Petty Larceny

In playing with this thing I call a blog, I rely heavily on theft. I have been getting away with it for more than a decade now only because the journal is a thing of modest circulation, and it is by no means a commercial venture.

I write for fun. Part of that fun is digging around on the internet for images to sprinkle between the words. I could try to contact the sources of those things, but that would change significantly what I was doing. My practice is to write something down today, and you read it in a day or two. There is no way that I could get permission fast enough to make this system work … and so I have become a pilferer of pictures.

But it’s not always an easy thing to do. It does require some effort on my part. Let’s take cartoons, for example. The New Yorker magazine is one of my solid sources for them, but I find that even there, the majority of their cartoons don’t appeal to me. Out of today’s “Cartoons from the issue,” for example, I picked out only one of eighteen to share. The rest … meh. Here is today’s “winner.”

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This morning at around two a.m. the wind came up suddenly and with such ferocity that it sounded like workmen out there in the neighborhood, banging on things and operating machinery. It actually woke me up, which is unusual since I habitually sleep through the most violent soundscapes, only to be wakened later by Robin trying to carefully open a door without disturbing me.

I notice only what I have to notice, even when asleep. You know that there is a part of your brain that never rests, that never takes days off. It’s the part that is in charge, among other things, of making sure that we don’t fall out of bed every night. It knows where the edge of the mattress is and acts accordingly. The part that is continually scanning the sounds in the house and occasionally wakes us to go and check them out, just in case there is a burglar or an axe murderer out there in the kitchen. The part that knows when it is time to empty one’s bladder and sends an alert.

In these cases the brain does its job so well that we don’t even notice or give it credit. We only complain when it fails. It’s been decades since I have fallen out of bed. My tally on axe murderers is zero so far, for which I am sincerely grateful. The bladder thing … still working but the margins are slimmer than twenty years ago. These days it goes off around two in the morning, and I don’t have the luxury of taking time to decide whether I will answer that call or not. I just wake up and hit the ground stepping smartly towards the WC.

The morning’s wind is the predecessor of what is predicted to be a wet and possibly snowy day. That would be very okay with me. Since I moved to Paradise seven years ago, I have never met a rainfall that I didn’t like.

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The Christmas truces were a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of the First World War around Christmas 1914. The image below is a contemporary artist’s interpretation of the event at one location.

“The truce occurred five months after hostilities had begun. Lulls occurred in the fighting as armies ran out of men and munitions and commanders reconsidered their strategies following the stalemate of the Race to the Sea and the indecisive result of the First Battle of Ypres. In the week leading up to 25 December, French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs.

There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another, creating one of the most memorable images of the truce. Hostilities continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.The following year, a few units arranged ceasefires but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from commanders, prohibiting truces. Soldiers were no longer amenable to truce by 1916. The war had become increasingly bitter after the human losses suffered during the battles of 1915.

The truces were not unique to the Christmas period and reflected a mood of “live and let live,” where infantry close together would stop overtly aggressive behaviour and often engage in small-scale fraternisation, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes. In some sectors, there were occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades; in others, there was a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised or worked in view of the enemy.

The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation—even in quiet sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable—and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.”

Wikipedia: The Christmas Truce of 1914.

The Wikipedia article goes on to say that the powers-that-were found this practice unacceptable, and over the next several years of the war such inspiring goings-on basically disappeared. This morning I found myself wondering why this was such a heart-warming story to me? After all, once the holiday had passed the combatants returned to the business of killing or maiming one another with gusto.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I, was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians.

Robert Schuman.org

What the stories mean to me today is that it seems to be very difficult to completely erase the decency within human beings, even when they are involved in the hellish endeavor that is war. The Great War went on, of course for four more bloody and nightmarish years after that Christmas of 1914.

Maybe a way to put all of this together can be found in the meaning behind the African proverb: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The gentlemen in the artwork above represent the grass, the governments that put them there being the elephants.

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A Dick Guindon cartoon.

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Yesterday’s trip to the grocery store was interesting in that really for the first time this year, the place was full of Tellurideans. Planes filled with well-to-do visitors land at our airport, the passengers are loaded into “limos,” which are basically big black Chevy Suburbans and other similarly-sized transport vehicles, and they are then driven to the City Market. While there is a grocer in Telluride itself, the store is smaller and the prices are higher, so these folks are given time to stock up before striking out for the 50 minute trip to that village.

So if you go to the store and find yourself suddenly shopping alongside rafts of people who are generally more expensively dressed than the typical Montrosean, and who ooze a sense of entitlement, you know there is snow on the mountain without even looking out the window. You can tell those who are visiting our town for the first time, because they are surprised that we have electricity and indoor plumbing. And to imagine that there is a grocery with a first-rate cheese shop within it … why, will wonders never cease? But, they must wonder, who buys this cheese when they (the Tellurideans) go home? Surely not the natives?

But they are a colorful and pleasantly chatty bunch, these travelers, as long as they are not thwarted in their search for provisions. At the deli area is where you find most of the confrontations occurring, as customers haggle over how thick or thin the slices are, and “why don’t you carry _____, for God’s sake?”

But the workers at the checkouts are familiar with handling resorters and keep things moving along quickly so that they can all be loaded into those “limos” and sent on their way. There is lots of smiling and nodding of heads and little scenes of faux commiserating:“Oh no, half of your luggage went to the Ukraine, what a trial that must be! You poor things.” It’s a perennial roadshow drama, with each population group dependent on the other while being slightly contemptuous of them at the same time.

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Each year Robin makes a batch of fudge, usually to share with others. It is always delicious, and no one ever says: “No thank you, I don’t want any this year.”

It may have something to do with the fact that there are three main ingredients … chocolate, sugar, and butter. Enough butter to fry a thousand eggs, in fact. A whole pound of it in each small batch. I strongly suspect that if one were to decide to end it all, eating an entire plateful of the stuff would do the trick, as arteries one by one gave up the ghost while the person’s serum butter level approached 1000.

But that person would be found sitting smiling in their chair with just the trace of chocolate at the corners of their mouth. Not an altogether bad way to go. In smaller doses, however, it is simply excellent.

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