Blades of Grass and Pure White Stone


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On this Memorial Day, Americans are meant to pause for a moment to remember and, just perhaps, also revere those men and ladies who wore or wear the uniform of the American Armed Services, whether Army, Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard.

When I was on active duty as an officer with the 1st Infantry Division, Vietnam was raging.

Still, there were times which were both embarrassing as well as sometimes a bit (or more) ‘off-color’; delightfully so!

One day, my now late Mother was on Post and was introduced to the Commanding General, a ‘two-star’ or Major General.

As the very gracious, beyond merely ‘ladylike’ lady she was (and a retired English teacher at that!), she offered a bit of praise to my Boss by remarking “how pleased my son is to be serving in the Big RED One”!

Her pronunciation or emphasis was as opposed to the more customary “Big Red ONE!”l

Ladies of her certain age never got the irony or the joke, but nonetheless, the General was scrambling to keep a straight face!

This became an example of how important ‘emphasis’ is in effectively delivering a message, even in the military.

Perhaps the one man who surpassed himself in delivering messages was General George Patton.

At 0900 on Christmas Eve, 24th December 1944, General Patton strode into the Fondation Pescatore in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.


George S. Patton takes off his helmet as he enters the century-old Catholic chapel. Though Episcopalian, he is in need of a place to worship. The sound of his footsteps echoes off the stone floor as he walks reverently to the foot of the altar. The scent of melting wax from the many votive candles fills the small chamber. Patton kneels, unfolding the prayer he has written for this occasion, and bows his head.

“Sir, this is Patton talking,” he says, speaking candidly to the Almighty. “The past fourteen days have been straight hell. Rain, snow, more rain, more snow—and I am beginning to wonder what’s going on in Your headquarters. Whose side are You on anyway?”

Patton and the Third Army are now thirty-three miles south of Bastogne. Every available man under his command has joined this race to rescue the city. The Bulge in the American lines is sixty miles deep and thirty miles wide, with Bastogne an American-held island in the center. And while Patton’s men have so far been successful in maintaining their steady advance, there is still widespread doubt that he can succeed. Outnumbered and outgunned by the Germans, Patton faces the daunting challenge of attacking on icy roads in thick snow, with little air cover. Small wonder that British commander Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery—whom Patton has taken to calling a “tired little fart”—and other British authorities are quietly mocking Patton’s advance.

He has even heard that many of them are suggesting he hold his lines and not attack, as Monty is doing, for fear that the wily German field marshal Gerd von Rundstedt may be preparing to launch yet another surprise attack that could do irreparable damage to the Allies. “Hold von Rundstedt?” Patton grumbled in reply. “I’ll take von Rundstedt and shove him up Montgomery’s ass.”

Despite those hard words, the truth is that the Third Army may be in trouble. Patton has vowed to Tony McAuliffe and the 101st Airborne that he will be in Bastogne on Christmas Day. However, thanks to the weather, it is very likely he will not be able to keep this promise.

So the general prays.

“For three years my chaplains have been telling me that this is a religious war. This, they tell me, is the Crusades all over again, except that we’re riding tanks instead of chargers. They insist that we are here to annihilate the Germans and the godless Hitler so that religious freedom may return to Europe. Up until now I have gone along with them, for You have given us Your unreserved cooperation. Clear skies and a calm sea in Africa made the landings highly successful and helped us to eliminate Rommel. Sicily was comparatively easy and You supplied excellent weather for the armored dash across France, the greatest military victory that You have thus far allowed me. You have often given me excellent guidance in difficult command situations and You have led German units into traps that made their elimination fairly simple.

“But now You’ve changed horses midstream. You seem to have given von Rundstedt every break in the book, and frankly, he’s beating the hell out of us. My army is neither trained nor equipped for winter warfare. And as You know, this weather is more suitable for Eskimos than for southern cavalrymen.

