Yes, it was yesterday. I missed it. Well, I didn’t miss it. I was here – I just forgot to post. I wanted to post something because I love the story of the Epiphany, and also, it was my late brother’s birthday – he would have been 71. So in tribute to Alan and to the day, a recording of Alec Guinness reading Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.” There does indeed exist a clip of Eliot reading it, but he doesn’t read it as well as Guinness. One can be a brilliant writer, I guess, but lack theatrical flair or the gift of phrasing. Guinness has both.
Or perhaps, as a friend of mine says, they are more likely to whine. Millennials and such. Speaking of, the last decade started with this article, which remains 100% true, says this GenXer.
What a decade (yes, I know that technically the decade ends at the end of this year, but shush up, pedants) it has been – my mother gone at nearly 93, my auntie at 90, my uncles at 96 and 95 – not unnatural deaths, of course. Dear God, give me their longevity, and not just that, but their quality of life till the end, their insistence on keeping active and contributing. (One small example – my uncle Paddy worked till the age of 78, and not because he had to.) And there were two unnatural deaths, for lack of a better term. My beloved brother at 63 and one of my closest friends from high school at 49. Make hay, et cetera.
There were many celebrity deaths this year – I never got around to posting about so many of these people who were meaningful to me. Well, I did write about Doris. And Diahann. And a couple of my fave writers. What I didn’t do on this site was mention how much I liked Rip Torn – oddly, my mother and I both had a crush on him. He was quite a handsome devil in his youth, and even into his 60s, but then became rather debauched from alcohol. The great Zeffirelli is gone (obituary in Italian) – he was extraordinary and a friend of another extraordinary Italian, Oriana Fallaci. I believe they both understood how much the West was/is threatened, largely by our own complacency.
And how could I have failed to post about Valerie Harper? My only excuse is that between late August (when she died) and about a week before Christmas, I was extremely busy with work. So all I can say is, Val, we loved you. Thank you. So many clips from which to choose, but I do so adore Rhoda Morgenstern’s comments about makeup, from the 6 minute 15 second mark on here (and yes, young people, that is indeed Marge Simpson as Rhoda’s sister):
And those of us who have struggled with our weight (a constant battle for me) always love this MTM episode:
Rest in peace all, including the decade (again, shush up, pedants).
Today is the anniversary of my brother’s death. Of course, I miss him and all the more so when something happens that I would love to discuss with him, or when a movie or TV show is on that I know he would love. This has certainly been the case with Ken Burns’ wonderful Country Music series on PBS. Alan loved country, and he would have adored this series. I thought of him during each episode, and imagined how great it would have been for him to call me up – as he used to – and chat with me about it.
In tribute to my brother, I offer you, dear readers, a song I hadn’t known before watching the series. (I will bet Alan knew it, though.) Get out your Kleenex.
My uncle’s letter to my grandfather on June 8th, 1944, mentions DDay. He and his Algonquin Regiment comrades were still in England training, and would join the battle in July. But you can see from this letter that the invasion had quite an impact on morale – a positive one. Excerpts:
I am well, of course, and quite happy. Also, of course, excited, for the Second Front is still in the process of being established. You have only a small idea of what it has done to our morale over here. It’s given everything a new meaning, and at day time we watch planes going south, and say, “Ahha!”, see them coming north and nod at one another, watch them going east & west, and murmur excitedly. We see huge convoys going in all directions and wink. We see the Higher Paid Help riding by in their command vehicles and say, “I’ll bet….”
But for the last few weeks you couldn’t imagine the air activity that was going on. Absolutely terrific, and something Canada has still to see. Every sort of plane has gone over us, in all sorts of combinations, by day and by night. We’ve been awakened at night by them, prevented from lecturing by the noise of them, and kept dizzy counting them.
At this date everything seems to be going well on the beachhead, tho’ it’s hard to say from here – just as hard, if not harder, here as it is at home. We get hourly reports, newspapers, radio reports, and all the latest rumors. All of which also make us dizzy.
