There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Life is paradox.
-The Voice before the Void

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Works mentioned:
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
50 Great American Short Stories edited by Milton Crane
Great Short Works of Herman Melville edited by Warner Berthoff
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Arma Virumque” by Ambrose Bierce
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Other authors mentioned:
Homer
Mark Twain
Robert Benchley
Patrick F. McManus
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
H.P. Lovecraft

“Oft, In the Stilly Night” by Thomas Moore

“Oft, In the Stilly Night”

Thomas Moore

Oft, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me;
The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood’s years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimmed and gone, Continue reading

“The Bird Woman” by Henry Spicer, with Discussion

Walpurgisnacht:
Reading horror stories in the night can, sometimes, be genuinely disturbing.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Bird Woman”

Henry Spicer

The events of this strange tale, though they actually occurred in England but a short while since, would scarcely be out of place in a book of German dreams and fancies.

The narrator, a girl of the servant class, but of rather superior education and manners, had called on the writer’s sister on the subject of a place to which she had been recommended, and in the course of conversation, related the following as a recent experience.

The advertisement, in which she had set forth her willingness to take charge of an invalid, infirm, or lunatic person, or to assume any office demanding unusual steadiness of nerve, was replied to by a lady whose letter was dated from a certain locality on the outskirts of a large commercial city, and who requested her attendance there at an appointed time.

The house proved to be a dingy, deserted-looking mansion, and was not rendered more cheerful by the fact that the adjoining tenements on either side were unoccupied. It wore altogether a haunted and sinister aspect, and the girl, as she rang the bell, was sensible of a kind of misgiving for which she could not account. A timid person might have hesitated. This girl possessed unusual firmness and courage, and, in spite of the presentiment we have mentioned, she determined, at all events, to see what she would be called on to encounter. Continue reading

“The Ash-tree” by M.R. James, with Digressions

Walpurgisnacht:
Vernal weird horror.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Ash-tree”

M.R. James

Everyone who has travelled over Eastern England knows the smaller country-houses with which it is studded—the rather dank little buildings, usually in the Italian style, surrounded with parks of some eighty to a hundred acres. For me they have always had a very strong attraction, with the grey paling of split oak, the noble trees, the meres with their reed-beds, and the line of distant woods. Then, I like the pillared portico—perhaps stuck on to a red-brick Queen Anne house which has been faced with stucco to bring it into line with the ‘Grecian’ taste of the end of the eighteenth century; the hall inside, going up to the roof, which hall ought always to be provided with a gallery and a small organ. I like the library, too, where you may find anything from a Psalter of the thirteenth century to a Shakespeare quarto. I like the pictures, of course; and perhaps most of all I like fancying what life in such a house was when it was first built, and in the piping times of landlords’ prosperity, and not least now, when, if money is not so plentiful, taste is more varied and life quite as interesting. I wish to have one of these houses, and enough money to keep it together and entertain my friends in it modestly.

But this is a digression. I have to tell you of a curious series of events which happened in such a house as I have tried to describe. Continue reading

Todd in Baghdad with the North Dakota National Guard during the Iraq War

Explicit.
Todd served at Camp Slayer in Baghdad with the 164th Engineer Battalion, Headquarters Company, of the North Dakota Army National Guard in 2007 and 2008.
Recorded in 2011 in Todd’s home in North Dakota while looking at Baghdad on Google Maps and at his photos, with the television in the background.
Todd’s recollections are filled with charm and dark humor, wonder and sudden horror.
-The Voice before the Void

Todd in Baghdad with the North Dakota National Guard during the Iraq War

Sections:
1. Stray Bullet
2. We Didn’t Have a Bunker, We Didn’t Have Shit
3. Victory Over America Palace
4. One Night with the Wrecker
5. Work Area
6. All Demolished
7. Patriot Missile Launcher
8. They Were Trying to Hit That but They Could Never Hit It
9. What Kind of a Damn Tree Is This?
10. Quick Response Force
11. Weird Bunch of Boys
12. Our Flags
13. Blimp
14. Orange Sandstorms
15. Crammed in There
16. Little Fox
17. Towers and a Firefight
18. Destroyed Vehicles
19. Up-armored Humvees
20. Totally Destroyed the Shit but What Are You Going to Do?
21. Civilian Peterbilt
22. Convoys
23. Trouble
24. They’d Get Nailed
25. They Had It Rough but They Had It Made
26. Firing Range in Kuwait
27. Camels
28. Flying in a Tanker
29. Loaded to the Max

2004 January unfinished Victory Over America Palace Camp Slayer Baghdad Iraq War Saddam Hussein Al Radwaniyah Presidential Complex photo by Khartoba

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident” from Wikipedia

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler Incident Anniversary:
War is a crime and war stories are horrific, but any story of mercy is a great story; any story that humanizes an enemy is a great story; and any story of friendship is a great story. This story is triply great.
-The Voice before the Void

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident”

Wikipedia

The Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident occurred on the 20th of December, 1943, when, after a successful bomb run on Bremen, 2nd Lt. Charles “Charlie” Brown’s B-17 Flying Fortress (named “Ye Olde Pub”) was severely damaged by German fighters. Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler had the opportunity to shoot down the crippled bomber, but for humane reasons, he decided to allow the crew to fly back to England. After an extensive search by Brown, the two pilots met each other over 40 years later and developed a friendship that lasted until Stigler’s death in March 2008.

1. Pilots

2nd Lt. Charles L. “Charlie” Brown (“a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia,” in his own words) was a B-17F pilot with the 379th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ 8th Air Force, stationed at RAF Kimbolton in England. Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria, was a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot attached to Jagdgeschwader 27; at the time, he had 22 aerial victories to his name and would be eligible for the coveted Knight’s Cross with one more downed enemy bomber. Continue reading

“Ronald Skirth” from Wikipedia

Armistice Day:
The only type of war hero worthy of veneration.
-The Voice before the Void

“Ronald Skirth”

Wikipedia

John Ronald Skirth (11 December 1897 – 1977) served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. His experiences during the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele led him to resolve not to take human life, and for the rest of his army service he made deliberate errors in targeting calculations to try to ensure the guns of his battery missed their aiming point on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. Many years later, after retiring from a career as a teacher, he wrote a memoir of his years in the army, describing his disillusionment with the conduct of the war and his conversion to pacifism. In 2010 the memoir was published as The Reluctant Tommy, edited by Duncan Barrett.

1. Early life and war service

Skirth was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the First World War, having volunteered for the British Army under the Derby Scheme, and having requested that the process be expedited, he was called up in October 1916, two months before his 19th birthday. Continue reading

The Ball in the Basement, and The Radio in the Dark

Halloween:
We were drinking Cuba Libres and telling stories.
-The Voice before the Void

The Ball in the Basement, and The Radio in the Dark

Alsazzi Terrato and The Voice before the Void

Lights in the North Dakota Night Sky

We were sitting around the kitchen table, telling stories.
-The Voice before the Void

Lights in the North Dakota Night Sky

The Voice before the Void

“A Balloon Attack” by James Norman Hall

World War I:
American volunteer pilots in the Lafayette Escadrille of the French air service target German observation balloons behind enemy lines in Hall’s wry – and, at times, beautiful – first-hand account of flying in the First World War.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Balloon Attack”

from High Adventure: A Narrative of Air Fighting in France

James Norman Hall

“I’m looking for two balloonatics,” said Talbott, as he came into the messroom; “and I think I’ve found them.”

Percy, Talbott’s orderly, Tiffin the steward, Drew, and I were the only occupants of the room. Percy is an old légionnaire, crippled with rheumatism. His active service days are over. Tiffin’s working hours are filled with numberless duties. He makes the beds, and serves food from three to five times daily to members of the Escadrille Lafayette. These two being eliminated, the identity of the balloonatics was plain.