“But now, Sir, I can’t help but feel that I have offended You in some way. That suddenly You have lost all sympathy for our cause. That You are throwing in with von Rundstedt and his paper-hanging god [Hitler]. You know without me telling You that our situation is desperate. Sure, I can tell my staff that everything is going according to plan, but there’s no use telling You that my 101st Airborne is holding out against tremendous odds in Bastogne, and that this continual storm is making it impossible to supply them even from the air. I’ve sent Hugh Gaffey, one of my ablest generals, with his 4th Armored Division, north toward that all-important road center to relieve the encircled garrison and he’s finding Your weather more difficult than he is the Krauts.”

* * *

This isn’t the first time Patton has resorted to divine intervention. Every man in the Third Army now carries a three-by-five card that has a Christmas greeting from Patton on one side and a special prayer for good weather on the other. The general firmly believes that faith is vital when it comes to doing the impossible. Patton sees no theological conflict in asking God to allow him to kill the enemy. He has even given the cruel order that all SS soldiers are to be shot rather than taken prisoner.

* * *

“I don’t like to complain unreasonably,” Patton continues his prayer, “but my soldiers from Meuse to Echternach are suffering tortures of the damned. Today I visited several hospitals, all full of frostbite cases, and the wounded are dying in the fields because they cannot be brought back for medical care.”

Head bowed, Patton prays while Sgt. Robert Mims waits outside with his open-air jeep. When the general is ready, they will set out for yet another day on the road. When Patton finally leaves the chapel and the castle-like headquarters at the Fondation Pescatore, he and Mims will prowl the roads of the Ardennes Forest. Without planes to offer overhead reconnaissance, Patton must see the battle lines for himself.

But these travels also serve another purpose. Patton seeks out his troops wherever he can, encouraging them as they march in long columns of tanks and men up the snowy farm roads. More than 133,000 tanks and trucks travel around the clock toward Bastogne. The infantry wear long greatcoats, many still spattered with the mud of Metz. The tank commanders ride with their chests and shoulders poked out of the top hatch, faces swaddled in thick wool scarves. Heavy snow blankets the roads, forests, and farmlands and also covers their vehicles, muting the rumble of engines and giving the Third Army’s advance a ghostly feel. But it can also be deadly: unable to distinguish which snow-covered tanks are American Shermans and which are German Panzers, some U.S. P-47 Thunderbolt pilots have made the cruel mistake of bombing their own.

Patton’s jeep has also been strafed, though by German fighter planes. He is a relentless presence in his open-air vehicle, red-faced and blue-lipped as Sergeant Mims fearlessly weaves the vehicle through the long column of tanks and trucks. “I spent five or six hours almost every day in an open car,” he will later write in his journal about his zeal to be in the thick of the action. “I never had a cold, and my face, though sometimes slightly blistered, did not hurt me much—nor did I wear heavy clothes. I did, however, have a blanket around my legs, which was exceedingly valuable in keeping me from freezing.”

Just yesterday, a column of the Fourth Armored Division that was advancing on Bastogne were shocked to see Patton get out of his jeep and help them push a vehicle out of a snowdrift. The men of the Third Army are bolstered by Patton’s constant presence. They speak of him warmly, with nicknames such as the Old Man and Georgie. His willingness to put himself in harm’s way and endure the freezing conditions has many American soldiers now believing the general would never ask them to do something he wouldn’t do himself.

Back in America, the Battle of the Bulge has shocked the public. The siege of Bastogne is becoming a symbol of bravery and holding out against impossible odds. All across the country, people are taking time during this Christmas season to do just what Patton is doing right now: get on their knees to pray. They ask God to deliver the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne,” as the newspapers are calling the men of the 101st.

Yet Patton’s prayer is unique. He is asking not only for deliverance, but for power. Few men are ever given the chance to change the course of history so completely. If the men inside Bastogne are to be rescued, it will be because of the daring of George S. Patton—as he himself well knows.

But to succeed he will need a little help from above.

* * *

The last words of Patton’s prayer are for the ages.

“Damn it, Sir, I can’t fight a shadow. Without Your cooperation from a weather standpoint, I am deprived of accurate disposition of the German armies and how in the hell can I be intelligent in my attack? All of this probably sounds unreasonable to You, but I have lost all patience with Your chaplains who insist that this is a typical Ardennes winter, and that I must have faith.

