This Week’s Book Review – Target Rich Environment

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Target Rich’ Whitman sampler of author’s worlds

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 10, 2018

”Target Rich Environment: Volume I,” by Larry Correia, Baen Books, 2018, 336 pages, $25

Seventy-five years ago, science fiction authors could make livings writing short stories. Today, novels are the standard. Yet, even authors primarily writing novels create some short fiction.

“Target Rich Environment: Volume I,” by Larry Correia is proof. It’s a collection of his shorter stories.

A few, such as “Tanya: Princess of the Elves,” started out were intended a part of a novel. They didn’t fit, so they came out. Correia ran the opening of “Tanya” in his blog instead, and was then invited to complete it as a short story for publication (few authors say no to that).

A few others, such as “Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers” and “The Losing Side” were written for short story anthologies in which Correia was asked to participate. “Shackleford” was part of the Western fantasy collection, and “The Losing Side” part of a David Drake tribute book.

A few, such as “The Bridge” and the “The Destiny of a Bullet,” were written in the setting of role-playing games. Correia is a big fan of role-playing games. “Blood on the Water,” a story set in the Corriea’s Monster Hunter International world, came out of a role-playing game Correia played with his children. It was co-written with his daughter.

There are two stories from the Grimnoire Chronicles, “Detroit Christmas” and “Murder on the Oriental Elite.” Both were originally released in audio format and appear in print for the first time in this collection.

Another audio original that appears in print in this volume is “The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Salesman.” It is eccentric humor, with a lot of in-jokes, but Corriea’s explanation of how it came to be is more eccentric as the story.

Think of it as a Whitman sampler of Corriea’s worlds. It offers a taste from just about every universe he has created. It also shows his range as a writer and showcases his ability to create both horror and humor and occasionally combine the two.

Target Rich Environment offers a good introduction to Coriea’s fiction. It is a bit of everything Correia writes with just a dash more.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling: The Old Issue

Somehow, recent statements by  Democrats on the impossibility of civility in the political sphere and their calls for their constituents to commit acts of violence brought this poem to mind. It is one of my favorites. Back in the day when FreeRepublic was just starting (and before it began becoming a little nuts), my handle was taken from this poem: No Truce With Kings.

The Old Issue

Rudyard Kipling

October 9, 1899
(Outbreak of Boer War)

Here is nothing new nor aught unproven,” say the Trumpets,
“Many feet have worn it and the road is old indeed.
“It is the King–the King we schooled aforetime! “
(Trumpets in the marshes -in the eyot at Runnymede!)

“Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger,” peal the Trumpets,
“Pardon for his penitence or pity for his fall.
“It is the King!”–inexorable Trumpets–
(Trumpets round the scaffold af the dawning by Whitehall!)

. . . . . . .

“He hath veiled the Crown And hid the Scepter,” warn the Trumpets,
“He hath changed the fashion of the lies that cloak his will.
“Hard die the Kings–ah hard–dooms hard!” declare the Trumpets,
Trumpets at the gang-plank where the brawling troop-decks fill!

Ancient and Unteachable, abide–abide the Trumpets!
Once again the Trumpets, for the shuddering ground-swell brings
Clamour over ocean of the harsh, pursuing Trumpets–
Trumpets of the Vanguard that have sworn no truce with Kings!

All we have of freedom, all we use or know–
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw–
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the king.

Till our fathers ‘stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom-not at little cost–
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost.

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining “He is weak and far”; crying “Time will cure.”

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)

Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.

They that beg us barter–wait his yielding mood–
Pledge the years we hold in trust-pawn our brother’s blood–

Howso’ great their clamour, whatsoe’er their claim,
Suffer not the old King under any name!

Here is naught unproven–here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom’s name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms–arms we may not bear.

He shall break his Judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers ‘neath our window, lest we mock the King —

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell-deny-delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to–for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old–

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain–
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

Here is nought at venture, random nor untrue
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word–so the old Kings did!

Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed–

All the right they promise–all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King !


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This Week’s Book Review – I’m Dr. Red Duke

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘I’m Dr. Red Duke’ a study in greatness

By MARK LARDAS

Oct 2, 2018

”I’m Dr. Red Duke,” by Bryant Boutwell, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 284 pages, $30

“Red” Duke was known to millions for his televised broadcasts about medicine. He was one of those larger-than-life Texas characters who left people wondering if he was for real.

