citizens that carry. 

I have one more thing to say and this not that this is part of the reply to what I see as an honest comment. If laws were passed that disarmed the citizens of the United States, what you would have by the time the disarmament was accomplished, would be a police state. There be a before and after. All our freedoms are intertwined in ways we barely understand and we pluck at those threads at our own peril. It might not be as bad as Nazi Germany or the USSR at first, but that power to force citizens to comply would corrupt and someone would come along to grasp that power.

Citizen Disarming

Every time we have a shooting in a gun free zone, the idea of disarming the citizens is raised. So you want to take away violate the rights of all of us to ensure that the only people with guns report to the government?

Remember, the government isn't going to disarm. There's no fantasy world you can imagine where the government gives up their weapons. So your plan only ensures that the direct power of the government increases exponentially relative to the citizens.

Let's consider our current President, Donald Trump. He's literally Hitler, right? And you want him and his henchmen to be the only ones armed? What happens if he decides to build that wall and deport every person of Hispanic descent? Maybe build some camps to expedite the process? Then declare martial law and make it illegal to gather and protest? You already believe he would do these things. If you've had all of us line up and turn in our guns, what's your plan when the new Emperor of North America is no longer responsive to polite letters and protest marches in pink hats?
First history lesson:

Germany disarmed their citizens in the 1930s. Went so far as to make it a death penalty offense for a Jew to be caught with a firearm in a follow up law in 1938. It made it a lot easier to kill those same citizens by the millions less than a decade later. The only reason there is a living Jew anywhere in Europe today is that lots of American (and some British and French) boys took guns and went to Germany and killed Nazis until the remaining Nazis decided to quit being Nazis and stop killing Jews.

If every adult Jew had illegally kept a gun and instead of getting in the cattle cars, had shot one Nazi, the Holocaust would not, could not, have happened. The Nazis were only capable of committing the evil of mass murder because they successfully committed the evil of disarming their victims first.
Second history lesson:

On 19 April 1775, the main reason the American colonists decided that this was the day to make a stand against 700 British Regulars at Lexington and Concord was that the British were marching out to disarm the colonists, to confiscate their muskets, powder, and shot. The colonists refused and successfully defended their weapons and supplies. The birth of the United States is a violent response to an attempt at disarmament.

Another fun fact from that 19th of April. One 78 year old farmer from the area, Samuel Whittimore, is remembered as the State Hero of Massachusetts for his actions that day. He had missed the main battle and only heard about things when the British were retreating back toward Boston. He could have stayed out of it, the battle was essentially over.
 Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British relief brigade under Earl Percy, sent to assist the retreat. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British Grenadiers of the 47th Regiment of Foot from behind a nearby stone wall, killing one soldier. He then drew his dueling pistols, killed a second grenadier and mortally wounded a third. By the time Whittemore had fired his third shot, a British detachment had reached his position; Whittemore drew his sword and attacked. He was subsequently shot in the face, bayoneted numerous times, and left for dead in a pool of blood. He was found by colonial forces. He was taken to Dr. Cotton Tufts of Medford, who perceived no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore recovered and lived another 18 years until dying of natural causes at the age of 96. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

Patrick Henry's famous speech was given a month later. You should read the whole thing.
What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
--Patrick Henry, St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775

Into the Night - A Brigid Guest Post

In Chicago this week, we lost a well-loved and respected police Commander, to a criminal's bullet.  His colleagues were helpless to stop it, but they are there now to honor him as he is laid to rest.  When going into battle soldiers know who has their back. In Law Enforcement, it is much the same. But in the day to day life, we often find out who is around us that would take that literal bullet for us.

Growing up my big brother was my protector. If you've read my first two books you know our story well. He was my best friend and guide despite the age difference.  I still thank him for when he sent the "live toad in a gift box" to the snooty girl down the block that made fun of me for wearing hand-me-downs and home sewed clothes because my Mom chose to be a full-time mom rather than return to the workforce as a Deputy Sheriff when they adopted the two of us late in life.

