Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Per La Mia Bambina

Something special for your Wednesday Wonder. Enjoy!!

Kathleen Battle, who hails from Ohio, (UC conservatory alumnus) - sings O mio babbino caro (O my beloved father) from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.

Happy Birthday, mia bambina!


Monday, November 11, 2013

On The Eleventh Day Of the Eleventh Month...

... at the eleventh hour, we will remember.

The Great War - as it was known until the second great war made a mockery of the phrase "Never Again" - dealt a wound to the collective human psyche which can still be felt today. Through stories passed down within families, through questions children ask as they pass poppy-festooned war memorials, through music, poetry and literature composed by people who had survived that time and who sought to process the senselessness and horror of it all, the human toll of that first truly worldwide conflict is remembered today.

In my own hometown, there is a statue of a caribou which was erected in a beautiful park to memorialize the generation of young men who had fallen at Beaumont Hamel on the first day of the devastating Battle of the Somme. Allied forces lost thousands of men during the horrific months-long Somme offensive. The battle was the inspiration for John McCrae's famous poem, "In Flanders Fields". Lesser known, except in Newfoundland, is that the tiny Newfoundland Infantry division of 780 men was among the first ordered over the side on the morning of July 1. 1916, launching the battle to open up the western front. Within hours, only 110 of the Blue Puttees, as they were known, were alive and of those, only 68 were able to stand for roll call the next morning. The loss of more than 500 young men from the tiny population of Newfoundland was a wound so deep that it underlines all war memorial services in Newfoundland to this day.

There are only five of the bronze caribou statues memorializing the fallen on that day; four of them are in France and Belgium and the fifth is in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Even less well-known, even by Newfoundlanders, is that before being sent to France to await orders as the strategy to open up a western front was pursued by the Allies, the Newfoundland regiment had been fighting at another infamous battlefield - Gallipoli. The Newfoundland regiment had actually been shipped out to Suvla Bay via Egypt in the early years of the war.

For today's Monday Music, I'd like to present a beautiful, moving and haunting song which describes the horror of WW1 from the point of view of an Australian infantryman who served in Gallipoli. The song is a searing and unforgettable reminder of the experiences of all of these "colonial boys" who eagerly stood up to serve King and country. Please take a few moments to listen to this amazing song.

To all who have served and who continue to serve: Thank you.

 The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Now when I was a young man and I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of the drover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915 my country said "Son
It's time to stop rambling, there's work to be done"
And they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war.

And the band played waltzing Matilda
As the ships pulled away from the quay
And amid all the tears, flag waving and cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

And how I remember that terrible day
How our blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs to the slaughter.

Johnny Turk was ready, oh he primed himself well
He rained us with bullets and he showered us with shell
And in five minutes flat we were all blown to hell
Nearly blew us all back home to Australia.

But the band played waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the turks burned theirs
And we started all over again

Those who were living just tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive
While around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I awoke in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done and I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All round the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me.

They collected the crippled, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled in to Circular Key
And I looked at the place where my legs used to be
I thanked Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity

And the band played waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared
And turned all their faces away

So now every April, I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Renewing their dreams of past glory

I see the old men all tired, stiff and sore
The weary old heroes of a forgotten war
And the young people ask "what are they marching for? "
And I ask myself the same question

And the band played waltzing Matilda
And the old men still answer the call
But year after year, the numbers get fewer
Some day none will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the billabong
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.

- Eric Bogle

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thank Gods It's FreyaDay!

Good Day, Humans.

We had our first real snow on Tuesday.

Oh no, your eyes are not deceiving you

I said "snow".

What is this place?
Warm sun on my face, while the chilly air
lightly whispers against my body. Odd!
I think I like this!

Leaves are still on the shrubbery

and now they are covered with snow!

Scarlet foliage now draped in frosty white;

fluffy white collars on street lamps and railings.

Is this a magic place?

Some days, I think so.

It is a place where seasons flip and twirl

and the morning light shines down

on daily surprises.

I think I like this place.

It is obviously too cold

but still ...

I think I like it.

Thank gods it's FreyaDay!