“I’m Dr. Red Duke,” a biography of Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, by Bryant Boutwell, provides the answer. Not only was he the real deal, but in many ways he was greater than his public persona.

Duke a native Texan, grew up in central Texas. He always took pride in being an Eagle Scout and an Aggie (he was a yell leader at Texas A&M). His Texas accent was authentic.

Although he planned to become an engineer, his career path changed many times. He studied to be a minister and then served as an armor officer in Germany. He finally settled on medicine after leaving the army. While finishing up his residency in Dallas, Duke was on duty at the trauma room when Kennedy was shot. Duke operated on Texas Gov. John Connolly that day, saving Connolly.

Duke went on to teaching medicine and did medical research on the East Coast before doing a two-year stint in a teaching hospital in Afghanistan. He came to Houston after his Afghanistan tour, joining the staff of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in the late 1970s. He became one of their greatest teachers.

Among his other accomplishments, he helped start Houston’s Life Flight air ambulance service, pioneering rapid-reaction trauma surgery techniques. He became a television star, when UT used him as the spokesman for a series of medical advice programs. They became nationally syndicated and made him a household name.

Boutwell is well-positioned to write this book. He was a colleague of Duke, who worked with Duke for many years and knew him professionally and personally.

Boutwell presents Duke’s many strengths and virtues, but Boutwell also discusses Duke’s shortcomings, ones that led to two failed marriages and left Duke a prisoner of his celebrity.

“I’m Dr. Red Duke” is a focused and balanced look at one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary and talented surgeons. It is worth reading as a study in greatness.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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This Week’s Book Review – City Unseen

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘City Unseen’ shows world in new light

By MARK LARDAS

Sep 25, 2018

”City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet,” by Karen C. Seto and Meredith Reba, Yale University Press, 2018, 268 pages, $35

Readers might remember the claim that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the moon. It is not true.

“City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet,” by Karen C. Seto and Meredith Reba reveals the cities of Earth as seen from space. There is plenty to see.

The book contains images of cities captured from Earth-observation satellites, primarily captured by Landsat and ASTER. The book presents images from 100 different cities, on every continent (including Antarctica), over a 40-year-plus period.

The authors open discussing the images. They explain how the images were made, the scale of images, and the electromagnetic spectrum captured by the image. This ranges from visible to far infrared. They also explain colors and their significance. In some infrared images, vegetation shows up bright red. Depending on the wavelength, built-up urban areas will be pink, turquoise, or blue.

From there they go on to present the 100 cities featured in the book. These are broken into three broad categories: Earth’s terrains (mountain, river, agricultural), urban imprints (featuring borders, man-made travel routes, and planned cities), and transforming the planet (showing resources, expansion, and vulnerability).

Sometimes multiple images of cities are shown. This might be done to show the effects of seasons on Montreal, Quebec. Or they show growth over time. There are stunning images of Lagos, Nigeria; Tokyo, Japan; Shenzheng, China, and Las Vegas showing these cities growth over a period of decades. Perhaps the most fascinating multiple imaging was that of Joplin, Missouri, showing it before it was hit by a massive tornado, immediately afterward, and four years later, after recovery.

The book has many delights and surprises. There is an image of the Korean peninsula at night, starkly contrasting the access to electricity of north and south. Houston’s road system is spectacularly displayed. Circular irrigation effects are prominent in an image of Garden City, Kansas.

“City Unseen” is a delightful book. It offers a different view of the world on which we live, from pole to equator. Read it, and you will view the world in a new light.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – The ‘eathen

I need a break from politics. Today’s poem is one of Kipling’s better known poems. At the core it is about the importance of self-discipline, a precursor for Jordan Peterson’s advice to set your own house in order before criticizing the world. (Really a lot more than just that rule.)

Note too that the heathen in the poem is not one of the “lesser breeds without the law.” It is the British youth who joins the army.

The ‘eathen

Rudyard Kipling

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone;
‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own;
‘E keeps ‘is side-arms awful: ‘e leaves ’em all about,
An’ then comes up the Regiment an’ pokes the ‘eathen out.

All along o’ dirtiness, all along o’ mess,
All along o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less,
All along of abby-nay, kul, an’ hazar-ho,
Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!

The young recruit is ‘aughty — ‘e draf’s from Gawd knows where;
They bid ‘im show ‘is stockin’s an’ lay ‘is mattress square;
‘E calls it bloomin’ nonsense — ‘e doesn’t know, no more —
An’ then up comes ‘is Company an’kicks’im round the floor!

The young recruit is ‘ammered — ‘e takes it very hard;
‘E ‘angs ‘is ‘ead an’ mutters — ‘e sulks about the yard;
‘E talks o’ “cruel tyrants” which ‘e’ll swing for by-an’-by,
An’ the others ‘ears an’ mocks ‘im, an’ the boy goes orf to cry.

The young recruit is silly — ‘e thinks o’ suicide.
‘E’s lost ‘is gutter-devil; ‘e ‘asn’t got ‘is pride;
But day by day they kicks ‘im, which ‘elps ‘im on a bit,
Till ‘e finds ‘isself one mornin’ with a full an’ proper kit.

Gettin’ clear o’ dirtiness, gettin’ done with mess,
Gettin’ shut o’ doin’ things rather-more-or-less;
Not so fond of abby-nay, kul, nor hazar-ho,
Learns to keep ‘is ripe an “isself jus’so!

The young recruit is ‘appy — ‘e throws a chest to suit;
You see ‘im grow mustaches; you ‘ear ‘im slap’ is boot.
‘E learns to drop the “bloodies” from every word ‘e slings,
An ‘e shows an ‘ealthy brisket when ‘e strips for bars an’ rings.

The cruel-tyrant-sergeants they watch ‘im ‘arf a year;
They watch ‘im with ‘is comrades, they watch ‘im with ‘is beer;
They watch ‘im with the women at the regimental dance,
And the cruel-tyrant-sergeants send ‘is name along for “Lance.”

An’ now ‘e’s ‘arf o’ nothin’, an’ all a private yet,
‘Is room they up an’ rags ‘im to see what they will get.
They rags ‘im low an’ cunnin’, each dirty trick they can,
But ‘e learns to sweat ‘is temper an ‘e learns to sweat ‘is man.

An’, last, a Colour-Sergeant, as such to be obeyed,
‘E schools ‘is men at cricket, ‘e tells ’em on parade,
They sees ‘im quick an ‘andy, uncommon set an’ smart,
An’ so ‘e talks to orficers which ‘ave the Core at ‘eart.

‘E learns to do ‘is watchin’ without it showin’ plain;
‘E learns to save a dummy, an’ shove ‘im straight again;
‘E learns to check a ranker that’s buyin’ leave to shirk;
An ‘e learns to make men like ‘im so they’ll learn to like their work.

An’ when it comes to marchin’ he’ll see their socks are right,
An’ when it comes: to action ‘e shows ’em how to sight.
‘E knows their ways of thinkin’ and just what’s in their mind;
‘E knows when they are takin’ on an’ when they’ve fell be’ind.

‘E knows each talkin’ corp’ral that leads a squad astray;
‘E feels ‘is innards ‘eavin’, ‘is bowels givin’ way;
‘E sees the blue-white faces all tryin ‘ard to grin,
An ‘e stands an’ waits an’ suffers till it’s time to cap’em in.

An’ now the hugly bullets come peckin’ through the dust,
An’ no one wants to face ’em, but every beggar must;
So, like a man in irons, which isn’t glad to go,
They moves ’em off by companies uncommon stiff an’ slow.

Of all ‘is five years’ schoolin’ they don’t remember much
Excep’ the not retreatin’, the step an’ keepin’ touch.
It looks like teachin’ wasted when they duck an’ spread an ‘op —
But if ‘e ‘adn’t learned ’em they’d be all about the shop.

An’ now it’s “‘Oo goes backward?” an’ now it’s “‘Oo comes on?”
And now it’s “Get the doolies,” an’ now the Captain’s gone;
An’ now it’s bloody murder, but all the while they ‘ear
‘Is voice, the same as barrick-drill, a-shepherdin’ the rear.

‘E’s just as sick as they are, ‘is ‘eart is like to split,
But ‘e works ’em, works ’em, works ’em till he feels them take the bit;
The rest is ‘oldin’ steady till the watchful bugles play,
An ‘e lifts ’em, lifts ’em, lifts ’em through the charge that wins the day!

The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness bows down to wood an’ stone —
‘E don’t obey no orders unless they is ‘is own.
The ‘eathen in ‘is blindness must end where ‘e began
But the backbone of the Army is the Non-commissioned Man!

