Category: Memories (Page 1 of 2)

11-November

A preface: I became interested in World War One history about 40 years ago, reading Elleston Trevor’s “Bury Him Among Kings,” a novel (undoubtedly my favorite of all time) with a title which referenced an epitaph mentioned below. From around high school on, I’ve read and studied and absorbed (and suffered through college courses) all I could about German history from 1815 to 1945. It’s endlessly fascinating (and disturbingly prophetic) study.

But it’s never really packed a personal punch. While many in our extended families fought in the Civil War, most were too young or too old for the world wars. One exception was our Uncle Louie Webb, who served in World War Two (and how I wish I could ask him about it!) and our Grandpa Pollock’s oldest brother Mearon Edgar, who was born in 1894 and is our father’s namesake. Edgar (as Dad called him) was a World War One veteran and he placed a small ad in the American Legion Magazine of August, 1937: “800th Aero Repair Squadron—Proposed reunion, Los Angeles, Calif., late summer or fall. Mearon E. Pollock, 306 N. Maple dr., Beverly Hills, Calif.” He was apparently the principal organizer of such squadron reunions up until World War Two. After the first war, he and his wife moved to Beverly Hills from Oklahoma. He was a barber with a shop on Wilshire Boulevard; she was a Beverly Hills public school teacher. They later farmed in Oregon and California, where he died around 1977. Interesting stuff, albeit a bit dry. The history of war should never be dry and dusty and divorced from our emotions. It should be as war itself: visceral, devastating, obscene to sight, offensive to smell, deafening to hearing. Hence the following post.

100 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns along the 440-mile line stretching from Switzerland to the North Sea fell silent. The war started 1 August 1914 just as German Chancellor Otto von Bismark once famously predicted around 1884, by “some damned fool thing in the Balkans;” in this case, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a city of agony in the 20th century). But on 11 November 1918, it was finally “all quiet on the Western Front.”

We remember all this today because as Polish poet Czesław Miłosz wrote, “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

But sometimes, the living forget those who can no longer speak and instead harness them in service of the political or the feel-good, using their severed limbs to pat ourselves on our collective backs. This rather florid inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, London, is an example of how remembrance can often be lofty, nebulous, nameless and faceless and sanitized and ultimately divorced from the nightmare reality of the war and how it was experienced by the men and women caught in it:

“Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to lie among the most illustrious of the land and buried here on Armistice Day, 11 Nov: 1920, in the presence of His Majesty King George V, his Ministers of State, the Chiefs of his forces and a vast concourse of the nation. Thus are commemorated the many multitudes who during the Great War of 1914 – 1918 gave the most that Man can give, life itself; for God, for King and country, for loved ones, home and empire, for the sacred cause of justice and the freedom of the world. They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward his house.”

That was the official, sanitized, God-and-Country pablum version of the war. It’s fine as it goes, but the soldiers of the line saw things quite differently, and epitaphs like these tend to mute them, hide them from sight, rob them of existence.

So what’s a better way to remember then? How about starting with accounts left to us such as the prose and poetry of two British officers and a German soldier. It is their raw experiences which we should remember today, not “George V and his Ministers of State and the Chiefs of his forces” (who botched the entire affair so badly that it became an unprecedented slaughter), nor leaders gathered today at Compiegne, site of the signing of Armistice, nor the American leader shamefully cowering in his hotel in Paris, apparently afraid of rain.

Wrote British Captain Siegfried Sassoon in one of his best, sharpest, brightest harpooning poems of the “Chiefs of His Majesty’s forces”:

The General

“‘Good-morning, good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

“But he did for them both by his plan of attack.”

Siegfried Sassoon

British Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action just one week before the Armistice was signed, summed up his generation’s experience and wondered who would mourn them in extremely powerful poems:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

“What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.”

Wilfrid Owen

The German Erich Maria Remarque, in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a book which was later burned by Hitler, added his own voice in prose:

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

“A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.”

Erich Maria Remarque

Finally, it’s worth reading what is probably Owens’ finest poem:

Dulce et Decorum Est

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

“Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

“In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

“If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.'”

