Happy 200th birthday to our national anthem

September 14, 2014

It was on this day in 1814 that a young American lawyer and poet named Francis Scott Key wrote what was to become his most famous poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” while on board a British Navy ship in Chesapeake Bay. Key had been negotiating with the British for the release of a prisoner they had taken in their raid on Washington, but because he had heard about the Navy’s plans for attacking Baltimore, he was not released until after the battle. That was how he came to witness the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the deck of H.M.S. Tonnant on the night of September 13. When the sun rose the following morning, and Key saw the Stars and Stripes flying over Fort McHenry, the sight inspired him to write a poem. Soon afterward, Key’s words were set to the melody of a popular song by English composer John Stafford Smith, and it quickly became known as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“The Star-Spangled Banner” became the national anthem of the United States on March 3, 1931. Often criticized for being difficult to sing and/or for glorifying warfare, it remains stubbornly popular with the American people; and two centuries years after its composition, its ability to send a shiver up the patriotic spine and bring a tear to the patriotic eye remain intact.


Whole lot of faking going on

September 14, 2014

Absolute ignorance is no impediment to holding strong opinions. Let’s just hope these clowns are too stupid find the polling place on election day.


Never forget

September 11, 2014

Although few people are aware of it, the largest maritime evacuation in history took place on September 11, 2001, in Manhattan. It happened spontaneously, without the slightest preparation or planning, because a group of completely ordinary Americans put the well-being of thousands of total strangers ahead of their own safety, convenience, and comfort. Half a million people were rescued in the space of nine hours, and miraculously, not one person was injured in the process. If you have lost your faith in humanity, this short documentary should restore it.

Here’s another story of heroism in an unlikely place: Gander, a little village in Newfoundland where thirty-eight airliners containing almost seven thousand people were diverted after American airspace was closed on September 11. The citizens of Gander opened their homes and hearts to the stranded travelers for five days — another example of the worst disasters bringing out the heroic best in ordinary human beings.

(A longer documentary about Gander can be seen here. I also highly recommend the book The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland, by Jim DeFede.)



On earth as it is in heaven

September 7, 2014

Some beautiful music for Sunday, performed by a Tanzanian gospel choir. “Baba Yetu” is the Lord’s prayer in Swahili, set to music by Christopher Tin.


NATO officer unsure if briefer is British or just brain damaged

September 6, 2014

From The Duffel Blog; bowdlerization by bluebird of bitterness.

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Lt. Col. Dave Birdsong has spent the last two hours sitting in a briefing, unsure whether the presenter is British or brain damaged.

Birdsong is not alone: Many of the attendees are flabbergasted about whether the officer giving the brief has some sort of mental deficiency or is simply from England, Duffel Blog has learned.

“When he says the American military forces have ‘quite good kit, Bob’s your uncol,’ is that just a regional idiom, or might I need to summon medical help?” Birdsong asked reporters. “If he’s having a stroke, I want to help. But Brits frequently talk nonsense like that, so I’m not totally certain.”

Birdsong’s fellow officers are similarly unclear about whether the presenter, Leftenant Nathanial Bumbershoot, is extremely British or he possibly has a clinical mental disorder. And they also wonder whether there is a difference.

“Listen to this,” whispers Ensign Allison Janney. “About five minutes ago, he said ‘unless you’re taking the mick, I say this is a bollocks-all something something footie match.’ Who the f**k talks like that if they aren’t experiencing a brain bleed?”

“That’s nothing,” interjected Sgt. Maj. Bob O’Hoolihan, leaning in to whisper. “Last week he gave a brief where, I swear, he spent about thirty minutes comparing the current Israel mess to f**king Quidditch.”

Reached for reaction, Leftenant Bumbershoot was skeptical of the assessment from his critics.

“Wot’s awl this then, guvnah?!” he told reporters, nearly spilling his exquisitely-brewed Earl Grey tea out of his priceless heirloom china teacup. “I aver this is a right proper flim-flam twizzle-twazzle! Let’s have a brew-up and a fag, and nozz it over quite right-like! Blimey! Zounds! Aluminium heliocopter lorry torch lift blarg roundabout!”

“Cor!” he added meaningfully.

At press time, Leftenant Bumbershoot was going out to the parade field to swat with a cudgel at a tiny spheroid, attempting to knock a stick off of some other sticks.

By Dick Scuttlebutt.

Storage solutions for crazy cat ladies

September 4, 2014

Although crazy-cat-ladyhood is not something I ever aspired to, I somehow managed to raise a bunch of kids who were remarkably adept at rescuing strays, but not much good at taking their strays with them when they grew up and moved out of the house. So now I’m an empty nester with a house full of grandcats. I might have to get me one of these nifty cat organizers.



It’s back-to-school time

September 2, 2014



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