Snow Cat

The tiger stirred from sweet repose
For hunger grew once more...
Despite the cool, cool ice that froze,
The pain began to gnaw...
The boy-twin peers outside, but inside his
silly head thoughts of heroism and
adventure swirl.  He is a feline
Walter Mitty. (sigh)
His eyes now looked with stern intent
At creatures near and far,
Not one of these could be his friend,
For his sharp claws could scar...
He prowled along, with stealth, with guile,
His eyes like black night coals.
His hidden hunger would defile
His soul with evil goals.
He didn't pine for fruit or grass
Like other creatures would...
If he saw them, he'd merely pass
For he sought something good.
To him, that meant some meat to eat
And nothing else seemed right...
For this, he'd chase and he'd compete
With courage and with might!
He looked so sleek, so fit, so firm,
So proud and quite supreme...
Yet he must serve this Winter term
A prisoner to his dream...
The creatures feared him night and day...
They hid when he came close...
To him, they were his meat, his prey...
To them, his life he owes...

- Denis Martindale

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thorsday Tonic - A Better Worldview

P Z Myers posted this CFI ad (embedded below) on Monday. The reviews in the Pharyngula commentariat were somewhat mixed. Some people feel that the emphasis on cheery positivity and assertion that unbelievers "savor every moment" and are all "thrilled to be here" is simplistic and ignores the reality that unbelievers - like all people - come from a variety of life circumstances. Nevertheless, there was a general feeling that it is good to see ads like this which focus on the truth that god-belief is hardly the only way to experience joy, awe or hope.

I am one of the people who liked the ad in spite of its weaknesses, so I am reposting it here, along with the transcript of the ad which CFI provided. I hope we will see it on TV.

Millions of Americans are living happily without religion.

It's really quite simple.

We are the products of the billions of years that came before us, alive and awake for this brief period of time, savoring every moment, and committed to making the world a better place.

We are the human family -- connected. We experience together the human condition, in all of its triumphs and through all of its challenges.

We accept that our lives will end, but we take great joy in knowing that life keeps going.

We celebrate the advances and discoveries that, each day, improve lives, stir our imagination, and stretch the boundaries of the possible.

Ultimately, we know we are a tiny but unique part of the ever-evolving story of life in the cosmos, responsible for living our lives with honesty, dignity, compassion, and truth.

We also know it is a magnificent story, and we are thrilled to be here.

We are secular humanists, and we are living happily without religion.

Learn more at Living Without Religion.

Video produced by Seth Andrews, host of The Thinking Atheist

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Tonic - Bob Newhart AND Bill Nye!

Ok, comedy fans - and science geeks, too! - this has got to be the best thing ever.

Last month, CBS announced that Bob Newhart would be returning to Big Bang Theory to reprise his guest role as Professor Proton, a TV personality and Sheldon Cooper's childhood hero. In September, Newhart won an Emmy for the guest role and it looks like CBS is smart enough to know a great thing when it sees it (unlike the luddites who have snubbed Bob Newhart over the past 5 decades when he was doing some of the greatest work in television comedy in one hilarious series after another, yet was always passed over at Emmy time).

On Thursday, November 7, Professor Proton returns!

But wait, it gets better! Not only will Bob Newhart reprise his Professor Proton for Thursday night's episode but, in their infinite wisdom, the BBT producers have also managed to bring in Bill Nye, the Science Guy (playing himself) as Proton's arch-nemesis! This is going to be epic!

Bob Newhart, Bill Nye and Big Bang Theory - it's a science geek/comedy trifecta!

Get your popcorn and settle in to watch (or cue up the DVR!) Thursday night's episode!

(to warm you up and/or hold you until Thursday night, check out the scene below):

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thank Gods It's FreyaDay!

Good Day, Humans.

What a to-do last night!

I believe there was some kind of madness in the air.

Tiny humans running door to door,

shrieking and calling for treats.
The scene at this establishment last night.
Why ever did young humans interpret this
as an invitation? Sssssssilly humansss!

Or was it tricks?

I don't remember.

Anyway, who cares?

I was disturbed from my siesta.

Today, I must recover.

I shall lie down here and rest.

I will think of Eliot's wise words,

and listen to beautiful music.

Thank gods it's FreyaDay!

“With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don’t speak till you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that —
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
Resents familiarity.
I bow, and taking off my hat,
Ad-dress him in this form: O Cat!
But if he is the Cat next door,
Whom I have often met before
(He comes to see me in my flat)
I greet him with an oopsa Cat!
I think I've heard them call him James —
But we've not got so far as names.”
― T.S. Eliot, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats