Video game age


On this day in 1972, 44 years ago, Atari released Pong.  This became the first commercially successful video game.  So began the age of the video game.

I remember the excitement the Christmas when it arrived in our house.  Connecting the ‘computer’ to the black and white TV and entering a whole new world.  All you could do was move your paddle up, or move it down.  Instant hit.

Atari was ruined by a combination of events including insider trading and the 1983 video game crash.  It closed its doors in 1984.  There were many ‘experts’ who predicted this was the end of the road for the video game.  LOL

Then the Japanese Nintendo Entertainment System launched in the USA in  1985.  Among the 17 games in the initial launch was one called by the preposterous name “Super Mario Bros.”  Game over!


And now a poem that has absolutely nothing to do with the above:

Not the Executioner:  by Halfdan Rasmussen

Not the executioner will scare me
Nor the body’s final fall
Not the barrels of death’s rifles
Nor the shadows on the wall
Not the night when to the ground
The last dim star of pain, is held
But the blind indifference
Of a merciless unfeeling world


Fidel Castro R.I.P.


Castro has passed away.  In the days to come you will hear widely polarised opinions of his legacy.

On the one hand you will hear that he was a brutal dictator.  A manipulative political adventurer who assassinated his ally and friend Che Guevara.  You will hear that he was a low-budget Stalin, a revolutionary in public and a playboy in private living a high life of prostitutes, rum and cigars.  You will hear that he brought the world the brink of destruction in nuclear conflagration, and that it was only the “sensible” voices of Kennedy and Kruschev who averted disaster.  You will be told how he brought his people nothing but poverty, despair, hunger and want.

On the other hand you will hear that he was a great, brave visionary.  A man who took on the might of the American Capitalist and Military Systems and triumphed.  To his exploited people he gave hope, education, opportunity, equality and a quality of life denied to them under US influence.

As always the truth lies somewhere in-between.  As you listen to the opinions make sure you evaluate the speaker.  In Miami there live many Cubans who were expelled by Castro.  They lost (oft times ill gotten) money, property and wealth.  They will celebrate his passing.  The US Media will be spending a lot of time on the streets of Miami speaking to these people and the children and grandchildren of these people.

Before you make up your mind about what kind of man he was I would suggest you listen to some of the people who cannot speak English.  Listen to the Cubans who still live in Cuba.

Good or Ill Castro is a man who leaves an indelible mark on the history of the 20th Century.


Gacela of the Dark Death: by Federico García Lorca

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of cemetries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

I don’t want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.
I don’t want to learn of the tortures of the grass,
nor of the moon with a serpent’s mouth
that labors before dawn.

I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that I have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that I am the small friend of the West wing;
that I am the intense shadows of my tears.

Cover me at dawn with a veil,
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me,
and wet with hard water my shoes
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.

For I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to learn a lament that will cleanse me to earth;
for I want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

Final Journey


When your time comes what will be done with your remains?
Do you want to be buried or burned?  Perhaps a native American Indian sky burial?  A last trip down the Ganges?  Opt for the Tibetan solution of being fed to vultures?
Dissolved in acid perhaps?  Cryogenically frozen?  Mummified?
Preserved in a glass case like Snow White and lots of Catholic saints?

And then what?  Do you expect a memorial?
Perhaps a huge mausoleum like a Bronze Age Monarch or a Mexican Drug Lord.
Would you prefer your molecules to return to earth with minimal fuss and no lasting impact on the landscape?  A biodegradable eco-coffin, or ashes scattered on the fields.
When the flesh has fallen from your bones would you like to rest in an ossuary?
Do you have a family grave or crypt?  Will the current residents let you in?
Who holds the grave papers?

Will your wishes be honoured by your executors?  Will you know if they are?  Will you care?  Will they?

Just let me go on record now.  I expect the full Viking funeral.  Longboat filled with my possessions.  Battle axe in my right hand, shield in my left.  Helmet – no horns (Authenticity please).  Dog (dead) at my feet.  Point me to the west and set the vessel on fire.
If funds are a problem maybe cremate me and put my ashes into a very small Viking ship.  Don’t kill the dog.  Keep my possessions.  But I want to sail into the west.


Ashes: by Paula Meehan

The tide comes in; the tide goes out again
washing the beach clear of what the storm
dumped. Where there were rocks, today there is sand;
where sand yesterday, now uncovered rocks.

So I think on where her mortal remains
might reach landfall in their transmuted forms,
a year now since I cast them from my hand
—wanting to stop the inexorable clock.

She who died by her own hand cannot know
the simple love I have for what she left
behind. I could not save her. I could not
even try. I watch the way the wind blows
life into slack sail: the stress of warp against weft
lifts the stalling craft, pushes it on out.



Relashunships r hard


Here is a poem written by a really needy girl who banged up her boyfriends car
and made him look like a fool at the dance, and flirted with other guys
in front of him.

Then, pretty understandably, he puts on his backpack and flies off to South East Asia.

She looks at his Facebook feed and sees him having fun with all his buddies.
She is stuck at home with no date and not enough money to go backpacking.
So she gets all “oh why did I do that?” and stuff and writes this poem.
But he is in Vietnam so he never gets it, and basically she is dumped.
I don’t think he even texted her.

The moral of this story is:
1.  If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
2.  Make love, not war.
3.  Dude, you need to take a poetry appreciation class.



