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Letters from World War I – Corporal Ellis Edmond “Dutch” Ketchersid

My Grandfather was in the 132 Machine Gun Battalion in the 36th Division, First Army, sent to France in World War I. He passed away in 1982, and somehow I was the recipient of several of his World War I moments: a 48-star flag; the roster book from his Company “B”; a shell; and an Argentine Mauser, circa 1890s. Through his letters (which I have from my father) and through an excellent article called Panthers to Arrowheads: The 36th (Texas-Oklahoma) Division In World War I by Lonnie J. White, I pieced together much of his journey. I wish I would have asked him more.

Born in October of 1893, he was near his 24th birthday when he became part of the 132nd Machine Gun Battalion, which was formed in October 1917 at Camp Bowie, Texas from the 1st, 2nd and 7th Regiments of Texas Infantry and the 1st Regiment of Oklahoma Infantry. From Mr. White’s article:

Major Preston Weatherred was assigned command of the 132nd, and he would many years later command the Texas National GuardState pride was so great in both Guards that Texas officials sought as early as May, 1917, the permission of Secretary Baker to form a purely Texas division, and Oklahomans in July applied political pressure to have their Guardsmen trained in Oklahoma. The new divisional arrangement was particularly galling to the 1st Oklahoma, the pride of the Sooner state, whose recruits had been promised during the summer enlistment campaign that the regiment would retain its state identity. To make matters worse, the 1st Oklahoma was not to form a separate regiment, but was to be merged with the 7th Texas Infantry to comprise the 142nd Infantry.

Of the Oklahoma officers, the most upset was Lieutenant Colonel Jayne, who complained that there would “be no Oklahoma unit anywhere.” There were “so many Texas regiments” that they cannot lose their identity, merely taking different numerals.” Captain A. H. Drake of Childress, 7th Texas Infantry, perhaps reflected the sentiment of the Texans in his statement that the 1st Oklahomans “will not lose their identity any more than we will.” The 7th Texas would not be known as such “any more either.”

Oklahomans at home felt strongly enough about the matter to seek redress in Washington. Their efforts were to no avail, for Secretary Baker in a meeting with “prominent Oklahomans” on September 29 flatly refused to budge from the War Department’s decision to renumber the divisional units without reference to states. Consequently, Blakely’s order stood, though he was constrained, owing to the furor, to amend it to move back the date for the completion of consolidation and removal of the Guardsmen to their new unit locations at Camp Bowie to October 15.

Jayne was presumably so distressed that he took a 10-day furlough, leaving Bloor as the new commanding officer of the 142nd to deal with the unruly Oklahomans in the best way he could. Fortunately for Bloor, General Hoffman, who had every reason to be as dissatisfied with the rearrangement of units, which left his brigade without a single Oklahoma organization, as Jayne, urged the men of his former regiment in a farewell speech to accept consolidation. Standing on “a dry goods box” on October 12, Hoffman told the 1st Oklahoma troops, who were gathered around him, that orders “were orders, and you are soldiers.” He wanted them “to be friendly to the men of the Seventh” and to accept their new commander whom he declared was “one of the best colonels in the American Army.” Following Hoffman’s remarks, Bloor welcomed the Oklahomans to the 142nd and asked them as “experienced veterans” to assist the green Texans in becoming soldiers. “We want to make this the best regiment in camp.”

The troops began training in trench warfare. In November, a cold front blew in on Camp Bowie, which the camp was not prepared for. Pneumonia, measles and meningitis hit the crowded camp. Again, from Mr. White’s article: (more…)

The HUGO Voter Packet: Why would you NOT do this?

The HUGO Voter Packet: Why would you NOT do this?

The 2012 Hugos  are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. The Hugos are awarded each year by the World Science Fiction Society, at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). This year that convention is Chicon 7 in Chicago August 30 – September 3.

From the website “You may vote on the 2012 Hugo Awards and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer if you are an Attending or Supporting member of Chicon 7 (the 2012 World Science Fiction Convention).”

To be a supporting member is 50 bucks. And not only does this allow you to vote, but you also get the “Hugo Voter Packet”.

…which contains the five nominated novels (in various formats), and several other of the nominated works for novella, novelette, short story, works from those authors nominated for the Campbell award….

…shall I go on?