Keep away from dirtiness — keep away from mess,
Don’t get into doin’ things rather-more-or-less!
Let’s ha’ done with abby-nay, kul, and hazar-ho;
Mind you keep your rifle an’ yourself jus’ so!

If you want to learn more about this poem, go here and here.


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This Week’s Book Review – Sports Makes You Type Faster

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Jenkins shows he’s still in the game

By MARK LARDAS

Sep 18, 2018

”Sports Makes You Type Faster: The Entire World of Sports by One of America’s Most Famous Sportswriters,” by Dan Jenkins, Texas Christian University Press, 2018, 176 pages, $32

Dan Jenkins is a sports reporter. He writes in a way that has made him legendary. If you can name only one sports writer, it is probably Dan Jenkins.

“Sports Makes You Type Faster: The Entire World of Sports by One of America’s Most Famous Sportswriters,” by Dan Jenkins is his latest, which is a collection of original essays.

Jenkins has been a professional sports writer since the early 1950s. This book, demonstrates he is still in the game seven decades later. In many ways it is a retrospective of his career. He touches on all aspects of his experiences; a sportswriter, a child growing up in love with sports, as a student athlete and simply as a fan.

It includes personal reminiscences, pieces on sports history, profiles of famous athletes (many known personally by Jenkins), examinations of different sports, and a lot of short stories. All demonstrate Jenkin’s distinctive humor.

In many pieces, Jenkins may be writing, but others speak: college football recruiter Red Dog Hawkins, the professional football player convinced by his “woke” girlfriend to demonstrate patriotism by burning an American flag in a Texas stadium parking lot; baseball player Big Boo Childers, who cannot figure out how to be the man of the house; and race car groupie Maxine Hubbard making the book tour about her tell-all, among others. Jenkins uses these to skewer the sport’s absurdities. He is equal opportunity in his skewering. At least one piece will leave a reader cheering; at least one howling “no fair.” Jenkins obviously loves sports, yet is unafraid to expose its flaws.

Much of the book is devoted to Jenkins’ favorite sports: college and professional football, baseball and golf. Yet the breadth of the sports Jenkins covers is impressive. Jenkins spends a turn on about everything: basketball, tennis, track and field, winter sports, and car racing. He even has a chapter on air racing.

Those who are sports fans, especially readers who enjoy Dan Jenkins’s writing, will want to read “Sports Makes You Type Faster.” Those who dislike sports will likely still find it an entertaining reading. Jenkins has the knack for writing amusing and entertaining prose.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – A Pict Song

For some reason the Kavanaugh confirmation brought this poem to mind. Especially since you could slip in “Democrats” for Little Folks” without disturbing the rhythm . . .

It just seems to fit.

A Pict Song

Rudyard Kipling

(‘The Winged Hats’ — Puck of Pook’s Hill)

Rome never looks where she treads.
Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk—we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the State!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot at the root!
We are the taint in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes—and we Little Folk too,
We are busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you’ll see it some day!

No indeed! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we’ll guide them along
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same?
Yes, we have always been slaves,
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves!

       We are the Little Folk, we, etc.

 


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This Week’s Book Review – Shep in the Victorio War

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

Neither side backs down in ‘Shep in the Victorio War’

By MARK LARDAS

Sep 11, 2018

“Shep in the Victorio War,” by Don DeNevi, Texas Review Press, 2018, 168 pages, $18.95

Shep is back. The adventures of this black German shepherd are continued in a sequel to “Faithful Shep.”

“Shep in the Victorio War,” by Don DeNevi, carries on the tale of Shep, his owners William Wiswall and Joseph Andrews and the Apache chief Victorio.

A band of Mescalero and Warm Springs Apaches led by Victorio had left their reservation. The band supported itself raiding. Cattle, horses, or wagons loaded with supplies were targets.

The previous book ended with Wiswall and Andrews recovering Shep from deep within Apache territory assisted by a Texas Ranger company and their Indian scouts. Recovering Shep required a confrontation with Victorio and his warriors, who let Shep and his rescuers escape.

“Shep in the Victorio War” opens with Wiswall and Andrews informally attached to the group that rescued Shep, Texas Rangers Company A, Frontier Battalion. They are helping out until they decide what they will do next. Just as the two decide to move on to California, they learn Company A is being mobilized to hunt down Victorio’s band. Of course, they choose to stay until this job is finished.

The Rangers join what became known as the Victorio War. A three-year effort running from 1879 through 1881, it involved finding Victorio’s band to either force them back to the reservation or kill them. This book captures the war’s end-game.

DeNevi, through the eyes of Wiswall and Andrews, takes readers into that war. Company A participates in the chase for Victorio in Texas and later (through the invitation of the local governor) into Mexico. DeNevi also shows the conflict from Victorio’s view. He and his band left the reservation because they were not fed (as promised) and the place was disease-ridden.

The story becomes a tragedy because both sides believe they can justify actions leading to the destruction of one of the two sides. Neither side will back down. Along the way, Wiswell, Andrews, and Shep meet a constellation of notable historical figures who participated in the campaign.

“Shep and the Victorio War” seem aimed at a young adult audience, yet will captivate all ages. It is brief, but memorable.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – Gunga Din

Is there a more famous poem by Kipling than Gunga Din? Possibly the Ballad of East and West – possibly. Even poems more frequently quoted today (The Gods of the Copybook Headings or Recessional) are not as recognizable.

The poem is frequently mocked today – and easy to mock.  Yet at its core it is a refutation of racial superiority. Its ultimate message is each individual must be measured by their actions – not the condition of their birth or the color of their skin.

Gunga Din

Rudyard Kipling

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! Slippy hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!      [Bring water swiftly.]
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”

The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted “Harry By!”           [Mr. Atkins’s equivalent for “O brother.”]
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ’cause ‘e couldn’t serve us all.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
You put some juldee in it          [Be quick.]
Or I’ll marrow you this minute           [Hit you.]
If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!”

‘E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ‘is mussick on ‘is back,           [Water-skin.]
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made “Retire”,
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was “Din! Din! Din!”
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-ranks shout,
“Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!”

I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water-green:
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
‘Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen;
‘E’s chawin’ up the ground,
An’ ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!”

‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone —
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!


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This Week’s Book Review – The Secret World

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Secret World’ a history of spying

By MARK LARDAS

Sep 4, 2018

“The Secret World: A History of Intelligence,” by Christopher Andrew, Yale University Press, 2018, 960 pages, $40

It is sometimes said spying is the second oldest profession.

“The Secret World: A History of Intelligence,” by Christopher Andrew underscores the claim. It is a history of spying from the earliest days to the present.

Andrew starts with the first recorded accounts of spying, related in the Bible. He finished with the role of intelligence in the War on Terror. He attempts to cover all significant intelligence operations between those boundaries.

His goal was to create the first comprehensive history of espionage and intelligence gathering. He contends intelligence suffers from long-term historical amnesia because it fails to understand its own history. He shows how secrecy and compartmentalization forces intelligence gatherers to relearn the same historic lessons over and over again.

He shows repeated instances where disdain for intelligence lost wars and effective intelligence won wars that should have been lost. The examples he gives span history. He shows how the careful intelligence of the Israelites helped them gain their Promised Land. Roman reliance on augury and contempt for gathering information about German tribes cost Rome three legions — and Germania.

In more modern times, Queen Elizabeth I’s intelligence service allowed England to survive against Spain’s superior power. George Washington skilled use of intelligence helped the Continental Army avoid defeat and ultimately win over England. Intelligence failures cost Napoleon victory against Russia in 1812, leading to his ultimate defeat.

The technology of intelligence is also examined. Andrew reveals tools and techniques used by spies throughout history. He shows how codes and codebreaking emerged in ancient and medieval times, and evolved today. He shows how SIGINT (signal intelligence), HUMIT (human intelligence — eyes on the ground) and intelligence interpretation work together.

At nearly 1,000 pages, the book can serve as a doorstop. Despite its length, it is very readable. Those not ready to sit down with a book this length should treat it as three or four linked books: Ancient and Medieval World, Renaissance and Reformation, 18th and 19th centuries, and 20th century to Present. Reading it that way makes it digestible. “The Secret World” is far too good a book to miss.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – The Gods of the Copybook Headings

This is one of Kipling’s better known poems – likely because of the truth it contains. It will hit its century mark next year.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

1919

Rudyard Kipling

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I Make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place.
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four —
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

* * * * *

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire —
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!