“Faith and patience be damned! You have just got to make up Your mind whose side You are on. You must come to my assistance, so that I may dispatch the entire German Army as a birthday present to your Prince of Peace.

“Sir, I have never been an unreasonable man; I am not going to ask You to do the impossible. I do not even insist upon a miracle, for all I request is four days of clear weather.

“Give me four days so that my planes can fly, so that my fighter bombers can bomb and strafe, so that my reconnaissance may pick out targets for my magnificent artillery. Give me four days of sunshine to dry this blasted mud, so that my tanks roll, so that ammunition and rations may be taken to my hungry, ill-equipped infantry. I need these four days to send von Rundstedt and his godless army to their Valhalla. I am sick of this unnecessary butchering of American youth, and in exchange for four days of fighting weather, I will deliver You enough Krauts to keep Your bookkeepers months behind in their work.

“Amen.”[End quote.]

Thousands of men died in that Second World War.

Men, and also women nowadays, are maimed or die every day throughout the American forces that are deployed around the planet.

Indeed, men who fought the ‘police action’ in Korea and the ever-dwindling Few who are still alive today, must view with greatest trepidation that all-too-real possibility that their grandsons or great-grandsons or -daughters may soon be back there, again, this time fighting the North Koreans.

On this Memorial Day, one must remember that “Duty, Honor, Country” may be words or indeed a question which is dipped in bile, or at least disgust, and held in contempt upon lips the grieving fiancé, widow, widower, parent(s) of Americans who were sent to ‘defend’ what all-too-many of the public consider to be almost an Irrelevance to their daily lives.

As usual, my heart goes out to children whose Dad or Mom left, but will never return, or who return, in a box, to spend Eternity amongst blades of grass and pure white stone.

(If for some reason the video does not play, please click on this link: )

Blades of grass and pure white stones

Shelter those who’ve come and gone

Just below the emerald sod

Are boys who reached the Arms of God

 Buried here with dignity

Endless rows for all to see

Freedom’s seeds in sorrow sown

’Neath blades of grass and pure white stones


Blades of grass and pure white stones

Cover those who left their homes

To rest in fields here side by side

Lest we forget their sacrifice




 George Smith Patton, Jr. was born 11 November 1885.  On 9 December 1945, General Patton suffered injuries as the result of an automobile accident. He died 12 days later, on 21 December 1945 and is buried amongst the soldiers who died in the Battle of the Bulge in Hamm, Luxembourg.

The Official Website of General George Patton, Jr.

Bill O’Reilly, “Killing Patton” available at bookstores everywhere

Lyricists of Blades of Grass and Pure White Stones

Sen. Orren Hatch (Republican, Utah) Lowell Alexander and Phil Naish


Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Twitter: @MormonTabChoir




 Fondation Pescator has changed a lot since the time General Patton offered his prayer there.  It is now a home for seniors.






Like the Hearts Within Us


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On this, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we pause to remember The Fallen and The Noble Dead of The Great War, or ‘The War to End All Wars’, as World War I is called in Britain and The Commonwealth Nations.

Originally, this was a day to honor those who fought and died in Flanders Fields (pictured with its poppies, above) and far beyond.

Nowadays, we honor not only The Fallen of that War but of All Wars, declared and otherwise, and which have devastated the lives not only of the Combatants themselves but also, their Beloved, some of whom were alive at the hours of their respective deaths, but also some as yet in utero, yet unborn.

We will stand together
Even through the darkest hour
When the night seems never-ending
We know there will be a dawn for us

When the world seems broken
Broken like the hearts within us
Destiny will guide us and we’ll dare to raise our eyes to heaven
God will light our way
We shall win the day
We shall win the day…

Then once again the glorious
We will emerge victorious
Until then hand in hand
We’ll let history know that..

We will stand together
Even in the darkest moment
Destiny will guide us and we’ll dare to raise our eyes to heaven
History will say..
We shall win the day
We shall win the day
We will stand together… till then.




