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Poem for Veteran’s Day

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

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Dressing Downton

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The Dressing Downton exhibit has opened in Chicago at the Driehaus Museum. I’d never been to the Driehaus, but the exhibit drew me. In this restored mansion once owned by the Nickerson Family, there’s an exhibit of the costumes featured in PBS’ Masterpiece’s lavish drama Downton Abbey.

This Gilded Age mansion was the perfect venue to see costumes of the same era. With your $25 admission, you get a free audio tour, which enables you to hear not only the descriptions of the rooms, but the stories behind the costumes from the early 20th century. In several cases the costumers would find a vintage dress and embellish or restore what remained of it, which gives the clothes more authenticity.

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My friend and I savoured both the costumes and the house itself so it took about 2 hours to get through the three story house. If you drive down, you can get your parking validated so you wind up paying just $14 for 12 hours parking, which is a real deal in Chicago. The museum is holding several events such as author talks and a viewing party for the series’ finalé. I wish I could attend, but I leave for China tomorrow. Alas.

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Sepia Saturday

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This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt inspired me to search for images of old cafeterias. Flickr Commons had quite a few.

Source: Vancouver Public Library, 1950

Source: Vancouver Public Library, 1950

I love signs so the one above is a favorite.

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Circa 1943

But then I also like pie, so I wanted to share this one from the Oregon State University special collection caught my eye. The one below shows WWI soldiers and a few civilians in 1918. And the final image is a postcard for a cafeteria. If you want to see more Sepia Saturday posts, click here.

Cornell University, circa 1918

Cornell University, circa 1918

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Poem of the Week

Mental Cases

by Wilfred Owen

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jays that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ teeth wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain,- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands’ palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

-These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
-Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Monday my student in Afghanistan wanted to discuss war poems as she is writing some. This poem about WWI shell shocked soldiers is one I found.

La Grande Illusion

b3_d__0_GrandIllusionI knew that Phil Jackson would show Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion  (1937) to his players before every season, but I wasn’t sure why. (I’m still uncertain as to what he wanted his team to learn, though the film has plenty of insights.)

I didn’t know what to expect. The DVD package promised a war film, which I’m never in the mood for, but if 3:10 to Yuma was good, perhaps this would be too. Starring Jean Gabin (whom I saw in Touchez Pas au Grisbi) La Grande Illusion tells the story of French POWs in World War I. Of course, if the main characters are stuck in prison, the film’s objective must be to get them out, n’est pas? Bien sur.

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The three central characters are Gabin’s working class Maréchal, Pierre Fresnay’s blue blooded Capt. de Boeldieu and Marcel Dalio’s Lt. Rosenthal. When Maréchal is captured he’s put in a cell with de Boeldieu and Rosenthal, who shares the delicacies his family send him from France with all his comrades. Maréchal soon learns that the men have been digging a tunnel to get out. While other escapees get caught and shot, these men’s plan is thwarted as they are all moved to another prison camp just before they plan to use the tunnel.

de Boeldieu et von Rauffenstein

de Boeldieu et von Rauffenstein

The three are transferred and try to escape repeatedly till they’re sent to Capt. von Rauffenstein’s camp. Played by Eric von Stroheim, von Rauffenstein is a compelling character. Throughout the film, von Rauffenstein wears a full body cast and wears white gloves to hide his burned hands. He lives in a gothic chapel that he’s oddly decorated and made into an apartment. He prides himself on running a civilized prisoner of war camp for officers, whom he treats almost like guests.

Von Rauffenstein most connects with de Boeldieu as their family trees are most on par. While de Boedleu has come to see that the old social order is dying, von Rauffenstein’s blind to that. He also can’t fathom how de Boedieu can seen any value in the working class or nouveau riche, that’s his downfall.

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From critic Peter Cowie’s essay on the Criterion Collection website:

Made just three years before World War II, it gazes back to a different era, and to a war, in the words of the director, “based on fair play, a war without atom bombs or torture.” Hitler had not appeared. “Nor,” says Renoir, “had the Nazis, who almost succeeded in making people forget that the Germans are also human beings.”

The film is simple, but compelling with fascinating characters I won’t soon forget. It unfolds effortlessly and haunts me days after I’ve seen it. I can’t wait to watch it again, next time with the commentary.

Mr Selfridge, Season 3 Begins

Harry and the crew at Selfridges is back. I’m devastated to see that Rose is gone. I would have liked to see a few episodes with her. Another season with her, sometimes sick, sometimes not, would have been welcome. She did open a hospital for American soldiers at the family’s country house. (The exhaustion of that was what probably killed the real Rose.)

The series sweeps us along to Rosalie’s wedding. Rosalie’s all grown up and has allied herself with a Russian bounder. He seems cold and distant. I’m not a fan of this Sergey. I doubt Rose would have approved. Harry’s gone along with the wedding so Rosalie doesn’t mourn too long. Not a wise reason to wed.

Still the wedding is gorgeous and the rooftop of Selfridges is an interesting venue.

Violet’s also grown up and seems to be headed for trouble. My guess is she’ll be painting the town red having some of Harry’s rowdier genes.

Henri returns from the war. Yet he’s hiding his post traumatic stress, which they called shell shock. If you want to avoid spoilers: Don’t look at imdb.com. You’ll be able to deduce what happens to Agnes and Henri there.

I like that we’re starting to see some of the aftermath of the war, e.g. the conflict between the female workers and the returning soldiers and the soldiers looking for work or begging. Selfridges and Downton Abbey have helped me envision the WWI era with much more insight. As it’s set in the city, I think Selfridges may convey the hardship even more than Downton. We’ll see.

I’ve mentioned that I have not taken a shine to Serge and his mother seems to be a fraud and sponge. Harry, really? Couldn’t you introduce Rosalie to someone better? Well, in real life this was what Rosalie wound up with. It’s painful to watch a marriage that’s bad from the start.

Victor’s restaurant appears to be a night club and he’s dealing with ne’er-do-well’s. If he couldn’t marry Agnes, it’s a shame he didn’t get the Italian woman to marry him. A woman from the Old Country, someone down to earth might have kept him in line.

I didn’t expect to see Loxley again. Well, though he’s makes me cringe, he is a good villain. Too bad the actress who played May Loxley, went to Australia. I really liked her, especially in season 2.

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Miss Mardle isn’t working at the store, but did stop by. It seems Florian, her lover, died in the war. I always thought that relationship was off kilter, that Florian was too passive for her, too immature. I’d like to see her with a man with more personality. Neither Mr. Grove nor Florian were men of action. They react rather than initiate. Yet I wonder if she won’t relapse and return to Mr. Grove. That would be a pity. Mr. Grove’s whining about his family is so annoying, so disloyal.

Since a few years have gone by, I’m glad we see Kitty married to Frank. That’s realistic. We don’t need to see each couple’s wedding on air.

All in all, it felt good to hear the Mr Selfridge theme and return to the store.

I’m posting this via email with a delay. I hope that works.

Sepia Saturday

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It’s time for another Sepia Saturday post. This week’s prompt had me searching Flickr Commons for photos of parades way back when.

Virginia militia parade 1920s

Virginia militia parade 1920s

Sufferage Parade

Sufferage Parade, 1913

London, after WWI, 1918

London, after WWI, 1918

Finally, here’s a video of the pet parade my brother’s town has held since the 1950s.

If you want to see what other bloggers have posted, click here.

The Village

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I just watched the first episode of the British drama, The Village . Set at the beginning of WWI, it’s a naturalistic drama and sort of an “anti-Downton Abbey” focusing on a lower class family struggling against poverty and alcoholism. It’s a compelling story told by the second oldest man in Britain, who’s getting interviewed, I’m not sure by whom.

The man, Bert, looks back to his youth, when he was a schoolboy, always getting in trouble and getting beaten at home and at school by the angry, frustrated man who rules the roost, i.e. his father and his teacher. Both men take out their frustrations on all around them.

A beautiful woman comes to town and catches the attention of Bert and his older brother who works at the “big house” filling bath tubs with hot water. So far the upperclass family are snobbish with no redeeming qualities, which makes it different from Downton or Mr Selfridge where there are good and bad eggs amongst each social class.

The Village is set in a drabber world, one of browns and grays, but I am curious about what will happen now that Joe goes off to fight the Germans and Bert is alone without his protective older brother. Also, what will happen with the beautiful vicar’s daughter, who seems to be one of two people in the village who owns clothing that is — not brown, white or gray — but a muted red.

The Village , as far as I can tell, is only available on DVD.

WWI Truce

Sainsbury, a British store, has put together a lovely video on the truce between the Germans and British soldiers in WWI. The story goes that on Christmas in 1914 there was a truce during the battles of WWI and during that time the British and German took a risk and ventured out to meet each other. They wound up exchanging stories, memories, treats and played football (soccer to Americans).

On the radio today I heard that the armies had to move these soldiers to different areas because they had lost the desire to kill that had once been there.

Sepia Saturday

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This week’s prompt led me to the National Library of Scotland’s digital archive which had these photos of WWI soldiers writing letters. All are circa 1918. What a war! It’s centennial has given us more opportunities to read and watch to learn about its devastation. I’m sure these letters home were such a relief and reassurance.

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