“The orders have just come,” Talbott added, “and I decided that the first men I met after leaving the bureau would be balloonatics. Virtue has gone into both of you. Now, if you can make fire come out of a Boche sausage, you will have done all that is required. Listen. This is interesting. The orders are in French, but I will translate as I read:—

On the umteenth day of June, the escadrilles of Groupe de Combat Blank [that’s ours] will cooperate in an attack on the German observation balloons Continue reading

“Cattle Rustling and the Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt

With an old cowboy story of North Dakota, Roosevelt illustrates a moral truth about representative democracy and the line it threads between brutal revolution and authoritarian plutocracy.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Cattle Rustling and the Republic”

from Realizable Ideals (The Earl Lectures), “The Public Servant and the Eighth Commandment,” address delivered extemporaneously to the Pacific Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California, 1911 spring

Theodore Roosevelt

edited by The Voice before the Void

In the old days, I used to have a cow-ranch in the short-grass country. At that time, there were no fences within a thousand miles of it. If a calf was passed by on the round-up, so that next year when it was a yearling and was not following any cow, it was still unbranded, it was called a maverick. It was range custom or range law that if a maverick were found on any range, the man finding it would put on the brand of that range. I had hired a new cow-puncher, and one day when he and I were riding, we struck a maverick. It was on a neighbor’s range, the Thistle Range. The puncher roped and threw the maverick; we built a little fire of sage-brush, and took out the cinch iron, heated it, and started to run on the brand. I said to him: “The Thistle brand.” He answered: “That’s all right, boss, I know my business.” In a minute, I said, “Hold on, you’re putting on my brand”; to which he answered: “Yes, I always put on the boss’s brand.” I said: “Oh, well, you go back to the house and get your time.” He rose Continue reading

“Jesus H. Christ” from Wikipedia

Xmas Special:
Happy birthday, Harold.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Jesus H. Christ”

Wikipedia

This article is about the phrase. For the religious figure, see Jesus.

“Jesus H. Christ” is a common phrase used to refer to the religious figure Jesus Christ. It is a vulgarism and is uttered in anger, surprise, or frustration, though sometimes also with humorous intent. It is not used in the context of Christian worship.

Christian divine monogram iota eta sigma IHC JHC Jesus H Christ

1. History

The earliest use of the phrase is unknown, but in his autobiography, Mark Twain observed that it was in general use even in his childhood. Continue reading

“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey” by Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s Birthday Special:
Twain bestows personality upon your holiday meal.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Hunting the Deceitful Turkey”

Mark Twain

When I was a boy my uncle and his big boys hunted with the rifle, the youngest boy Fred and I with a shotgun–a small single-barrelled shotgun which was properly suited to our size and strength; it was not much heavier than a broom. We carried it turn about, half an hour at a time. I was not able to hit anything with it, but I liked to try. Continue reading

“Curse of the pharaohs” from Wikipedia

Halloween Special:
There is no curse, and there is.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Curse of the pharaohs”

Wikipedia

The curse of the pharaohs refers to an alleged curse believed by some to be cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person, especially a pharaoh. This curse, which does not differentiate between thieves and archaeologists, allegedly can cause bad luck, illness, or death. Since the mid-20th century, many authors and documentaries have argued that the curse is “real” in the sense of being caused by scientifically explicable causes such as bacteria or radiation. However, the modern origins of Egyptian mummy curse tales, their development primarily in European cultures, the shift from magic to science to explain curses, and their changing uses—from condemning disturbance of the dead to entertaining horror film audiences—suggest that Egyptian curses are primarily a cultural, not exclusively scientific, phenomenon.

Anubis Shrine jackal statue grave goods Tutankhamun tomb ancient Egyptian King Tut pharaoh curseThere are occasional instances of genuine ancient curses appearing inside or on the façade of a tomb, as in the case of the mastaba of Khentika Ikhekhi at Saqqara. These appear to be directed towards the ka priests to protect the tomb carefully and preserve its ritual purity rather than as a warning for potential robbers. There had been stories of curses going back to the 19th century, but they multiplied after Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Continue reading

Plastic Bottles at Midnight in Mongolia by Meredith Potts

Meredith Potts is the executive director of the non-profit NGO FIRE, the Flagstaff International Relief Effort, based in Flagstaff, Arizona and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Since 1997, FIRE has been administering aid programs in Mongolia, with a current focus on viral hepatitis and liver cancer, which are epidemic in Mongolia. As of May of 2015, FIRE has also begun a relief project for the survivors of the village of Langtang in Nepal; the village was almost completely destroyed by a landslide triggered by the earthquake of April 25.
Learn more and help support FIRE at: fireprojects.org. FIRE is a non-profit organization; all contributions are tax-deductible.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Plastic Bottles at Midnight in Mongolia

Meredith Potts

Dusk did not even begin until 9:45 PM on this May night in Mongolia’s capital city. Still feeling energized, I took the long way home from a friend’s house at 12 midnight through Chinggis Square. It has been more than four years since I was last in Mongolia. As I casually strolled, absorbing the dramatic changes in Ulaanbaatar, from the skyline to the abundant and overly friendly taxi drivers concerned for my safety at that late hour Continue reading

“My Mother’s Curse upon White Settlers” by Zitkala-Sa

“My Mother’s Curse upon White Settlers”

Zitkala-Ša

One black night mother and I sat alone in the dim starlight, in front of our wigwam. We were facing the river, as we talked about the shrinking limits of the village. She told me about the poverty-stricken white settlers, who lived in caves dug in the long ravines of the high hills across the river.

A whole tribe of broad-footed white beggars had rushed hither to make claims on those wild lands. Even as she was telling this I spied a small glimmering light in the bluffs.

“That is a white man’s lodge where you see the burning fire,” she said. Then, a short distance from it, only a little lower than the first, was another light. As I became accustomed to the night, I saw more and more twinkling lights, here and there, scattered all along the wide black margin of the river. Continue reading

Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard

1920 North Dakota Blizzard Anniversary Special:
Thirty-four people killed, one of them a folk-hero legend.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard

compiled from Wikipedia

The 1920 North Dakota Blizzard was a severe three-day blizzard that killed 34 people from March 15 to March 18, 1920, in the state of North Dakota. High winds and an eight-inch snowfall stopped rail service in Bismarck, knocked out telephone service between Devils Lake and Fargo, and left only one functioning telephone line between Fargo and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is one of the worst North Dakota blizzards on record.

Myrdith and Emmet Miner photo from State Historical Society of North DakotaAmong the victims across North Dakota were Charles Hutchins, who lived north of the town of Douglas; the 12-year-old son of Matt Yashenko, who lived five miles south of the town of Ruso; “Chicken Pete” Johnson, an eccentric who was found dead in his dug-out on South Hill in Minot; the young mother, Mrs. Andrew Whitehead; the four Wohlk brothers; and Hazel Miner. Continue reading

“The Devil” by Zitkala-Sa

A young Dakota girl deals with Christian culture as it is thrust upon her.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Devil”

Zitkala-Ša

Among the legends the old warriors used to tell me were many stories of evil spirits. But I was taught to fear them no more than those who stalked about in material guise. I never knew there was an insolent chieftain among the bad spirits, who dared to array his forces against the Great Spirit, until I heard this white man’s legend from a paleface woman.

Out of a large book she showed me a picture of the white man’s devil. I looked in horror upon the strong claws that grew out of his fur-covered fingers. His feet were like his hands. Trailing at his heels was a scaly tail tipped with a serpent’s open jaws. His face was a patchwork: he had bearded cheeks, like some I had seen palefaces wear; his nose was an eagle’s bill, and his sharp-pointed ears were pricked up like those of a sly fox. Above them a pair of cow’s horns curved upward. I trembled with awe, and my heart throbbed in my throat, as I looked at the king of evil spirits. Then I heard the paleface woman say that this terrible creature roamed loose in the world, and that little girls who disobeyed school regulations were to be tortured by him. Continue reading

“A Goblin Story” by Theodore Roosevelt

An astonishingly creepy story by one of the most popular of U.S. Presidents.
Any contemporary listener has a ready name for the “goblin” of this story.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“A Goblin Story”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost stories while living on the frontier, and these few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type.