But You Didn’t: by Merrill Glass
Remember the time you lent me your car and I dented it?
I thought you’d kill me…
But you didn’t.

Remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was formal,
and you came in jeans?
I thought you’d hate me…
But you didn’t.

Remember the times I’d flirt with other boys
just to make you jealous,
and you were?
I thought you’d drop me…
But you didn’t.

There were plenty of things you did to put up with me,
to keep me happy, to love me,
and there are so many things I wanted to tell you
when you returned from Vietnam…

But you didn’t.



JFK, Dallas, 1963, Nov 22.

John F. Kennedy Jr. Saluting His Father at Funeral

I Have a Rendezvous with Death;  by Alan Seeger


I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ‘twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.





100 years ago today the largest ship lost in WW1 sank.  The Royal Navy Hospital Ship HMHS Britannic ran into a mine and was lost with 30 lives.

Sister ship to Titanic, and one of the Olympic Class vessels.  Built in Belfast, Ireland, by Harland & Wolfe, for the White Star line.  She was pressed into service for the war.  Britannic is the largest shipwreck in the world and sits on the sea floor in the Greek Aegean.


The Sinking Ship; by Dora Sigerson Shorter

The ship is sinking, come ye one and all.
Stand fast and so this weakness overhaul,
Come ye strong hands and cheery voices call,
“Stand by!”

The ship is sinking in a summer sea,
Bless her but once for all she used to be,
Who rode the billows once so proud and free,
If you but loved a little, with a sigh,
“Stand by!”

Gone, all are gone, they neither hear or care,
The sun shines on and life is ever fair.
They shun the struggle, laughter lurks elsewhere.
The ship is sinking, passing echoes cry,
“Stand by!”

The little ships that pass her in the night,
Speed from the darkness in their eager fright.
From troubled dreams they take refuge in flight.
Why should they then, who know they too must die,
“Stand by”?

Then get you gone, desert the sinking ship,
O faithless friends, who on her pleasure-trip
Clung close with gentle words and smiling lip,
And still as ever on your own joys cry,
“Stand by!”

The ship is sinking, parting in a smile,
The sunset waters mark the last sad mile
In dimpling play and in a little while
The waters close, Death and his angels cry,
“Stand by!”

Make Ireland Gr8at Again


I want to save this iconic photo for my own memories.  This is how Ireland prepared to receive the Haka from New Zealand in Soldiers Field, Chicago on Nov 5th 2016.  In a tribute to Anthony Foley the Ireland and Munster stalwart who died on Oct 16th 2016, the Irish squad lined out to form the Number of Foley’s jersey.

Ireland broke a 111 year old duck to win the game 40 to 29.

Tomorrow we play the All Blacks again in Dublin.  A second win would be legend!




War on drugs



The early successes of the German forces in WW2 were, in large part, due to drug use by the troops.

In the 1930’s amphetamines and methamphetamines were widely available over the counter in Germany. When the German army invaded Poland in 1939 some troops used a drug called Pervitin to stay alert and awake. Wehrmacht doctors recognised the value of the drugs in the short term and recommended them to high command. They were issued widely, but particularly to the troops most crucial to the Blitzkrieg tactics ; the tank crews and aircrews.

The allies were astounded at the pace and speed of the German advance from the Ardennes to Dunkirk.   The famous panzer commander Heinz Guderian said to his troops “I needed you to stay awake for 3 days, you did it for 17.”

OK 17 days is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is valid. Each night as the French defenders lapsed into sleep, cradling their daily ration of a bottle of red wine, the Germans kept moving forward. Methamphetamines have a number of effects on the human body. As well as keeping you alert and awake they reduce the need for food (pretty handy side benefit for soldiers) and they make you fearless, and more aggressive. It turns regular soldiers into super-troopers.

Mission after mission the Stukas kept bombing, the M-109’s kept strafing and the panzers kept rolling forwards.

The downside of drug use is what happens in the longer term. A short fast campaign, such as that in France in 1940, was perfectly suited to drug use. In longer, drawn out actions the benefits of drug use become counterproductive. As a result the drugs didn’t work on the Russian front.

In wartime military advantages tend to be short term. They are quickly copied by enemies. During the Battle of Britain the British noticed that all the shot-down Luftwaffe aircraft appeared to carry a tube of Pervitin. Analysis determined what it was and the British began to issue similar drugs to their own pilots.

I often wonder how troops today are using highly sophisticated drugs to enhance performance, reduce fear, increase aggression etc. If you face a soldier in a hot situation, just how rational is he/she?

Remembering Len


I was all set to post a poem from one of the war poets for Armistice day when I heard on the news of the passing of Leonard Cohen at the relatively young age of 82.

Len was the artist I listened to in my teens when I had the blues real bad.  (To grammar Nazis out there, this syntax is perfectly acceptable when speaking about the blues).  When you felt unloved, down on yourself, miserable, you put on Leonard Cohen and by the third song you were thinking “hey, my life is actually pretty good!”  My favorite song is Suzanne, but this is probably more appropriate for the day that is in it.  Len is now standing before the lord of song with nothing on his lips but………………


Hallelujah:  by Leonard Cohen

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor falls, the major lifts
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew her
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe I’ve been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
love is not a victory march
Its a cold and its a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the Name in vain
I don’t even know the Name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, but it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah