Friday, April 1, 2016

The First Month on Planet Earth

I was born on August 10, 1944 -- I thought it might be interesting to research what was taking place in the world during my first month of life on Planet Earth.

* * *

Aug 10 -- I was born during World War II -- a sad chapter of human history.

Aug 10 -- U.S. Forces overcame Japanese resistance on the island of Guam

Aug 11 -- Allied troops forced German troops out of Florence, Italy

Aug 12 -- Joseph P. Kennedy, eldest son of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, was killed when his U.S. Navy plane, carrying explosives, blew up over England

Aug 13 -- In New York City, Lucien Carr stabbed David Kammerer to death -- Kammerer, who had been Carr's Boy Scout Scoutmaster during Carr's youth, had made sexual advances toward him -- Carr was sentenced to 20 years, but only served two years at Elmira Correctional Facility in upstate New York -- Carr later introduced writers Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg to one another.

Aug 14 -- The U.S. Government allowed the manufacture of certain domestic appliances (vacuum cleaners, electric ranges, etc.) to resume on a limited basis

Aug 14 -- A scuffle broke out between an Italian POW prisoner and a black soldier at Ft. Lawton in Seattle, Washington -- POW Guglielmo Olivotto was found hanged the next day -- in an ensuing trial, 28 men were convicted -- in 2005, the convictions were overturned based on the shortcomings of the prosecution based on a book titled ON AMERICAN SOIL by Jack & Leslie Hamann

Aug 16 -- In a secret military trial in Arizona, seven German seaman, age 22-26, were convicted of the murder of a fellow seaman -- they were hanged at Ft.Leavenworth, Kansas, on August 25, 1945

Aug 17 -- Japanese and Swiss officials agreed to divert 40% of millions of dollars, paid by the US and Britain for the care of prisoners of war held by the Japanese, to pay off Japan’s debts to Swiss businesses. The other 60% was for the free disposal by the Japanese government.

Aug 19 -- The last Japanese troops were driven out of India

Aug 21 -- singer Jackie DeShannon was born in Hazel, Kentucky

Aug 22 -- The last transport of French Jews departed to Nazi Germany

Aug 22 -- Adolph Hitler ordered the destruction of Paris, France

Aug 23 -- Allied troops captured Marseilles, France

Aug 23, -- In Paris, German SS engineers began placing explosive charges around the Eiffel Tower -- Hitler had decreed that Paris should be left a smoking ruin, but Major General Dietrich von Choltitz defied his Fuhrer's order

Aug 24 -- Allied forces captured Bordeaux, France

Aug 25 -- Occupied since 1940, Paris, France, was liberated from German Forces by Free French Forces under the command of General Jacques LeClerc and his 2nd Tank Division -- Adolph Hitler had ordered that Paris be left in ruins, but his military governor in Paris, Major General Dietrich von Dietrich, lied to his superiors and left the city's landmarks intact.

Aug 25 -- Germans troops retreating from Paris massacred 124 of the 500 residents of Maille and obliterated the town in retaliation for Resistance action in the region.

Aug 25 -- Romania declared war on Germany.

Aug 26 -- Bulgaria announced that it had withdrawn from the war and that German troops in the country were to be disarmed.

Aug 28 -- German Forces in Marseilles and Toulon, France, surrendered to Allied Forces.

Aug 28 -- In Forli, Italy, 10 innocent citizens were slaughtered by a platoon of German soldiers.

Aug 29 -- In Paris, 15,000 American troops marched down the Champs Elysees as part of a celebration of the city's liberation from the German Nazis.

Aug 31 -- The French Provisional Government relocated from Algiers to Paris

Aug 31 -- The British 8th Army penetrated the German Gothic Line in Italy.

Sep 1 -- In Meximeux, France, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Davison led a 2-day defensive action against an attack by retreating German Forces -- in 1974, Meximeux named it's town square "Place de General Davison."

Sep 2 -- Troops from the U.S. 1st Army entered Belgium.

Sep 2 -- U.S. Navy pilot, George Herber Walker Bush, was shot down by Japanese Forces as he completed a bombing run over the Bonin Islands in the Pacific Ocean -- Bush was rescued by the crew of the U.S. submarine Finback -- however, his two crew members died -- Bush would later become the 41st President of the United States.

Sep 3 -- The U.S. 7th Army captured Lyons, France.

Sep 3 -- U.S. Forces entered Belgium, led by reconnaissance scout (U.S. Army Private) James W. Carroll on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Sep 3 -- The 68th and last transport of Dutch Jews, which included Anne Frank, left for Auschwitz.

Sep 4 -- British Troops liberated Antwerp, Belgium

Sep 5 -- 65,000 Dutch Nazi collaborators fled to Germany -- it was called "Mad Tuesday."

Sep 5 -- Germany launched its first V-2 missile at Paris, France.

Sep 6 -- The British Government relaxed blackout restrictions.

Sep 8 -- Germany's offensive against England began -- the first V-2 rockets landed in London, England, and Antwerp, Belgium.

Sep 8 -- German Field Marshall, Edwin von Witzleben was hanged -- he had been part of a conspiracy to kill Adolph Hitler -- by Hitler's direct order, von Witzleben was strangled with piano wire which had been wound around a meat hook and the execution was filmed.

Sep 10 -- British Lt. General Frederick Browning utter the famous words against British General Montgomery -- "But, sir, I think we might be going a bridge too far."

* * *

The world was in much turmoil during the first 30 days of my existence on Planet Earth.

General Patton was pushing the 3rd Army from Sicily to France. In the weeks following the liberation of France, some 20,000 women, accused of relations with the enemy, had their heads shaven. Plus, as the Third Reich was being soundly defeated, representatives of several large German companies met at a Strasbourg hotel to discuss financing plans for the Fourth Reich.

But I paid little attention to worldly affairs -- I was mostly interested in my next meal and taking naps.


Quote for the Day -- “May God have mercy for my enemies because I won't.” Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where crossing a bridge too far usually means he's in Mountain Home.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Civilized Society

After spending much of my adult life as a computer programmer and manager in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, I moved to a more peaceful, rural existence in the Ozark Mountain foothills in northern Arkansas in the 1990s, near my parents who retired in the 1980s from Minnesota to Cherokee Village, Arkansas.

With no computer programming jobs in the region, I worked on the 2000 U.S. Census and later found employment as an adjunct instructor teaching computer courses at nearby Ozarka College in 2001 - 2006 and writing a weekly column for a couple of local newspapers in 2001 - 2007.

I wrote the following piece as a newspaper column in third week of June of 2003.

* * *

An amphetamine is a stimulant drug, first marketed in the USA in 1930 as an over-the-counter inhaler to treat congestion called Benzedrine. Methamphetamine, marketed in 1940 by Burroughs Wellcome under the trade name of Methedrine, is a type of amphetamine where methyl is added to the formula.

Amphetamine and methamphetamine were both widely distributed to U.S. troops in World War II and the Korea War to help fight fatigue. There has been widespread usage of methamphetamine among truck drivers since the 1950s. Amphetamine-related drugs, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), amphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine) and methamphetamine (Desoxyn), are commonly prescribed for children as young as age three.

The passage of the “U.S. Drug Abuse Regulation and Control Act of 1970” made it illegal to possess an amphetamine without a prescription, thereby protecting the monopoly of the corporate pharmaceutical industry.

Basically an amphetamine is a pep pill. It’s a stimulant that increases wakefulness, increases physical activity, decreases appetite, and causes euphoria.

Methamphetamine, also known as “speed,” has lots of drawbacks. It adversely affects the central nervous system and has many undesirable side effects including irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, intense paranoia, aggressiveness, diarrhea, excited speech, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, and even hallucinations. It’s also highly addictive and can cause permanent brain damage – a steep price to pay for a temporary energy boost.

As reported in The News in April 2001, Glen A. Williams, 49, of Mammoth Spring was tried before a jury in Fulton County for the following crimes:

  • Manufacture of a controlled substance, methamphetamine
  • Possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, methamphetamine
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

He was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 40 years for each of the first two offenses and 20 years for the third, to be served consecutively for a total of 100 years in prison.

In May 2002, William McFadden, 34, of Mammoth Spring (and Hardy) was arrested in Fulton County on the following charges:

  • Manufacture of a controlled substance, methamphetamine
  • Possession of a controlled substance with an intent to deliver, methamphetamine
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Felony possession of a firearm

As reported in The News on June 5, 2003, McFadden negotiated a plea agreement whereby he would pay $45,600 to Fulton County and agreed to reside as an in-patient at a drug rehab center for one year.

This stinks like a pile of dead carp.

The eighth amendment in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution reads: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

100 years in prison for illegally manufacturing prescription-required pep pills is clearly excessive -- 100 days would have been more appropriate.

A civilized society does not inflict cruel and unusual punishment upon its citizens.

On the other hand, a one-year stint in a rehab hotel for the same crime in the same jurisdiction, thanks to a “generous contribution” to the county, exceeds the bounds of hypocrisy.

When money buys justice, there is no justice.

And when there is no justice, there is no longer a civilized society.

Quote for the Day -- “In a free society, how can you commit a crime against yourself?” Jesse Ventura

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where freedom is never free.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hotel California -- Location

I lived in the Los Angeles area for 11.5 years (1975-1986), where I also moved a dozen times within the area for various reasons, including a 5-year marriage and subsequent divorce. I particularly liked the village of Topanga, in the hills between the San Fernando Valley and the ocean, above Malibu, and lived in 3 different locations in those hills.

The first place in Topanga was a nice A-frame on a hill. The guy who rented it to me told me that the building up at the top of the hill, less than a hundred yards away, on the corner of the dirt road to the rental house, was the original Hotel California, presently occupied by other musicians.

This was no surprise to me since Topanga was home to many musicians & artists & writers & performers & various other misfits. Plus, the building looked like one of the old Spanish Missions that exist in various places in California. I would occasionally sit outside on my upper balcony, with a cup of tea in the morning, and meditate while viewing the splendid structure at the top of my hill -- such a lovely place -- such a lovely place.

Topanga and the A-frame were one of the favorite places I have called home over the years, having lived now at over 50 addresses in 12 states. But a computer contract on the other side of the Valley caused me to move on after only about 6 months.

Yes, indeed, I once lived just down the hill from the original Hotel California, immortalized in the song "Hotel California" by The Eagles.

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
"This could be Heaven or this could be Hell"
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here
(lyrics -- Hotel California)

The Eagles (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Felder) are one of the world's best selling bands of all time, having sold more than 150 million records.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1971, The Eagles have had 5 Number-One singles, 6 Number-One albums and have received 6 Grammy Awards -- two of their albums (Greatest Hits & Hotel California) were ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the USA, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Hotel California was one of their greatest songs.

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the Captain,
"Please bring me my wine"
He said, "We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine"
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis
(lyrics -- Hotel California)

Since I have been writing many non-fiction books containing various scattered topics, I decided to finally write a piece about the original Hotel California -- so I recently did some research Unfortunately, my research brought me back to earth about the location of Hotel California.

Apparently, Don Henley and Glenn Frey wrote most of the words. None of the band members were from California and as they drove into the Los Angeles area at night, they could see the glow of lights on the horizon.

Hotel California is "our interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles… it's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about." Don Henley

There is no Hotel California -- it's an abstract vision of the hedonism of Southern California and the self-destruction of the music industry in the late 1970s.

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax, " said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!
(lyrics -- Hotel California)

Glenn Frey used of the word "steely" in the lyric (referring to knives) as a playful acknowledgement to the band Steely Dan, who had included "Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening" in their song "Everything You Did."

Glen Frey of the Eagles passed on to the Grand Hotel in the Sky, at age 67, on January 18, 2016.