Amore’, the pop-opera quartet of Monica McGee (Soprano, @MonicaMcGhee) David Webb (Tenor), Brenda Mitchell (Mezzo, @weareamore) and Peter Braithwaite (Baritone, @PeterBrathwaite ) who delight audiences around the world with their renditions of operatic and other classics.



The incomparable music behind these lyrics is, of course, Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod, named for the great-grandson of Noah, and about whom volumes are there to be discovered if you are so minded.

If All Leaders Were Grandparents…?


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[If you are reading this on email, mobile device or tablet, for MUCH better viewing with all features available, please, click on the title of this piece thus allowing full-screen viewing.]

Children in Aleppo, Syria are now in even more desperate, dire straits than was the case a mere few days ago when I wrote “Why God Created War”, a link to which appears below.

One day after that published, I became a grandfather to an utterly beautiful little boy who is, alas, halfway around the planet.


Result?  My orientation has shifted, or a bit.  I feel a bit like I’m sure most men of my new rank feel; that is, at all costs, protect the young and vulnerable.  Ignore whatever may be the risks and worries to self.

Today, the plight of Aleppo and her all-too-innocent children are summed up by valiant efforts to alert the world to what seems all too likely to become the End of Every Child’s World.


[Toddler extracted Alive from building bombed by Russian fighter jets]


[Syrian volunteers carry an injured person on a stretcher following Syrian government forces airstrikes on the rebel held neighbourhood of Heluk in Aleppo.  Credit: AFP]

“The largest hospital in the opposition-held eastern side of the city was bombed out of service on Monday, in what medics called deliberate and targeted attacks. The hospital, codenamed M10 to protect its exact location, had been hit seven times in the last week.” [Emphasis mine]

“There are now only five working hospitals to treat the some 250,000 people living in east Aleppo. Treating hundreds of wounded a day, doctors say they do not have the staff or supplies to cope.”

aleppohospitalrubble2[Another attack on Syrian-American Medical Society’s largest trauma hospital in eastern Aleppo killing 3 maintenance workers. Hospital completely destroyed.  Photo courtesy Syrian-American Medical Society  Twitter: @sams_usa]

The last hospital, code-named M10 by the network of physicians in Aleppo and that was treating children and parents, was initially further damaged by bombings inflicted by Russian fighter-bombers and Syrian aircraft using of ‘barrel bombs’.

Later reports have it that the facility is totally destroyed.

As you see, current reports confirm:

No longer is there so much as a floor upon which to lay anyone!

So, what are ‘barrel bombs’?

A ‘barrel bomb’ can refer to any large container packed with gasoline, nails and chunks of steel that is typically thrown out of a helicopter. These improvised explosive devices represent a cheap form of aerial warfare — but their rudimentary and unguided design means they can kill civilians through inaccuracy.

Describing their use in Syria, the then State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland described barrel bombs in 2012 as “vicious things indiscriminately launched … at targets without any concern about civilians.”

After eight years in office, neither the American President nor the Secretary of State have the slightest ability to effectively deal either with Vladimir Putin or his Ways of War.

Where Russia’s Putin exhibits strength, the Obama-Kerry team now leave their field of play (e.g., the UN) and offer platitudes of dismay and regret amounting to sheer defeat.

The Chinese general Sun Tzu put it this way:

“…who does not know the evils of war cannot appreciate its benefits”.

Mr. Putin knows and has practiced the ‘evils of war’ for many years, from his days as a KGB Colonel in East Berlin to the present day.

To his way of thinking, his benefit is secured; namely, keeping Russia’s lackey Bashar al-Assad in power, and, thus, ensuring his control of the eastern end of the Mediterranean.

That said, how antithetical to Assad’s sworn Hippocratic Oath as a medical doctor (one indeed who did graduate work at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital in London), can he be when, right before his own eyes, he  is content to see and virtually stride through the slaughter?

A grave precedent has been set, inscribed with the Blood of Innocents into the Annals of Ineptitude, that may chart the course of both the USA and Russia for generations.

