Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in the Trenches

It's Christmas, and time for 12,000,000 bloggers blogging to post their favorite holiday videos and songs. I hadn't heard "Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon in awhile, so I'll add it to the internet symphony here.

The song is based on the series of spontaneous Christmas truces during the first year of World War I. British and German soldiers would regularly put down their arms, and engage in impromptu soccer matches, sing-alongs, picnics and gift exchanges. Although the Yuletide ceasefires continued for another year or two, by the time chemical weapons came into play, the young soldiers had finally learned how to truly hate each other. But as the fictional hero reflects at the end of the song, "the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame- and on each end of the rifle we're the same."

Here's wishing all of you a safe and peaceful Christmas. And many thanks for the inspiration and encouragement you have given me to keep on writing. But be warned -- Sardonicky will be entering the Terrible Twos in just another month!


4Runner said...

This just in from Hawaii: the Obamas went over to Oahu Beach this afternoon to catch some waves--surf was running 8-10 feet--when they were confronted by an angry mob with pitchforks. Yep, serfs up!!

A Cool Yule to all!

John in Lafayette said...

No, no. Thank YOU!

Anonymous said...

Les Miz film opens on Christmas Day.... it's like Occupy, before Occupy. Hugh Jackman's early appearance as convict Valjean... he looks like midwest trailer trash sentenced to life for courier-ing some infinitisemal (sp.?) amount of a narcotic. Crowe's Javert appears as the ultimate stop-and-frisk obsessive.
if Occupy comes back, they have more romantic imagery to leverage thanks to this film, which invokes the truly radical-socialist-feminist-meek-inheriting-earth perspective of everybody's favorite radical Jewish carpenter-messiah. A nice antidote to all the bling foisted upon us. Radical Victor Hugo, then radical Emile Zola, two 19th-century dead white males who stood up for for the 99% and stood against oppression... no wonder brainwashed Americans are obliged to trash the French.

Denis Neville said...

This Christmas, we could, like Longfellow in a Christmas poem during the Civil War, write: “And in despair I bowed my head/ there is no peace on Earth, I said/ for hate is strong/ and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christmas Bells

Any Obama Christmas “double tap” drone strikes on tap for today? At least five people were killed in two drone strikes in south Yemen on Christmas Eve.

How about Rod Serling’s, “Carol for Another Christmas,” a plea for peace, global cooperation and humanitarian interventions in a world where understanding among nations no longer exists? Until this December, it was shown just once on television in 1964. Peter Sellers is the demagogue “Imperial Me,” wearing a pilgrim outfit and a 10-gallon hat bearing the glittering legend “ME,” exhorting his howling mob to follow an every-man-for-himself philosophy at the expense of everything else: “Each behind his own fence!” “Each behind his own barricade! Follow me, my friends and loved ones, to the perfect society! The Civilization of ‘I’!” “If we let them seep in here from down yonder and 'cross river — if we let these do-gooders, these bleeding hearts, propagate their insidious doctrine of involvement among us — then, my dear friends, my beloved Me’s … We’s in trouble.”

One of my favorite Christmas stories is James Joyce‘s “The Dead.”

It is an Irish version of “A Christmas Carol,” a tale of reflection on our past, our present and future. It is the final short story in the Joyce’s Dubliners. Joyce said, “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because the city seemed to me the centre of paralysis.”

"It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's choir, any of Kate's pupils that were grown up enough and even some of Mary Jane's pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat."

But not everyone is merry at Christmas time….

“To follow the voice, without looking at the singer’s face, was to feel and share the excitement of swift and secure flight.”

"One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age."

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

Listen to the full text:

To all at Sardonicky,

May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on everyone’s door, and may happiness be guided to everyone’s home by the candle of Christmas.

To Karen, on Sardonicky soon entering the Terrible Twos,

“Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance!”– Charles Dickens, “What Christmas is as We Grow Older”

James F Traynor said...

I just read Charles Durning's obit in the NYT. Really suffered WWII - had a few slightly older friends who endured pretty much the same. Korea. Vietnam. Then this morning in the local paper, the Sun-Herald, I read where U.S. infantry contingents will be sent to various countries in Africa to aid in the fight against terrorists, militants, el Qaida, etc.. Of course it will only be for training and support. Yeah, sure.

When I read about Durning I remembered Eddy my teen aged buddy who dragged me along to off broadway plays when off Broadway was really off Broadway and volunteered me, at least once, in setting things up in some production or other. Met some interesting people. Remember meeting Dizzy Gillespie in Birdland on an outing with Eddy and a couple of girls he knew (and I wanted to know).

And I remember coming up out of the subway at 149th St in the Bronx, on leave, and seeing Eddy's mom, across the avenue, going down. Remember calling to her. She stopped and waved. And I called, "How's Eddy?". She ran on down into the subway, to catch her train I thought. Later that day: "Christ, Jimmy, didn't you know, Eddy was killed over in Korea, a couple of weeks ago." Eddy was 19.

Karen, keep up the good work.