Tthanks for the music -- Rest in Peace.

Hotel California -- you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

I very much liked southern California. Even though I checked out after 11-plus years many moons ago, I can never really leave because I still have fond memories and many friends lingering there.

Quote for the Day -- "Hey, I didn't make a big deal out of Hotel California -- the 18 million people that bought it did." Glenn Frey

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where you can leave anytime you like.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day -- Weather Report

Today, February 2nd, is Groundhog Day. This is the day when grown men and women congregate outside of rodent burrows and wait patiently for a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil to emerge.

If the groundhog sees its shadow on this day, legend has it that there will be six more weeks of winter.

If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, it either means it will be an early spring or the groundhog was too busy gawking at the people who were gawking at it to notice.

In 2016 -- No shadow -- there will be an early spring.

There are many other holidays involving rodents but few people pay much attention to them.

WOODCHUCK DAY. Woodchuck is another name for a groundhog. Lumberjacks celebrate this holiday exactly seven weeks after Groundhog Day, when enough time has passed for the woodchuck to get a bit frisky after a winter of hibernation. On this day, lumberjacks from Maine to Oregon stalk woodchucks to see how much wood a woodchuck chucks, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

SQUIRREL DAY. This is the first day of warm weather in the coming year when squirrels emerge from their nests to check on their nuts. Having spent much of the fall season squirreling away nuts by burying them in strategic places near their domicile, they must take an inventory every spring to make sure their nuts are all present and accounted for. This holiday is observed mostly by accountants, warehouse managers and store clerks by conducting a complete inventory on that day, then taking the rest of the week off to celebrate and cook the books.

GOPHER DAY. This holiday comes at the end of the college football season. Primarily observed by the alumni of the University of Minnesota, it only occurs if the Golden Gophers have a winning season and have managed to avoid NCAA probation for recruiting violations at the same time. Thus, this holiday is only celebrated once or twice a decade, making it a very special occasion for former Golden Gophers everywhere.

SEWER RAT DAY. This is strictly a local holiday for residents of New York City and Newark. Depending on the temperature and humidity, Sewer Rat Day can occur anytime in the late summer, usually in early August. This is the day when the highest concentration of rats emerges from the sewer systems to taunt the citizens of their respective cities. This is also a very special day for pest control companies and alley cats.

MUSKRAT DAY. A muskrat is basically a slippery rat that lives in or near water. Consequently, Muskrat Day is celebrated by slippery people who live clandestinely along rivers and pay no taxes. This holiday is observed on April 15, when federal taxes are due. The celebration includes drinking tax-free moonshine and taking an annual bath.

SWAMP RAT DAY. A swamp rat is basically a slippery rat that lives in a swamp. Consequently, Swamp Rat Day is observed by slippery people who live clandestinely in the middle of a swamp and pay no taxes. This holiday occurs after the first sign of frog mating season. It’s celebrated by drinking tax-free moonshine and kissing a loved one or a frog, whichever croaks the loudest.

BEAVER DAY. Dam engineers across the nation celebrate this occasion, always the first day in the early winter when the beaver has completed construction of its dam for that year and goes into hibernation. Most dam engineers have been in hibernation since 1939, when construction of the last of the great dams was completed. Rumor has it that some of the more militant dam engineers have formed a secret society that is scheming to create another mighty river system in a secluded location where no one will notice until it has been completed, somewhere like North Dakota or behind the Dick Cheney Library.

MOUSE WEEK. Timid people everywhere celebrate this holiday that coincides with Mardi Gras. Although the festivities are always very quiet, it’s the only rodent holiday that lasts more than one day. Timid people have a hard time releasing their emotions but once they do it lasts for a whole week. They dine on crumbs and avoid cats for seven days. Then they apologize for their outburst, usually to a goldfish or a potted plant, and shrink back into their comfortable lives of silent despair, patiently waiting for the day when the meek shall inherit the earth.


Quote for the Day – “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.” Dave Barry

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes.