Archive for the ‘history’ Category

The “Forgotten War” – the cold war conflict between America and a communist China, North and South Korea. Looking back on the Korean War now is particularly pertinent, taking North Korea’s recent (and denied) aggressions towards South Korea. The fact that the Korean War never ended has, I think, caused it to be pushed into the recesses of the US’s history. But remembering is necessary not only to prevent repeating the past, but also to honor those who spent and lost their lives in the conflict.

NYT put together a collection of four veteran’s memories, just short little essays that paint a big picture. Here.


My grandfather, who was a Petty Officer First Class on a Navy destroyer, has shared some of his stories from his time in the war with us over the years. And while he often retells the same stories, we do get new ones. Here are a few bits:

–  “When I was sworn into the Navy, there was two things they told me. One was, ‘When someone tells you to do something, do it.’ Two: ‘You no longer live in a democracy – the government owns you.’ So when they asked to see my orders and I gave them to them, they said, ‘Well, here’s your new orders.’”

–  On USS A___ (compared to being on a sub): “We spent just about as much time under water as we did on top. The typhoons in the south Chinese sea… ripped K [something] guns clean off the deck…

– “In a storm off Okanowa, we were doing turns for 29 knots (going 29 knots), but we didn’t move because the storm was so strong – the winds. The whole boat went under then out again. There were two destroyers on their sides, on either side of us – they ran out of fuel. They said they got all the people off safe, but we didn’t stick around to find out if it was true.”

– “After the Korean war in ’53, in the Chinese Sea, we were on a mission to a freighter run aground off the coast of China. We couldn’t go in so we sent whaleboats, but we lost one – with 11 men. I was lucky I wasn’t on that one. They found a wooden box, about this big [two by three feet or so], and it looked like a treasure chest. They didn’t want the Chinese to set eyes on what was inside it. To this day, we still don’t know what was in it.”

“We made it back to Taiwan going 1 or 2 knots. We stayed for two days, then went to the Philippines – towed there by two tugboats. We were drydocked for 9 weeks for repairs to the ship. We had liberty every day; all we did really was eat, sleep, and clean – we had to keep the ship spic n’ span. I lost all my presents – 33 mm rifle, good china, silk kimonos – although the wedding rings made it – all to the bottom of the ocean. I lost… $1600 of stuff; I figured I could replace it, but we never went back to Japan. It was supposed to be refunded… I got $16 instead.”

– Were you treated OK [in Japan]? “Uhh, the businesses catered to you because you had the money, but with the people, there was lots of animosity.”

–  “The worst thing to see was the 2 atomic bomb sites… there were shadows of the power lines burnt into the cement… you closed your eyes and could feel it.”

–  “Back then, you didn’t do bragging rights about seeing what you did [what the US did in the past – bombs, etc.], because you might’ve ended up at the bottom of one of the canals… I saw more in the Navy than I ever would’ve been able to afford as a civilian. 3 trips to Hong Kong, 10 days at a time.”

– (In Hong Kong) “The rickshaw boys there’d take their money to the bank and buy gold money, then store it in leather pouches for a few weeks, one or two weeks, then take it back to the bank, and brush the gold dust out of the pouches… They sold that to the street vendors.”

– (HK) “I saw people that were born on boats and never left – they just never left.”

– (HK) “There were these girls who’d come and clean the boat completely, for no pay, just the privilege of cleaning/taking out your tray/garbage… so you took three times the food you normally would – 3 pieces of pork, a heap of potatoes – when you knew Mama Susie’s girls (the cleaning girls) were there. They’d take your tray and scrape it off into 3 metal bins, one for meat, one for potatoes, one for vegetables – and that was their food. That was their pay, the privilege of taking care of your tray.”

-“We did a lot of stuff we weren’t supposed to, probably.”

– Went to Hawaii 3 times, did the beaches, saw the surfers – “I didn’t do that, really” – went to dinner once with a friend and “flipped out when it was $21, gratuity included.”

(Eating on land wasn’t like on board, when…) “You had to hold down your tray eating, or else it’d slide down four feet and they guy next to you’d BLAaRRGHHhh [get seasick] on it.”

“I may not’ve been the best sailor, but I’m the best storyteller.”

“In those days, all you had to do was put on your navy uniform and stand on the side of the road, not even stick out your thumb or nothing, and someone’d pull over and say, ‘Where to, sailor?’ … The uniform meant a lot more in those days.”

(A note to readers: take the initiative and find out about your grandparents’ lives. My grandfather – the sailor – also has other crazy stories, hitchhiking across the country, working in the coal mines… and my other grandfather is just ridiculous. He’s a physical chemist-geologist and just about everything else. Now that he’s a bit older – late 80s, I believe – he’s developing his own theory of gravity and trying to get all his thoughts organized and ideas written down for the future. So: ASK. You’ll be surprised what you find out. Your grandparents might not have been in wars or helped develop nuclear technology (not that I’m bragging or anything…  😛 ), but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they have their own interesting stories to share, and it would delight them for you to take an interest. So ASK.)

As always, The Big Picture put out an excellent article.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (in the leather jacket).

So to all those who served in The Forgotten War, and to those who are serving in another – thank you.

~ r


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I stumbled upon this little video while I was doing some research for designers of the 20s and 30s (for Humanities… choose an artist/composer/etc. and recreate a work. No one’s ever picked a designer before… teehee). It’s what some designers (I wish they’re named them) predicted people would be wearing in 2000… notice the shoulders, jumpsuit, architechtural heel, and the second dress that looks remarkably similar (at least on top) to that Alexander Wang dress.

alex wang mesh dress, runway

And haha, “…an atmosphere scientifically kept at the right temperature.” Air conditioning, anyone?

Here’s the clip:

I love the 30s  🙂

~ r

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[Started this post about a month ago and never got around to finishing it off, so with all my free time I’ve finally done it. Social activism stuff after the thermite. Oh, I’m not sure, but some stuff may be outdated by now… I don’t know. Let me know.]

Such a good day. School – who cares. Did a lot of nothing (biking and working out and thinking and writing) until dinner, after which my older brother and some of our friends got us some thermite and dun made big flames and sparks and steam and whatnot!

Yeah, it’s this great powder you light with magnesium and melt through stuff. Liquid iron (and other cool things) are biproducts, just to give you an idea of just how cool (err, hot – it gets above 4,000 degrees!) it is. A video by Brits who melt through a car’s engine using thermite:

Haha yes, I’m a science geek. Bill Nye is my favourite. Alrighty, moving right along to, umm, social activism/the 70’s/rock & roll – the real stuff.

JAK&JIL. Those glasses remind me of hippies, about whom we are learning (who? whom? As in, whom cares? Haha) in history. Hippies, who started and carried on and weathered out a fine tradition of a cultural revolution. Like it or not, that’s what it was: an uprising in protest of the government. …

Compared to today, where people are content with the way things are. Too content, I feel, and therefore not inspired or motivated to take action for something they believe in. The Vietnam War was the main antagonist of the time, of course, and why should the Iraq war (and all its related baggage it’s dragging along behind it through the blood-stained sand) be any different? Vietnam was to “contain communism”; Iraq is to “prevent terrorism” (although it’s obviously much, much more than that – for simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with Terrorism Prevention. Mostly). Don’t you see the huge differences between them?
Oh, you do? Could you point them out?
Ah, sorry, that was a bit snarky. But really, it seems to me that both wars have lots of similar characteristics:

1. They could have been pretty much entirely avoided in the first place. (This is arguable, and is a huge argument, but that fact of the matter is that they could have been avoided. It may have been a blow to the US’ pride, but… there it is.)
2. They’re far away and could have been over much, much shorter than they were/are being dragged out to be. (The ‘far away’ part is actually a huge deal; if Iraq were, say, near Canada, people would be prone to pay more attention to it. However, due to the distance – an ocean and a continent – people tend to brush it off).
3. Lots of people aren’t very happy about it. (The difference: people then saw the – for lack of a better word – inhumanity/injustice/unnecessity of it and did something about it. Now… well, I’ll get to now shortly).
4. The government played a dubious role in the whole thing. (No, I’m not referring to Watergate/Nixon, I’m talking about the Gulf of Tonkin resolutionduh. No worries – I only know about it because I’ve just learnt it.)
5. They were both an overextension of American power and, some would argue, imperialism (or something along the lines of that – a show of power, etc.); again with the avoidable/blow-to-pride bit.

Those are they key points.

But the differences? It’s all in the culture, society.
In one of the documentaries I watched, one man said: “You were active. Everyone was. You couldn’t sit back and not be active; your sense of decency prevented that.” That begs the question: are we indecent, as a society, today? Have we lost so much of our morality and lost sight of traditional American values? Democratic values? Even basic human rights? Most people will be flustered by hearing this, indignant, but I beg of you to sit back and think about that. The young people of the 1970’s knew that the war was wrong, but more importantly, their sense of decency made them act upon it. They took risks to make a strong point to their government, their culture, and their society.

