Friday, May 26, 2006

Memorial Day

The crew of H.M.S. Impossible expresses gratitude for all the sacrifices of those who have fallen in the line of duty. That duty is not limited to those in uniform. We venerate: The preservation and maintenance of the peace, integrity, security and ideals of this lively democratic experiment. Our hope: That those who give their lives shall not be recognized for profitless endeavor and those who dedicate their lives to keeping our shores peaceful should be remembered for every contribution. We endorse: Those who bravely and selflessly put down their weapons and find the courage to wage peace. We esteem: Their good deeds and good will. Those without rank or office must work each day to honor that commitment with the same determination to safeguard, ensure, strengthen, build, and celebrate our communities, homes, and families.
As we must.
thanks travelblog.org for the image

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

from Captain Wallbank's Almanack

Wapping, on the Thames, London: On May 23, 1701, declared a pirate by the British East India Company, Captain William Kidd was hanged for piracy and murder on "Execution Dock," two over from "In-School Suspension Quay" just down from "Community Service Pier." Hired as a privateer to protect British ships in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean when he cleverly removed the "Aarrr’s" and "Yo-ho’s" from his resume, Kidd took the opportunity to capture as many prize-laden ships as he could. He was not very good at this; he was terrifically unlucky, cursed with tragically criminal crews, and he had extraordinarily corrupt backers who eventually let him hang. Kidd found you could be a heroic privateer until Parliament decided "privateers" were "pirates." (The explanation for this change of heart is usually given as King William III’s dyslexia, but this has never been confirmed.) Sure, he may have grabbed his share of booty, and could possibly have hidden an immense pirate treasure wherever Poe said he did (or maybe on Block Island RI). (Or maybe Connecticut). (Or possibly Nova Scotia. And who wouldn’t?). Yes, he had a huge treasure: It was his wife’s dowry. If he hadn’t captured what he thought was a foreign ship (that was captained by an Englishman) by flying another country’s flag (a trick he obviously learned from a Robert Louis Stevenson book), he could have recovered that treasure. The story goes that Kidd didn’t want the prize, but that his crew did. Kidd called "Do-over!" But the captain of the prize insisted it was a fair catch. The crew of Kidd’s ship got their prize, while Kidd was simultaneously charged with piracy and plagiarism. In one of those flighty hissy fits of pique pirates are famous for, he threw a bucket at his gunner, which killed the man. So there’s your murder charge. (The bucket wasn’t even loaded, but apparently he had no representation at his trial.) All should be forgiven because he’s Scottish and one might even charitably assert that Kidd merely made a few bad choices that had disastrous results. On the other hand, Kidd did take what wasn’t legally his, and also engaged in torture. (Back in those days they hanged you for that, as opposed to re-electing you.) That, and he abandoned his wife and two daughters. To cement his reputation, he couldn’t even get hanged right. The first rope broke, tragically embarrassing the hangman, who had to bring in a second noose and a gallows to be named later. William Kidd was indeed "the pirate so not nice they hanged him twice." (Some stories have the rope breaking three times. Why? Because three is funny.) His corpse was shoved in a cage that hung over the river for two years, as a warning to kids to shun the vocation of piracy. Of course, the admonition was obscured a bit over time, and eventually became a reminder to young people to take special care of Auntie’s budgie. As far as piracy is concerned, they can still kill you for it. Because it’s illegal.
Captain Wallbank’s Almanack is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, commencement addresses, valedictory speeches, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mouse 1 March 1992 – 16 May 2006

A brilliant, if stoical, connoisseur of shrimp dinners, nepeta cataria (catnip), and humans, he could be a critic without being critical, taught us many valuable lessons, and defined friendship. If he didn’t land on your lap this time around, maybe the next. Diagnosed with feline diabetes mellitus, he defied the conventional wisdom to eventually trim down from his stately 21 (or so) pounds to become a sleek gallant and not only survive, but thrive. Ostensibly an "indoor cat" (a label he eschewed, having neither faith nor confidence in labels), he occasionally found his way to the lawn and gardens to enjoy the foliage. He endured a brief illness which ended peacefully this afternoon. If you can, raise a glass of something to Mouse The Cat. For him: We wish an eternity of grass, catnip, and fresh breezes.

Monday, May 1, 2006

from Captain Wallbank's Almanack

The ancient world celebrated the First of May, or "Beltane," as the First Day of Summer. Often, the two days fell on the same date on the calendar, but in those rustic times when information was cheap and records were kept in runes on the back of a prize hog, there were discrepancies. Sometimes May Day actually fell on the 12th of April, or sometime in June, if you had one. The modern month of "May" was actually not invented until Roman Consul Aprilifer May Junius won a drinking bet and secured the honor of having a new month named after him. Since "April" and "June" were taken in prior contests, "May" was inserted and thus the fifth month was born. This confused some bad translators, so "May" was known as "Can" until the 8th Century, when Emperor Istanbul (who later changed his name to Constantinople) needed a month to go after Wälpürgïsnächt, a night of bonfires named after Saint Walburga, the patron saint of bonfires. To commemorate the survivors, May Day was christened, and schoolchildren and other simple folk (like TV pagans, Renaissance Faire devotees, and amateur theatrical players) enjoy festivities celebrating the Earth and such, like maypole dancing and stockcar rallies. May Day’s modern significance is as "The Workers’ Holiday" or "International Workers’ Day" or "Commie Marching Bastards And Their Unions And Strikes And Contracts What Ruined This Great Nation Sonny Day." Whatever you or your red-baiting McCarthy Era uncle call it, it seems to have originated as a remembrance of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago Illinois in 1886. Hay workers in Chicago demonstrated in order to secure their eight-hour workday. The demonstration consisted of a strike and riot that lasted exactly 8 hours (including smoke breaks and lunch with the gals from the office). The American Labor Force (what The Justice League of America was called, before AquaLad and the WonderTwins) insisted that May Day be the official date for any other such demonstrations. Besides the May Day Riots of 1894 and 1919, you may recall the May Day Sit-Down of 1891, the May Day Muttering Bellyache of 1904, and the May Day Hairy EyeBall for Management of 1938. So, your Summer begins with Laborers’ Day and ends with Labor Day. (Somewhere in those months of paddlin’ up the crick, enjoyin’ lemonade on the porch listenin’ to the ball game, and plottin’ the next swelterin’ nighttime gang-related drive-by, we lose an "er." And mo’s the pity.)

Captain Wallbank’s Almanack is not intended to be used as reference material for school projects, masters theses, magazine and newspaper articles, partisan hack radio talk shows, or, especially, as an authorized authority for bets involving someone buying someone a drink.