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This Week’s Book Review – Battle of the Brazos

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘Battle of the Brazos’ a fascinating sports and mystery story

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 29, 2018

“Battle of the Brazos: A Texas Football Rivalry, a Riot, and a Murder,” by T. G. Webb, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 184 pages, $27

Football is often compared to war.

“Battle of the Brazos: A Texas Football Rivalry, a Riot, and a Murder,” by T. G. Webb shows what happens when fans overdo that analogy.

The book relates events from an October 30, 1926, football game between Baylor University and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (today Texas A&M University). Interscholastic rivalry flared into a halftime riot. One A&M cadet died.

Astonishingly, the game resumed after the riot and was played to completion. More astonishingly, although the fatal assault occurred before thousands of spectators, the perpetrator was never caught. The crime was never officially solved.

Webb examines all aspects of this incident. He opens with a history of college football in Texas. This includes the increasingly bitter rivalry between two of the Texas schools on the Brazos River: Baylor and Texas A&M. The annual matchup soon became labeled “The Battle of the Brazos.” Webb shows how both student bodies took that title too seriously. In the 1920s, incidents of increasing violence accompanied games before the fatal 1926 riot.

Webb provides a detailed study of the 1926 game. He looks at the buildup to the game, taking readers through a step-by-step examination of its events, including the halftime riot. He follows this by relating the aftermath of the riot. He shows how the schools reacted and what both schools did afterward. (He also peels away some myths. Despite many stories there is no evidence the Aggies commandeered a train to take a cannon to Waco to avenge the death.)

Webb also examines the mystery of who killed the cadet, and why the culprit was never caught. He offers several reasons contributing to the crime’s going unsolved. It was suspected the assailant was related to a politically connected Waco family. State law enforcement was primitive. A hired private investigator lacked authority to compel witnesses to speak. He came close to identifying the assailant, but lacked sufficient proof to obtain an indictment.

“Battle of the Brazos” is a fascinating mix of sports history and true crime mystery. Webb’s book offers insight to a bygone era in Texas sports.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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Today’s Kipling – Dane-Geld

It is the oldest game in history – shaking down a neighbor for tribute. Kipling wrote about it in this short poem. Which certain Presidents (Democrats all) never read.

Dane-Geld

A.D. 980-1016

Rudyard Kipling

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!

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This Week’s Book Review – The Woolly West

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

Book Review

‘The Woolly West’ examines sheep industry in storied region

By MARK LARDAS

Aug 21, 2018

“The Woolly West: Colorado’s Hidden History of Sheepscapes,” by Andrew Gulliford, Texas A&M University Press, 2018, 420 pages, $40

Settling the West is often associated with cattle and cattlemen. Overlooked is a second, important stock-raising industry: sheepherding.

“The Woolly West: Colorado’s Hidden History of Sheepscapes,” by Andrew Gulliford, fixes that.

The book examines the sheep industry in the West, from its origins in Spanish America through the present. While Gulliford’s focus is Colorado (especially Western Colorado), he also examines other sheep-raising regions of the West: New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Cattle and the cowboy captured the American imagination. Sheep and shepherds usually fell outside Western legend. Gulliford explores the major reasons for that difference. He shows this was partly due to the nature of the two industries. Cattle were kept by men on horseback, who worked in teams to herd cattle. It was a social activity. Sheep were raised by individual shepherds, who used packs of dogs to herd sheep. It was a solitary activity.

Shepherds were generally those willing to undergo long isolation. They kept apart from society. While cowboys were Anglo, part of mainstream, sheep were herded by outsiders: Hispanics and Basque and Greek immigrants.

Gulliford relates the interaction between cattle raising and sheepherding. The two industries were like children on a teeter-totter. When one was up, the other was down. This often led to conflict, including range wars between cowboys and shepherds. Gulliford presents the compromises the two groups eventually reached.

Gulliford also looks at how sheepherding changed the West. It altered the vegetation of the lands grazed by sheep, and even the physical terrain. He also looks at the rise of the environmental movement and its effects on sheep-raising and the shepherds.

Gulliford intersperses each chapter with a “sheepscape” — an intermission in his history where he traces his personal interactions with sheep herders past and present. In them he documents his own research and musings. These include explorations of the traces left by past generations of herders and conversations with current sheep raisers or descendants from sheep-raising families.

“The Woolly West” is a fascinating study about a neglected part of American history. Gulliford captures something forgotten yet important to the heritage of the West.

 Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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