Today is as good a day as any to remind you to visit my other website.
Great picture of my brother, who died in 2012. He would have been 70 today. I would love to talk to him again, and especially would love his take on Trump, populism and such. Easily the smartest person in our family, though he always was humble and said that title — along with “the funniest” — belonged to our mother. This picture is from Christmas 2005.
Beautiful poem written by Roland Leighton for Vera Brittain. It was April 1915 and he was serving in France. He was killed by a sniper eight months later. (I dearly wish I had some of my uncle’s poems to his fiancee, Christine, but any letters she received, of course, stayed with her. If she kept them, perhaps her children have them – I have a hope one of her kids will see my other site and contact me, but it is possible she may never have told them about Norman.)
Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head:
It is strange they should be blue.)
Think what they have meant to me –
Life and hope and Love and You
(and you did not see them grow
Where his mangled body lay
Hiding horrors from the day;
Sweetest, it was better so.)
Violets from oversea,
To your dear, far, forgetting land
These I send in memory
Knowing you will understand.
My brother died six years ago today. I never have sufficient — or original — words for this anniversary, so I’ll leave it to John Ford. Alan was a big fan of Ford’s films (as am I), and Ford was fond of one hymn in particular. Enjoy these scenes from Tobacco Road, My Darling Clemetine, Wagon Master, Seven Women, Stagecoach, The Searchers and Three Godfathers.
Alan adored The Searchers, in particular.
Large families are sometimes romanticized, but I am here to tell you that they are also often highly over-rated. Paul Gosar could tell you the same. I was thinking about this, when I stumbled upon a months-old column about Israel and the Mavi Marmara, in which an anti-Israel “activist” who was aboard the boat admits that the Israelis did not initiate the violence. No kidding. Was there ever any doubt?
What is the connection between these two topics? Well, I have a sibling who is a bullying anti-Semite (cough, “anti-Zionist”, cough), who spent the better part of the first 18 years of my life putting me through unmitigated hell. Now, when the Mavi Marmara news hit the headlines, I wrote a story in the National Post about it. Aforementioned bullying sibling (“BS,” for purposes of expediency) then sent me an email comparing the incident to the Achille Lauro (and comparing the Israelis to the terrorists). He also went on to accuse me of having written (on my previous blog) that I don’t believe in fact-checking. A lie and absurd, of course. I am a journalist and a historian (albeit, an amateur historian) and facts are what interest me the most. BS further asserted that he believed in “rigorous fact-checking.” Another lie.
So I wrote back to BS saying, “Put the words ‘fact’ and ‘check’ into the search box on my blog and anything I have written containing those words will come up. I guarantee I have never written that I don’t believe in fact-checking.” So BS writes back saying he is not good at technology and can’t put words in a search box and click. Yet another lie.
We went back and forth a couple of more times, with him trying to weasel out of his lies and me finally saying, “Follow your own advice and fact-check.” When I sent that message it bounced back with the message that I had been blocked. Bullies hate it when you get the better of them.
I forwarded the message chain to my oldest brother, Alan (far and away the smartest person in our family, and now deceased, sadly), who couldn’t stop laughing at BS’s assertions. Few things, said Alan, were more ridiculous than the notion that BS believed in checking facts in any capacity, least of all rigorously. Alan also gave me this advice: eventually BS will start messaging you again. Before that even begins, block his email address. So I did. It was great advice.
I also forwarded the message chain from BS to a non-family member to see if they thought I was making too much of it. Nope, they replied, this person is obsessed with you, and with hurting you, and is clearly deeply jealous of you. This person is nasty. He gave the same advice as Alan – block BS.
The moral of this story? Make sure your email program has a “block” option, something I’m assuming Gosar has already done. (A side note: if I had to wager a guess, I’d say the Gosar family divisions go far deeper than politics.)
It is VE Day, and in honour I have reposted my uncle’s magnificent letter of May 7, 1944. Please have a look.