What exactly is different about the time of the Vietnam war (a long time) and now? What happened between the 70s and now that made society complacent, content to forget about their country’s wars and be oblivious to current events?
Now it seems that social injustice and war and stuff don’t give rise to indignation (only insult can do that now, I feel), but only seems to dredge up a wisp of emotion, a memory of some feeling of obligation, and [generally] people today aren’t prone to act on that wisp. In some people, however, the wisps turns into a stronger force, provoking them and urging them on to expand their thoughts and experiences and opinions and eventually their actions.

[Protests were not, of course, limited to merely marching around with signs and whatnot. The entire counterculture – sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, their clothes, etc. – all lent to the cause. Some people went so far as to alter their entire lifestyle just to protest not only the war, but the entire culture – the way society was turning. They didn’t like it, so they protested. They acted on their impulses and emotions and thoughts. It seems to me that people today would be too uncomfortable by changing everything about their lives simply to make a point. It’s like we, as a whole, have lowered our levels of mental power and our wills to set things right.]

Another thing: people may say, ‘But what’s the point? It’s not like just because you protest, the war will be over.’ Maybe not immediately – which is another contributing factor, people today want immediate gratification, and they won’t wait for anything – but eventually, if enough people rise to the challenge, open their minds and thoughts and actions, we can fix this.

~ r

PS: no senseless, inane comments, please. Intelligent conversation only.
PPS: sorry, it’s a bit rough/unpolished – as I said, I started this over a month ago and just now remembered about it.

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Amazing song. It makes you think (or it does me, anyway) – it’s so true. People always talk about how terrible the world is and how we’re all screwed; blame flies, fingers are pointed, but really, it’s always been this way and always will be. That’s not saying we should be apathetic – just the opposite, actually. If we just stand by, the world really will go to hell. I mean, look at Iran: they could’ve sat around and grumbled about their screwed-up government, but they took to the streets to get results. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone takes to the streets armed and dangerous, but we need to do something – not sit around and not care about current events – to take a stand. The Iraq & Afghanistan wars are just so ridiculously reminiscient of Vietnam that I don’t see how people can’t see that. If they see that, surely people will look and see and say, “Oh, hmm, that didn’t turn out so well… maybe we shouldn’t…?” But to get to that stage, people need to be aware of the outside world and care and actually have opinions. Oh look, there I go again.

“We didn’t start the fire, no we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it…”

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The famous “FUCK” cheer and “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die”:

That’s the mentality we need, not one of “Oh, there’s a war still going on? Our soldiers are still over there? Hmm. Oh, shh, the game’s back on.”

~ r

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“‘Just leave us to concentrate on our exams,” said a student who would give only her first name, Dina. “I’m not expecting anything. Americans don’t like us and we don’t like them. They think we’re terrorists, and we don’t like them because of what they’re doing in Iraq.’” -NYT

Well, some of us don’t like what we’re doing in Iraq either.

The war(s) is/are a particularly sore point for me. No, I don’t personally know anyone over there, but that’s sort of a moot point at this point, isn’t it? It’s based on ideals, on morals and values and ethics… not to mention politics and foreign policy…
I view it as pretty much Vietnam v. 2.0: completely futile. Come on, guys – no matter how hard you try, there is never going to be peace in the Middle East as long as there are different religious factions over there.
Vietnam: North/South (Communism/Capitalism).
Iraq: well, first it was to fight terrorism. [I get that the US had to take some action after 9/11, but this has turned out to be spasmodic jerks, settling down to twitching. Occasional outbreaks, yup. ] Then it was all about Sadaam Hussein and Osama bin Laden… that worked well! And now… well… it’s like trying to put out a fire with a gas can. Aka, not helping.

Don’t get me wrong: I support our troops. I respect them. They’re out there doing what the rest of us won’t, risking what the rest of us won’t. Do they believe in it? Who knows. But the fact of the matter is that they are there and we’re not. (What gets my goat is when people say, “Oh, you’re anti-war, you hate the troops! You want them all killed!” Umm, excuse me? Oh, what’s that saying… something about standing in front of a soldier… I dunno.)

Vietnam protesters:

Oh, those are all Vietnam. (If you hadn’t noticed…)

Yeah, I’m a bit contradictory… I’m anti-war, but I find myself fascinated by war history and soldiers’ personal accounts. (Chuck Norris Vietnam films are always good.)

Chuck Norris in MIA

Great movie. Righto, bedtime.

~ r

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It’s raining.

Handy-dandy Swine Flu tracker: here [NYT]

Thinking about Hendrix, the 60s, and whatnot recently…




1960's fashion by EleganceisRefusal..

1960's fashion by EleganceisRefusal..

Sigh. I think I would’ve been a good 60s or 70s child…

~ r

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