Wilfrid Owen

The old lie: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” roughly translates to “It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country.” As Owen wrote, dying like cattle in warfare conducted in the cause of nationalism or patriotism is never sweet. It is an obscenity. Just see the attached photos. You should not be squeamish; stare at them and memorize them. If you vote for war, support its waging or cheer for capital punishment, you should be able to look unflinchingly at the black and white images of the consequences of bloodthirst.)

As violent forces of chauvinistic nationalism rise around us, we would do well to remember not Kings and generals, but the experience and judgement of the many Owens, Sassoons and Remarques as the central lesson of this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2018.

[Photo: First World War infantrymen whose faces had been mutilated in trench warfare. They were known as the “gueules cassées”.]

World War II After World War II | Kuroshio sub

World War II After World War II

Ran across «this wonderful site with some incredibly detailed data and photos about World War II equipment and weapons» and how they’ve been used since the end of that war. It’s hard to believe, but WWII weapons are currently still in action in places like Syria and Yemen.

The site’s creator doesn’t have much explanation about either the creator or why it was created, other than this short blurb:

“There are obviously many websites on WWII weapons, and many on post-war weapons, but I have always been fascinated with WWII weapons being used after the war.”

World War II After World War II

But doesn’t matter. It’s absorbing reading and hope there is much more to come.

100 dollar bills stacked.

The Conscience Stirs

A gem I wrote on FB on 28-Feb-2010:

“My Facebook account is being deleted (allegedly) as of this morning. It takes 14 days for the deletion to go through, during which time they beg and plead for you to come back (mainly by trying to guilt trip you: “Your friend, John X, will miss you!”) and sending you spam begging for your presence on their totally messed up, nonsensical, aggravating, unsafe, unsecure, grossly indecent to privacy site, with its hideous navigation, crippled by the company’s inability to comprehend basic navigability and usability and its stuffed-up with San Francisco-centric IT/corporate culture snobbery permanently sticking its cube dwellers behind an impregnable wall which protects them from actually having to communicate with their users.

“Yeah, all that: gone. And I feel good. So very much better. Didn’t need the aggravation. Didn’t need to deal with the kind of things I dealt with working in San Francisco in that environment myself. Didn’t need to justify my life to distant people with political agendas.

“It was nice to hear from and reconnect (briefly) with high school friends/acquaintances. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in real life, away from that god-awful FB interface. But the rest of it … no, don’t need it.

“Relief. Sweet.”
________________

28-Feb-10, Author

Fast forward to eight-and-a-half years later: I still stand behind my rant from 2010. And am half tempted to repeat the experience.

I originally joined Facebook in 2004, when only college students in certain schools could do so. It was really supposed to just hook up various combinations of random, mostly romantic, relationships for college students. It was a hook up site, plain and simple. It was designed to get you a returned phone call, a date, and hopefully, ultimately get you laid. Sorry, but that’s what it was.

I was in grad school at Michigan, an approved school, and had an .edu email address, which was required, so I could sign up. Seemed like a good idea, although I was not interested in hook up apps or college culture, just cutting edge tech and if it could be used in the classroom.

But. The way this thing has developed since 2004 from a hookup site/innovative curiousity into a force of nature which does only one good thing (makes it somewhat easy for you to keep up with far-flung friends and family) and many, many, many, very many, very bad things.

It rips into your brain, vacuums up any and every thing about you and then commodifies and monetizes the pieces that make up “you” billions of times over. This makes a few people incredibly wealthy. It leaves the rest of us stripped naked of our identities and essences, our food/clothing/shelter choices, our deepest thoughts and most superficial desires.

Worst, it is a force combined with others like it that has this century turned the country from a publicly accountable democracy into a privatized unimpeachable corporate kleptocracy. And what that new sociopolitical system does best is steal us from us and fence us on a black market, allow lying demagogues to assume power and distort the meaning of truth in our universe.