The Hugo group should be applauded for this most excellent bribery to get people to read the nominated works and voted from the experience of reading, not from the reputations of the authors. This is done with a lot of trust (a fact that is pointed out, as it should be, in several places in the packet and on the website) and with the suggestion that readers support the authors who have contributed their works.

I do not normally follow or worry about the awards given out, as many of them are popularity contests. But this is an excellent investment, and a great way to participate.

I’ve included some simple math in a table below. Fifty bucks is a lot of money, but there is a ton of material in here.

The big question is: how much will get read before the voting deadline of July 31st?

Among OthersJo Walton9.9910.19Tor
A Dance With DragonsGeorge R. R. Martin14.9924.30 (two paperbacks)Bantam Spectra
DeadlineMira Grant7.999.99Orbit
EmbassytownChina Miéville11.9910.88Macmillan/Del Rey
Leviathan WakesJames S. A. Corey9.9910.87Orbit



An Evening with Carrie Fisher

My notes on our “evening with Carrie Fisher”, viewing her one woman autobiographical show at the Hobby Center last week, were originally posted on the now-archived Hugo-nominated SFSignal. The entire article is below.

“Dad,” asked my 21-year-old son, “do you think she’ll wear the Princess Leia outfit?”That, in a nutshell, is the now 55-year-old Carrie Fisher’s blessing and curse. My friend Vern admitted he had “serious issues with Princess Leia” from age 13. Ms. Fisher herself tells the story of a man who said he thought of her daily from age 14 to 22…”at least four times a day.”

Our evening with Carrie Fisher, watching her perform Wishful Drinking, her one woman autobiographical sketch of “talking about myself behind my back” was neither as magical as the first time one sees Star Wars as a teenager and probably will not be as memorable (my wife enjoyed it, but even she rated the jazz concert from the previous Friday better entertainment…it was Joe Sample!). Ms. Fisher’s show, which has been running off and on since November 2006, could quickly have turned into celebrity self-indulgent crap (at one point she says “Don’t you hate it when celebrities talk about themselves?”); but through many clever turns of a phrase and an uncanny detachment of talking about tragic parts of her life in humorous fashion, Ms. Fisher made it quite an enjoyable evening. It was comfortable and fun, like exchanging stories while drinking with an old friend.

In this case, the old friend has a Hollywood pedigree, a metal bikini from George Lucas, one ex-husband named Paul Simon and awards for mental illness. And that’s how Carrie Fisher structures her very well written show, in four parts:

  • Hollywood Inbreeding 101
  • Star Wars
  • Two Ex-Husbands
  • Mental Illness

Starting off with how her friend Greg, “a gay Republican lobbyist” died in her bed, Fisher winds her way through her family tree with a blackboard that looked like a Sudoku puzzle with celebrity pictures. She describes the Debbie Reynolds-Eddie Fisher-Elizabeth Taylor triangle of her parent’s marital demise as the “Jennifer Aniston – Brad Pitt – Angelina Jolie of the day.” Though she appears to come from celebrity royalty, her family history is enough to make a grown woman drink, or do drugs, or go crazy…which she does.

But first she gets dragged into show business, goes to Speech and Drama School in London and lands the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars. She does a great bit  (with movie clips) about her on-again, off again British accent that shows up in the film. And she mentions my son’s comment, which is everyone’s comment…that she didn’t realize that she signed up to wear the bikini from age 23 until the day she dies. But whether she enjoys the Star Wars adulation/worship or not, she does have fun with it…she shows a Princess Leia Pez Dispenser, tells how George Lucas says there was no underwear in space, so her costume didn’t require it…and shows an R (or maybe X…I couldn’t get close enough to actually rate it) rated statue that she saw of her in the bikini at one of those “conventions”. She even claims that since Lucas has trademarked her likeness, she owes him a couple of bucks every time she looks in the mirror.

And yes, she does come out for a bit with her hair in the Leia style. drafting a man from the first few rows of the audience to also model a wig in the same style. Guys, let’s not kid ourselves: 55 years old or not, we all wish we were that guy, getting hugs from Carrie.

After a brief intermission, Ms. Fisher comes back out to discuss and describe her two ex-husbands: a “short Jewish singer, like my father” (Paul Simon) and a man who she claimed credit for turning bald and gay with her new codeine-fed superpower (Bryan Lourd, though it is uncertain if they were ever legally married). She recites some of the lyrics from songs Simon wrote about her, mainly because when spoken by her, the sound quite unflattering (“if you can ever get Paul Simon to write a song about you, do it, the man is a genius”).