But I once listened to a goblin story which rather impressed me. It was told by a grisled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was born and had passed all his life on the frontier. Continue reading

“Death of Two Cheyenne Braves” by Theodore Roosevelt

An eerie scene of extraordinary courage and honor and self-sacrifice.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Death of Two Cheyenne Braves”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

The incident, related by Lieutenant Pitcher, took place in 1890, near Tongue River, in northern Wyoming. The command with which he was serving was camped near the Cheyenne Reservation. One day two young Cheyenne bucks, met one of the government herders, and promptly killed him–in a sudden fit, half of ungovernable blood lust, half of mere ferocious lightheartedness. They then dragged his body into the brush and left it. The disappearance of the herder of course attracted attention, and a search was organized by the cavalry. Continue reading

“Trapped by a War Party” by Theodore Roosevelt

Regrettable and complex, Roosevelt’s attitude toward Native Americans is reflective of his entire nation’s attitude toward Native Americans.
Here, Roosevelt goads his reluctant friend into relating one of the most desperate struggles of his friend’s life, because the event also happened to be one of the most famous gunfights of the American West.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Trapped by a War Party”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Accidents are common. Men break their collar-bones, arms, or legs by falling when riding at speed over dangerous ground, when cutting cattle or trying to control a stampeded herd, or by being thrown or rolled on by bucking or rearing horses; or their horses, and on rare occasion even they themselves, are gored by fighting steers. Death by storm or in flood, death in striving to master a wild and vicious horse, or in handling maddened cattle, and too often death in brutal conflict with one of his own fellows–any one of these is the not unnatural end of the life of the dweller on the plains or in the mountains.

But a few years ago other risks had to be run from savage beasts, and from the Indians. Continue reading

“How Cowboys Die in North Dakota” by Theodore Roosevelt

“How Cowboys Die in North Dakota”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Last spring one of the Three-Seven riders, a magnificent horseman, was killed on the round-up near Belfield, his horse bucking and falling on him. “It was accounted a plumb gentle horse too,” said my informant, “only it sometimes sulked and acted a little mean when it was cinched up behind.” The unfortunate rider did not know of this failing of the “plumb gentle horse,” and as soon as he was in the saddle it threw itself over sideways with a great bound, and he fell on his head, and never spoke again.

Such accidents are too common in the wild country to attract very much attention; the men accept them with grim quiet, as inevitable in such lives as theirs–lives that are harsh and narrow in their toil and their pleasure Continue reading

“Light-hearted Way of Regarding ‘Broke Horses'” by Theodore Roosevelt

Insight into cowboy culture.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Light-hearted Way of Regarding ‘Broke Horses'”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

In the cow-country there is nothing more refreshing than the light-hearted belief entertained by the average man to the effect that any animal which by main force has been saddled and ridden, or harnessed and driven a couple of times, is a “broke horse.” My present foreman is firmly wedded to this idea, as well as to its complement, the belief that any animal with hoofs, before any vehicle with wheels, can be driven across any country. One summer on reaching the ranch I was entertained with the usual accounts of the adventures and misadventures which had befallen my own men and my neighbors since I had been out last. In the course of the conversation my foreman remarked: “We had a great time out here about six weeks ago. There was a professor from Ann Arbor come out with his wife to see the Bad Lands, Continue reading

“The Ending of a Desperado” by Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt recounts the story of one of his friends telling him the story of one of his scars.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Ending of a Desperado”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

One of my valued friends in the mountains, and one of the best hunters with whom I ever travelled, was a man who had a peculiarly light-hearted way of looking at conventional social obligations. Continue reading

“Hunting a Horse-thief” by Theodore Roosevelt

An ethical dilemma on the wild frontier.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Hunting a Horse-thief”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Early one spring, now nearly ten years ago, I was out hunting some lost horses. They had strayed from the range three months before, and we had in a roundabout way heard that they were ranging near some broken country, where a man named Brophy had a ranch, nearly fifty miles from my own. When I started thither the weather was warm, but the second day out it grew colder and a heavy snowstorm came on. Fortunately I was able to reach the ranch all right, finding there one of the sons of a Little Beaver ranchman, and a young cowpuncher belonging to a Texas outfit, whom I knew very well. After putting my horse into the corral and throwing him down some hay I strode into the low hut, made partly of turf and partly of cottonwood logs, and speedily warmed myself before the fire. We had a good warm supper, of bread, potatoes, fried venison, and tea. My two companions grew very sociable and began to talk freely over their pipes. There were two bunks one above the other. I climbed into the upper, leaving my friends, who occupied the lower, sitting together on a bench recounting different incidents in the careers of themselves and their cronies during the winter that had just passed. Soon one of them asked the other what had become of a certain horse, Continue reading