I pretty much wish I had remained disconnected from FB while also being innovative enough to stay connected to the real people in my life without Facebook’s corrupting middle man kleptocracy. I sense that there is another housecleaning coming; my involvement will need to be further curtailed. I’m thinking of what we can do next … there are far better possibilities, surely, than this unholy mess of greed and venality.

Now don’t even get me started about Twitter …

Remembering the Past

Remembering Bill Schock on his 100th birthday … and the 52nd anniversary of Braniff 250 in Falls City. Also … feeling old from … time flying and stuff.

Since the AM2431 crash in Durango a few days ago appears to be from weather-related causes, never forgetting the lessons of BN250, as well as CO426, OZ809, EA66, PA759, DL191, and US1016 is as important as ever. Hope today’s flight crews are paying attention.

Warm Summer Night

Terrible quality, but is there anything better than a warm summer night playing in – er, rather sitting near the lawn sprinkler under a street light while watching the 21:00 evening arrivals at KBNA? Well, maybe if I was still 10 …

Posted by Steve Pollock on Monday, June 25, 2018

Photo of Bill Schock

A Final “Hangin’ Out the Warsh”

«This is Bill’s final column» out of countless ones he wrote over 71 years for the Falls City Journal.

With this column, he said farewell; the Journal has been sold and moved to a much smaller space in downtown Falls City which it had occupied until 1950.

It’s all extremely symbolic of the state of small-town journalism in the wayward America of the 21st century.

He wrote about one memory that I can personally relate to very much from my time at the Duncan Banner:

“A man came into the office and was pondering over the counter. Finally, he said, ‘I guess I’ll keep on another year. It ain’t the best paper in the world, but it is something to read.’ Another time a man brought an ad in for placement in the Journal and when he was told the price he said, ‘The old man gave me a better price.’ The clerk said, ‘Who’s the old man?’ He said ‘Bill Schock.'”

Falls City Journal

Die weiße Rose

"Seventy-five years ago today, a group of young German idealists, students who had dared to speak out against the Nazis,…

Posted by Steve Pollock on Thursday, February 22, 2018

Image of a plane crashing

Shuttling Between Failures


Turning Sows’ Ears into Silk Purses

This one truth we know: 2017 was disastrous on many levels, including in commercial aviation. Airline corporate boards’ are ever ramping up on their war on passengers, pilots and cabin crew. But there was a very tiny yet significant bright spot noted in The Washington Post and elsewhere: « 2017 was the first year since the advent of passenger air travel that no one died in a commercial airline accident ».

“The Aviation Safety Network estimated there were nearly 37 million flights in 2017, more than any year in history, meaning that aircraft mishaps are declining even as the number of flights continues to rise. The last commercial jet airline crash in which more than 100 people were killed was Oct. 31, 2015, when 224 lives were lost after a flight from Russia broke apart in Egypt. The ASN, which tracks crashes using different metrics from those to70 uses, showed 10 recorded crashes involving small propeller planes and cargo aircraft, killing 44 passengers and 35 people on the ground in 2017. In 2016, the group counted 16 accidents with 303 dead.”
—The Washington Post, 2-Jan-18

But in true 2017-was-an-asshole form, even that tiny bright spot was tarnished when the Personality-in-Chief who shuttles between golf courses and Pennsylvania Avenue on a pimped-out Boeing 747 at considerable taxpayer expense, took credit for last year’s remarkable airline safety record. Urk.

For the Golfer-in-Chief to take credit for this is beyond offensive and insensitive and a lie. It blackens the names of people like Eastern 304’s Grant Newby and Braniff 250’s Don Pauley and Jim Hilliker and Ruth and Mitchell Kuhr and USAirways 1549’s Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles and those dead and injured on Southern 242 and Delta 191 and Air Florida 90, plus all the CAB/NTSB investigators, FAA enforcers and weather experts like Dr. Ted Fujita and Dr. Fernando Caracena … and on and on. And especially all the flight crews who thousands of times a day implement what was learned in the past and get us safely to Lawton and Houston and Milwaukee and Paris and Hong Kong and Lagos.