Will said...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

OK, truth be told, I fucking HATE Christmas. I guess I've officially reached the point where I just cannot be happy--no matter how hard I try--when this piece-of-shit society orders me to. There's just too much suffering, too much blah, blah, blah. You guys already know why the world sucks, so I won't bother to list the reasons.

But--and this is a huge Kim Kardashian-sized but(t)--I am VERY happy today for other reasons. Last night on my interweb travels I found a free video series, "Culture in Decline" by Peter Joseph, that absolutely blew my mind.

Here's the link. There've been 3 half-hour episodes so far since July, with the next scheduled for early February. Enjoy. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank God and Baby Jesus that this prolonged, overblown, hypocritical theatrical production is nearly over for another year. Yippee!!!

Denis Neville said...

@ Will – Thanks! I really enjoyed watching "Culture in Decline" by Peter Joseph plus Charles Robinson’s “Who is Peter Joseph?”

The terrible beauty of “The Vanishing” signals our self-destruction:

It is easy to understand why so many excellent people hate our hostile corporate version of Christmas. Peter Joseph’s discussion of religion was quite interesting.

Like Pasternak, I prefer the inward music:

"I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats – any kind of threat, whether of jail or retribution after death – then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion-tamer with his whip, not the preacher who sacrificed himself. But don't you see, this is just the point – what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the attraction of its example. It has always been assumed that the most important things in the Gospels are the ethical teaching and commandments. But for me the most important thing is the fact that Christ speaks in parables taken from daily life, that he explains the truth in terms of everyday reality. The idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because the whole of it has meaning." - Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

What really matters:

“I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never be conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.” - Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

Jay - Ottawa said...

Dear Sardonickies,

I wish you all the cheer, happies, and blah-blahs of the season you can stomach.

Well, maybe not. The ornery comments above are more welcome and aware. Allow me to pile on.

Not sure about the provenance of the following, but it fits the mood, perhaps, of some of our reflections. Quote begins:

Hope this finds you well.

I didn’t send out any cards this year.

Truth be told, I really don’t like the American Christmas.

Every year I viscerally struggle pre-Solstice.

Now that each day brings a bit more light than the one before, I’m feeling better.

I’m feeling at a loss for what to wish you for this holiday season.

I thought of “Peace”, but as long as the power elite remain in control, there isn’t going to be any.

Not in Gaza, not in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Africa....

OK, what I wish you is this:
rebelliousness, revolution, refusal to go along with the role the power elite want you to play: i.e.,

The role of a submissive, powerless consumer.

Dumbed-down suburbanite.

Source of Earth-destroying carbon emissions.

Rather, I wish you strength and love to face what’s coming toward us.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Another example of how to celebrate in solidarity with the luckless still in the trenches.

Pearl said...

I hope everyone had a pleasant Christmas hopefully and alone only by choice.

My son presented me with a very fancy gift basket of imported French cheeses, unusual crackers baked with fruit and nuts, special stuffed olives which I don't usually find at my grocery store. Mind you I eat well being among the fortunate ones that doesn't have to depend on my U.S. SS check alone. As I was deliriously chomping into these goodies I suddenly realized this is how rich people nosh everyday if they wish. It was another dimension of living and one can only begin to imagine how everything they wear, eat, entertain themselves with, live in mansions, own boats for pleasure cruising, ad nauseum, must lift their spirits continually and give them a sense of righteousness and entitlement. Is envy creeping in as I visualize this other dimension of life???

An unhappy thought intrudes, how in Hell are we ever going to overcome this yearning to
live on a higher plateau regardless of who pays the price? Gee, its only a basket of goodies that's making you crazy, stopping you in your tracks of fighting for peace and justice and progressive taxes.


Pearl said...


Thank you for a beautiful but painful summing up of a Scrooge like vision of past and present, only the future won't change in this scenario.
I think what troubles me is realizing how we are ruled by empty people - they fill their vacant minds and hearts with ritual, fantasy beliefs, and slogans instead of the realities. And if and when the fruits of their nothingness come to pass in environmental neglect, lack of health and financial help for the vulnerable, it will bring everyone including themselves down a bottomless pit. And they will still not understand why it happened.

I still have hope in that our newer generations will become frightened enough to wake up and sing as in that wonderful Odets play of the depression.
Meanwhile I treasure those of you who refuse to be fooled by the Wizards of Oz behind curtains and keep us informed of the realities as I get very tired of straining to read between the lines of our media. Although I dare say there are some glimmerings coming through those curtains more and more and I am pleasantly surprised by columns and articles being printed that never would have seen the light of day previously.

I am convinced that commenters to the N.Y.Times for example, are having an effect and prying open the eyes of some less rigid columnists. Karen - your brilliant responses to Krugman and others, always with top rated recommendations, are an example and a guide to others as one way of fighting this war for survival. We are all behind your efforts as an inspiring example that sometimes the pen is indeed stronger than the sword.

So let us hope for a better year coming up for a change, with good health and peace to all.