When Mom died, and Dad briefly checked out emotionally, my beloved brother off in Submarine Service, I left home young, starting college at age 14, fleeing not simply because I was fleeing, but that the absence was the only argument I had at 14 to employ against the losses in my life. I was alone until I was not, then a pregnancy in college and my daughter's subsequent adoption made me realize I needed family around me again, even if not related by blood. So there were friends, and there were toasts and tears and healing as I got past the sound that goodbyes made.
When I graduated and was accepted into flight training to become a pilot I had much the same support system. Our Crew Chief, who often looked at us like something on the bottom of his shoe, honestly was our biggest fan, but using Crew Chief etiquette wasn't allowed to show it. Crew Chiefs were like that, finding the occupation of keeping their emotion steeled against the worst so captivating, that they had no other emotion available. He wasn't scared, but thinking everyone under his charge was such an idiot that we would never see another sunrise, he remained firm in his resolve that what was to be was predestined.   The ground crew was won over by homemade chocolate chip cookies even if they weren't quite sure what to make of the first female Commander in the unit.  My copilots became family, even the one that used to spray the whole cockpit down with Lysol because he was a germaphobe which followed with me puking into his flight bag due to a late night out and a fighter pilot breakfast (you'll have to google that, this is a family-friendly blog).

We'd launch, whether we were ready or not, listening to the sounds of the ground crew (clear on 2) with that listening attention that meant we were ready to go out and confront whatever those words meant. In the distance, a knot of men, moving with deliberate movement, offering a wave as we taxied out, their roles unclear as the wind amped up a slow vibration in the air, but their support unwavering,

But later in life, when my flying was behind me except for the occasional inverted romp in an 8KCAB, my support system was not so structured. There were friends I thought I could rely on that disappeared like smoke when there were clouds on the horizon. There were those that wanted to be friends simply to build their fan base. And there were those that were like the walls of my house - quiet, not always saying anything, but always there to keep me warm and safe.

My team at work has always been a constant. I've worked with gruff curmudgeons who held evidence in their giant paws of hands like the most tender of playthings even as they busied themselves with matters of life and death that brooked no delay. And I've worked with the young probies, so bursting with ambition and testosterone that they always upheld a state of lively satisfaction no matter the amount of deeply questioned bloodshed.

I've been covered in gore, and I've been shot at, ending my day wet, tired, and stiff in every joint, with that momentary hallucination of vision that comes to the insanely exhausted, where like a drowning man reviews his life, I realized that not only did I not find the smoking gun, I left the coffee pot on this morning.
But I always had my support system.

Today, I'm management- more likely to be felled by a paper cut than a bullet. My team still visits, but in doing so I'm "Ma'am" not "Brigid" as I'm the director. Times change, time slows. But I do know that there are those around me I can count on, both personally and professionally, in that enlightened compression that dwells upon the approach of a storm.

Yet, on those nights I'm stuck in a hotel room, the bed linen cold and soundless under my hand, clinging softly to that hand in the quiet air as breathing vaporizes in the faint light as I wait for the phone to ring, I'm aware of something.
I still have those that watch my back, even if they are only friends and family, strong in my life, even if their numbers are as a shadow is larger than the object that casts it. They are there in those mornings where the red dawn crests in the sharp light as if beyond the horizon lay hell not heaven. They are there in those soft nights, where ice cubes tinkle and the air carries on it only the scent of mint and soft lemon verbena perfume as small children chase fireflies in the yard.

As I return from my travels, the taxi taking me from the airport, the old bungalows of Chicago pass by the window in grays and browns, lighter than dust and laid lightly upon the earth, as if one good hard rain would wash them away, I smile. I am simply another suit and a laptop, trying to make a little difference in an insane world, where those that work for me, risk their lives for what is right and good. This is not the life I planned, and it is not the life I imagined, but it is the only life I want, here with those who would walk into the night with me. - Brigid

Friday, February 16, 2018

At Borepatch's Request

Jim Land's rifles on YouTube.

These are some the rifles I got to see and handle last night. Although he did not have the Barrett 50 with him, the others were on the table. And we got a fine dinner of chicken and pastry.

Remember, kids - only the police should have guns

The Father of Marine Corps Snipers

At our monthly club meeting last night, the guest speaker was Major Jim Land. Major Land was the Marine that started and built the modern Marine Corps sniper program. He started with a dozen scoped Garands (M1-D) and a dozen hunting rifles he acquired from Special Services on U.S. bases and built the first sniper team in Vietnam.

He brought a collection of military sniper rifles, starting with a 1917 manufactured 1903 Springfield on up through the M40A6 that is in use in Afghanistan today, and spoke of the evolution of the equipment.

He had stories to tell of his time as a competitive marksman for the Marines as well as his experience leading a team of snipers that included Carlos Hathcock.

Here's another article about him and his experiences from American Rifleman.

Even the blanket he put his rifles on could have been the subject of an interesting presentation.

The "logic" of gun control

Here endeth the lesson.

Walking Dread - On Zombie Spiders - A Brigid Guest Post

While visiting a friends farm in Northern Indiana one fall, someone brought over these round green balls that appeared to be some kind of pod or alien fruit. "What the heck are those?". I asked. Apparently they were the fruit off of the Osage Orange tree, otherwise known as Hedge Apples. My friends  said they repel spiders. You put them in a bowl or on a piece of foil and place them around the house. They won't spoil or mold and eventually just shrink to the side of a walnut. I should have brought more of them home.

For I am afraid of spiders. I can watch "Walking Dead" and sleep like a baby, but spot a big hairy spider in the house and I'm tip toeing around with a rolled up newspaper for days.

Snakes, bats in my hair (been there, done that), no problem. When you're out in the wild, sometimes hiking, sometimes working, you run into it all, bears, wolves, coyotes, horny toads, horny tourists, bugs, ants that bite and those little plastic containered, cellophane-covered sandwiches they carbon date for freshness and sell at gas stations.

I lived in the desert after grad school, and woke once to find a tarantula in my bed. My roommate, raised there, heard my shout and got a dust pan and gently picked it up, talking to it softly, and took it back to the yard to be released. "They do more good than harm" she said. I slept on the couch for the next month.
When I too lived out in the country a few years ago, spiders were a constant, short of running them over with your giant Chevy Subdivision, they were pretty indestructible.  The little ones, I left alone, as they do eat bugs and such around the property, letting them be or gently removing them from house to garden. But those large hairy fast moving spiders scared me to no end.  One night I opened the door to let the dog in and in rushes a grasshopper, into the house as fast as he could go.  What the. . ??  He was being chased, by a large spider.  I got the door closed before a spidey security breach, got the grasshopper picked up in a jar, and put him out the back door at the opposite end of the house..  Next time I opened the front door, the spider was waiting, rushing at the door again. . .

 "I Am Sparta!"  SLAM.

 We used the back door for a couple of weeks.

I can handle a lot of things, be it heights, or horror movies. But not giant spiders.

So there I was, staying with some friends who live out in the country, up at 3:30 in the morning to use the bathroom (note to self no Guinness after 8 pm) and as I'm taking care of business, a wolf spider about the size of a Buick runs across the floor towards me. Barefoot, I threw a hand towel on it and proceeded with my rendition of the Grapes of Wrath stomp.

Stomp Stomp Stomp. Die Spider Die!

No movement from under the towel. He didn't escape, the floor around it was clear. I left it there for the morning.

At 5 am, I got up (wearing slippers just in case) and look at the towel, prepared to just shake it outside and then throw it in the wash. But what caught my eye was the large dead spider, legs curled up, a few inches away. He'd managed to crawl out and expire next to the tub, rolled up like a crescent roll. OK. At least he was dead. I went to get a paper towel to dispose of the remains.

This is where the fun started

I came back and Mr. Spider was completely reanimated, and pissed off, on TOP of the towel, ready to pounce on my foot like a Chihuahua on a pork chop.

He'd been dead. I'd been sure of it. I'm kind of trained in those things. Now he's back.

I had the only zombie spider in all of the Midwest.

Fortunately, I was highly trained in zombie spider removal and wearing nothing but tactical bunny slippers, dispatched him with a roll of paper towels.

Zombie Spider Rule # 2
The Double Tap

Thursday, February 15, 2018

So lefties are all over themselves about gun control?

Uh huh.

Smartest kids in the class.

Are there fewer calls for gun control today?

Or am I just tuning things out more?  I could see the media keeping their focus on Trump and Russia Russia Russia and not having the professional or emotional cycles to push gun control.

But maybe I just don't listen to the Usual Suspects much anymore.  They may be going the same old, same old gun grab push but I'm just not listening to them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day

The Queen Of The World has been leaving little surprises around all over Castle Borepatch, which is great fun.  I hope you have as nice a Valentine's Day as I'm having.  Or at least better than this:

Valentine's Day Thoughts On Communication - A Brigid Guest Post

There was a best selling book a long while back called "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus", attempting to sum up the differences between the sexes.

I flipped through it at the book store but didn't buy it, as I work and play with mostly guys and would probably have done better with a book on copper plumbing and why it hates me.

Certainly there are differences, but communication, not books, is the key.   For example, consider this actual conversation not all that long back at the Range.

Venusian:  (fresh out of the shower and eying perfume and body sprays). "What would you like me to smell like? You have a choice of Vanilla, Strawberries and Champagne, White Musk, or Loves Potion No. 1."

Martian: "Loves Potion No. 1?"

Venusian: "Yes."

Martian: "Does it smell like bacon??"

See what I mean?
Then there's the way we deal with stress.  Today's example.

Which would be the Venusian versus Martian choice?


If you answered, "both" you might be dealing with a redhead from either planet that's had about enough stress for one year, (one armed with a Wilton extra large decorating tip and tactical sprinkles).
So gentlemen, let's say you wish to go out and purchase a new firearm, something nifty, but perhaps not as supremely practical as your better half might think. Not necessarily something you need as you already have a concealed piece or sporting pieces.  It's just something you want.

I know much of what I'm saying here is a generalization and "one size does NOT fit all", but the women I know who have firearms for protection or sport shooting are married to men who also enjoy safe and responsible firearm ownership.
In that case say "Honey I think I want to go out and buy another gun", and he's got the car out of the garage and warmed up faster than that time you said, "honey, I think my water just broke".

Yes it seems like a stereotype but it's based on statistics.  There are still a lot of law-abiding  men who enjoy firearms and firearm activities who are married to those that do not embrace it  They may not object to it in theory but may still consider it an extra expense, one that perhaps the household doesn't need right now (though more and more women are learning practical defense and taking a try at some of the shooting sports).

In such a situation, how do such folks know that their planned purchase will be met with a warm reception or at least avoid a serious conflict ("dodging a bullet") in the household.

It's all in the subtle verbal and non-verbal communication: You can learn a lot just by watching a person's behavior. I'm not talking profiling because we're not allowed to do that. I'm referring to those subtle signs that offer big clues as to someone's recent actions or intent.

For example  -Their right hand has no visible cuts, bruises or scars (they areleft-handedd).

They have no eyebrows (they recently purchased a barbecue and an aceteylene torch).

They don't listen to anyone (they are in politics).

They twitch a lot (they are either nervous or watched too much Jersey Shore).

They are wearing an I Heart Osama Bin Laden T shirt and are waiting for public transportation carrying a large ticking suitcase (they are a tourist, we don't profile now, do we).

I'll give you another example of reading non verbal communication:

Gentlemen:  you come home quite late, smelling like beer. You didn't call. Your better half greets you at the door:

(1) She's wearing yesterdays sweat pants. Her hair is in a bun, her brow looks like the San Andreas Fault. Her look would freeze small mammals in their tracks. There is a bear trap on the bed.

(2) She's dusting the living room wearing sheer lingerie while humming Etta James' "At Last". There are two cold beers on the table. The bed is unmade. She looks at you and winks.

In which example would the man have a more pleasant outcome?

See, it's not that hard. Ladies, this applies to us as well. Women aren't the only ones who offer up non verbal communication clues.

For example

Martian (coming in from the shop): "Do we have any beer?" (what he's actually saying: "*(#*@ single stage press, I should have bought the five stage one.")

Venusian: "Just some Schlitz Light, it's only 2 points on Weight Watchers"

Martian: "No IPA?" (What he's actually saying: "with all the money we're saving on cheap *&@ diet beer I should have just bought the damn Dillon")

Sound of feet heading down stairs

Venusian: "Honey, you forgot your beer."

That being said, study both verbal and non verbal clues when presenting something that might be met with less than a stellar response. For some, that might be a new gun purchase to add to your already nice collection. When contemplating such a move, in addition to being prepared to offering up the advantages of said purchase (safety features, ease of maintenance, inexpensive back-up)  and addressing mutual  concerns (storage in a house with children, availability of ammo), you need to remember the usual tactics that apply to about any activity in the Mars/Venus household.  As Red Green would say:

(1) Come home in the same clothes you left in.

(2) Don't argue unarmed with any creature with bigger teeth than you have.

(3) If they don't ask for your opinion assume they are right.


(4) Anything you say will be held against you.

So, keeping those points in mind, you've done your homework and looked far and wide for just what you want. Then one fine Saturday, you bring home your little beauty and show the better half .

Her response:

(1) Somewhere a door slams. The only thing that's going to kick on tonight is the furnace.

(2) She looks at it and utters a very long sigh.

(3) She doesn't say a word about the firearm but reminds you of that argument you had back in 1996 when you know she was right.

(3) She says "that's OK" (she just went out and bought $525 worth of shoes, see "dodged a bullet.")

(4) She looks at it carefully, asks what it cost and what it's best used for.

(5) She says "COOL!  Can I borrow it!?"

Again, subtle clues of verbal and non verbal communication. I hope this helps, but remember, if all else fails (and you don't want to make a dozen duct tape roses for Valentine's Day like Partner in Grime did..)

(1) Tell them they are the love of your life, especially smelling like bacon.

(2) Bring them home something too. I'd suggest a 1911, but whatever strikes their fancy.


Monday, February 12, 2018

R.I.P. Daryle Singletary


What Travis said.  And Charlie.  This was real country music, for real country music fans.  46 is too young by decades.  Damn.