Let’s be clear: The Ego-in-Chief had absolutely nothing to do with the absence of death on the airways last year. And it was a slap in the face and highly offensive to the memories of all the people who died and all the people who worked so hard to prevent future recurrences. Their great sacrifices are the real reason why we can fly from Dubuque to Fort Myers … Without. Dying. In. A. Plane. Crash. Now you are admittedly shoved into a tiny space with little air and subject to appalling treatment, but you are more likely to be killed by being beaten up by rogue security forces (or being shot by a toddler with Granny’s gun) than you are from Dying. In. A. Plane. Crash. Airlines, airports, police and corporate boards have much work to do on the ground to equal the safety record in the air.

In fact, the record of the former deadbeat owner of the “Trump Shuttle” is pretty clearly the opposite of admirable airline operation, safety and responsibility. The Boston Globe did « a very through review in 2016 » of how the pioneering Eastern Airlines Shuttle was destroyed by Frank Lorenzo and the man who appears to be the current incarnation of P.T. Barnum.

These two Vandals have the same egos and desire to destroy, but Lorenzo actually had some brains to carry it out. Unlike his business partner.

The story is sordid and long, but the details were made clear by Matt Viser’s excellent Globe piece. To wit: Lorenzo sold the Donald the Eastern Shuttle for an overvalued $365 million (if DT had created a brand-new shuttle from the ground up with brand-new planes, not old worn-out 727s, estimates were that he could have done it for $300 million.) Of course, the money was all borrowed. It was 1989; Eastern (and Continental) were already almost dead from Lorenzo’s sledgehammer and the economy was tanking. Pan Am 103 was bombed, the first Gulf War was about to begin. It was incredibly bad judgement to overpay a bunch of other peoples’ money for something that was guaranteed to tank.

The now-decades-old D.T. playbook was followed from the beginning. D.T. started his airline foray by … snarking about Pan American, which had put in more hard work and suffering and pioneering effort into air travel than D.T. would ever be capable of mustering:

“He suggested Pan Am’s flights were unsafe, that the company was strapped for cash and couldn’t spend as much to maintain planes as Trump Shuttle.”
—The Boston Globe, 27-May-16

And, heavy foreshadowing here, true professionals expressed their disgust over his statement, which, both then and now, is like pissing in the wind:

“We said, ‘Donald, don’t ever do that again,'” recalled Henry Harteveldt, who was the company’s marketing director. “It was wrong. We had no proof to back that up. And there’s an unwritten rule in the airline business that you don’t attack someone else’s safety record. There but for the grace of God go I.”
—Ibid

In other words, D.T. (and countless weak attempts to contain his insanity) has never changed. He was just given 21st century tools to broadcast his uninformed and misguided vitriol to a wider audience, i.e. Twitter. And this time, he has nuclear annihilation capabilities instead of a piddly little failing airline.

But back to 1989. As Harteveldt stated, “There but for the grace of God go I.” The Shuttle was pretty crappy safety-wise from the beginning, and he did nothing to improve it, partly because he had zero aviation experience. The grace of God was apparently withdrawn:

“And Trump’s unfounded remarks about Pan Am safety? They almost immediately came back to bite him. Trump’s own airline was struck by a near-tragedy within its first three months, when the nose gear failed on one of his jets and forced a crash landing at Logan.”
—Ibid

As is noted, investigators found the nose gear failure cause: A “mechanic had used the wrong part in the gear mechanism, and it eventually disintegrated and locked the gear in place,” a safety failure that had happened under Lorenzo’s watch.

“Trump — who weeks earlier had made claims that he would send all of his own planes through X-rays to make sure they were safe — turned on the TV and watched as CNN showed a Trump Shuttle flight circling the air. “After several attempts to jar the nose gear loose, and after circling around to burn fuel, the pilot landed on the back two wheels, slowing the plane down as much as possible before lowering the nose of the plane onto the runway.”
—Ibid

He then flew up to Boston on a Trump Shuttle flight. Hilariously tragic: He “was kind of a nervous flier” and asked one of his airline executives, “Is this thing safe?” I can’t think of a more perfect illustration of his public-huckster/private-doofus personality … and oh, the foreshadowing!