For her final act, Carrie claims that though she never won awards for acting or writing (in fact, her novel Postcards from the Edge won the Los Angeles Pen Award for Best First Novel) she has won lots of awards for being mentally ill. A graphic is displayed from a psychology textbook with her picture in Princess Leia regalia as the lead photo in the Manic-Depressant article, as Fisher quips “a Pez dispenser AND an article in a psychology text…what an accomplishment!” The only serious (or semi-serious) part of the evening comes when she describes how she deals with her illness (“If you claim something, it has less power over you.”).

She ends by citing the holographic speech that is projected from R2D2 in the first Star Wars movie, the first time most of us ever saw her, saying that these lines are stuck in her head and trying to get out. As a writer, she had many good lines that she managed to get out on stage, to try to communicate her points. And, as someone forever immortalized, an icon in the minds of many, her most descriptive line is “Celebrity is obscurity, biding its time.”


Great concert – Houston Homegrown 3G: Three Generations of Houston’s Best Jazz Artists

Friday, May 11, 2011 (The Hobby Center) — Three generations of Houston Jazz musicians provided a sold out audience with a once-in-a-lifetime concert, highlighted by the ending set: a duet from pianist Joe Sample and flutist Hubert Laws.

We had serious trepidation about this concert; though the advertisement had a picture of Joe Sample (one of my all time faves) and a brief mention of him, there was no listing of the performers. And the bargain price of about $15 per ticket made me worried; I was sure we would here some great jazz, but would Joe Sample be there? The last time we saw him with the Crusaders, we paid a pretty penny for those tickets.

Not only was he there, but he was joined by Grammy-award winning Houston flutist in an ending set that was simply magical.

The concert was the season ending one by MusicDoingGood, a local organization I had not heard of, but we certainly be following closely.

Of the Third Generation performers, Chase Jordan on the Vibes stood out, with a clear sound and an almost artistically acrobatic usage of the mallets.

Horace Alexander Young on tenor sax shined on both selections in the Second Generation set.

Then the originals arrived. Horace Grigsby did an outstanding rendition of What a Wonderful World, and Jewel Brown, sitting down though she was (refusing to take her cane onto the stage was a nice touch!) absolutely rocked Time After Time.

But the best set was Sample and Laws. Joe Sample came out, performed one track by himself, then Hubert Laws joined him for a set that quickly got into its groove, making the audience think they had been playing together since their high school daze.

The whole group returned for a final rendition of I’ve Got Rhythm.

The set list (thanks to Music Doing Good for providing it):

Third Generation
Featuring Chase Jordan (Vibes) And Jordan Donald (alto sax)
01. Black Narcissus
02. Go
Darrell Lavigne, Piano
Anibal Ambert, Bass
Clyde Adams, Drums
Second Generation
Featuring Andre Hayward (trombone) and Horace Alexander Young (tenor sax)
03. Nica’s Dream
04. The Nearness of You
Darrell Lavigne, Piano
Anibal Ambert, Bass
Clyde Adams, Drums
First Generation
Featuring Horace Grigsby (vocals) and Jewel Brown (vocals).
05. What A Wonderful World
06. Time After Time
Darrell Lavigne, Piano
Anibal Ambert, Bass
Clyde Adams, Drums
07. “Way Back Home” – Young and Hayward return and play this with the rhythm section as a “walk-on” for Joe Sample and Hubert Laws.
Joe Sample and Hubert Laws


Avengers Movie

Thoughts on The Avengers

I have not been to a midnight movie in ages. But my lovely wife agreed to act like kids and see the new Avengers movie at midnight last night. It was well worth the lost sleep.

Midnight openings have a feeling of enthusiasm, especially for long awaited movies like this one. As each new character made their appearance, the crowd cheered; as each battle was won, we applauded again.

It was that kind of movie.

The story is well know, and the plot is predictable (for a more detailed summary, see Derek’s notes at SFSignal). Loki, Thor’s miscreant brother, is freed from his prison in space when Earth scientists fool around with the Tesseract (an alien energy source). Loki calls in an army of out-of-this-world baddies, and Nick Fury, leader of SHIELD, played by Samuel L. Jackson, assembles the Avengers.

Some small spoilers after the break: (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo


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