Once in Boston, he praised the “maestro” pilot who sucessfully landed the flight, Robert Smith. And in another bit of foreshadowing, Smith loved D.T. right back:

“The ‘maestro’ that day, pilot Robert Smith, said Trump had been advised not to come up — so as not to draw attention to the crash — but Trump disregarded it. “He was very happy with the crew,” said Smith, who after decades in the airline industry called Trump “the best boss I’ve ever had.” “And I think he was very happy with the exposure he got that day. He handled it beautifully.”
—Ibid

I smell Stockholm Syndrome and future Trumpista voters; you know, the ones who voted for him but who will bear the full brunt of his destructive con. But I digress. I love the followup to “He handled it beautifully”:

“One of the passengers on that flight — who recalls sliding out the aircraft and into a pile of foam — was Mike Murphy, a veteran Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush and his super PAC to try to defeat Trump. “Afterward,” he said, “all I got was a form letter and a drink coupon.”
—Ibid

While Murphy is, like myself, biased against him (or rather his con jobs and inability to grasp reality), facts are facts. A drink coupon for an emergency evac is hardly handling things “beautifully.”

In fact, his own marketing executive at the Shuttle summed up this “beautifully handled” situation:

“‘He certainly was a man known for his bravado. He promised people a diamond in the sky when we had 21 of some of the oldest, worst maintained 727s then flying,’ said Harteveldt, the marketing director. ‘He’s giving a press conference promising a diamond in the sky. I’m saying, “You may have to settle for cubic zirconium to start.””
—Ibid

Perhaps if he had “x-rayed” (!) all those 727s and found the gear part problem the whole situation would not have had to be “beautifully managed” in the first place.

Ultimately, the shuttle was “successful enough to cover operating costs but not enough to pay down the debt.” Meanwhile, D.T. was divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress, something which happened twice, but does not bother the opportunistic evangelicals flitting around his head. But I digress.

After just 12 months, he fired an executive (who had insisted that the 727 needs two pilots and a flight engineer, even though D.T. wanted to fly them with just two pilots to save money) and laid off 100 employees. After 18 months, the shuttle lost $128 million dollars. After 30 months, he golden parachuted out:

“In late 1991, about 2½ years after Trump had purchased the airline, Trump gave up control of his prize in order to get out from a pile of debt. As part of the deal, Trump was no longer responsible for some $245 million in loans left on the shuttle airline. In addition, out of the $135 million that Trump had personally guaranteed, at least $100 million was forgiven, according to news reports at the time.”
—Ibid

Absolved from $245 million in loans and welshing on $100 million which he had “personally guaranteed.” He was out only $35 million while banks and others were left holding the bag. Said he: “I felt successful. The market had crashed. I didn’t lose anything. It was a good thing,” he said.

A very good thing for him indeed. The human wreckage he left? Not so much.

Apologies to The Globe and Matt Viser for so extensively quoting from the article, but it needs rebroadcasting to as many people as possible. Kudos.

But instead of focusing on D.T.’s usual nonsense, we should focus on remembering and honoring the memory of the thousands of casualties and millions of worrkers who made 2017 the safest commercial aviation year in history. May 2018 continue the trend.

[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Rob Potter via Unsplash]

#MeToo sign

Same Here


In Which I Join in on a Hashtag, God Help Me!

There’s this thing that has been closely guarded for going on 40 years in 2018. It’s my secret. So as it hits its 40th birthday in our new year, I decided it’s time to tell the world.

#MeToo.

There. It’s out. More is coming.


[Text by HawkEye. Photo by Mihai Surdu via Unsplash.]

That Was Rick

[An anemic attempt to define Rick, who was undefinable.]Rick Stewart, Feb. 2, 1966 – Feb. 11, 2016.Three months or…

Posted by Steve Pollock on Saturday, February 13, 2016

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