Mind you, without resolve and action, all this will almost assuredly play out across all too many graves of Total Innocents, or, provided, after day and night shelling with cluster bombs, barrel bombs and God only knows what, there is going to be enough of any precious child left to bury.


[Russian jets’ bombs collapsed far more more than buildings; dreams shattered]

Unlike Western deceits and cowardice towards Innocents, may these Innocent Children’s Spirits never be forgotten.


Soprano: Benedictus
Tenor: Benedictus
Alto: Qui venit in nomine Domini
Bass: Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini

Tutti: Hosanna in excelsis
Hosanna in excelsis
Hosanna in excelsis
Hosanna in excelsis

Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini



Julian Lloyd Webber:  Website:

Twitter: @JLloydWebber   Facebook:

Welsh composer Sir Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace”, 2001




The Daily Telegraph (London):

For those of you who did not see my previous comments on this matter, “Why God Created War” kindly do click, here:


Why God Created War?


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[If you are reading this on email, mobile device or tablet, for MUCH better viewing with all features, please, click on the title of this piece thus allowing full-screen viewing.]

A small confessional: Today I am more affected by these matters than normal, and for reasons to be discussed another day.

For those who may be unaware, as a city or indeed a metropolis, Aleppo, Syria, likely dates back some eight thousand (8,000) years, or, say, 6,000 B.C., making it one of the most continuously-inhabited cities on the planet.


Indeed, it was only upon the construction of the Suez Canal that Aleppo began to decline, or since there was now a cheaper water route to the Far East, not just overland.

As a crossroads of all trails and cultures, unsurprisingly, Aleppo has always been a place for polyglots, and indeed one of the very few places in the Middle east where Aramaic speakers could be found.

Yes, that Aramaic, the very language which is believed to have been spoken by Jesus Christ.

From its great wall and city gates to the souks or small shops of Aleppo, the war’s toll is  evident.


The Citadel, before the war, above, and after, below.

Note this is a great illusion, or as I call it.   The ‘Citadel’ of Aleppo , e.g., medieval fortified palace, offers and interesting optical illusion.

If one rotates the photo, above, 180 degrees, the “hill” becomes “hole”, as below.



The central part of Aleppo


What a typical shop in the souk would look like before the war.


A side by side comparison using another shop, then and now

Reports from Aleppo, however, are not ‘illusional’, at all.  Indeed, they may be all too many glimpses what may become the Worst of the Worst.

One vivid piece of tape brings to mind the world of at least one Syrian-American, Samer Attar, M.D., who is on staff at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.

Dr. Attar journeys back and forth from Chicago to Aleppo doing what he can to assist the medical Fates of his fellow countrymen.

Unfortunately, since Dr. Attar made that tape, those Fates have been most unkind to Aleppo and her people, but especially to the children, always the very worst-affected victims in any war going back to the very beginning of time, even as long-measured in ancient Aleppo.

Last month, the more civilized world was again shocked by a lad who has, perhaps, become ‘the’ symbol of Aleppo.


“A photograph of a boy sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving a regime airstrike in Aleppo has highlighted the desperation of the Syrian civil war and the struggle for control of the city.

“The child has been identified as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was injured late on Wednesday in a military strike on the rebel-held Qaterji neighbourhood.

“The startling image shows him covered head to toe with dust and so disoriented that he seems barely aware of an open wound on his forehead. He was taken to a hospital known as M10 and later discharged.

“The image is a still from a video filmed and circulated by the Aleppo Media Centre. The anti-government activist group has been contacted to confirm details about when and where the footage was shot. The group posted the clip to YouTube late on Wednesday, shortly after Omran was injured…..

“Omran was rescued with his three siblings, aged one, six, and 11, and his mother and father, according to Raslan. None sustained major injuries, but their apartment building collapsed shortly after the family was rescued.

“We sent the younger children immediately to the ambulance, but the 11-year-old girl waited for her mother to be rescued. Her ankle was pinned beneath the rubble,” Raslan said.

“A doctor at M10 said eight people had died in the airstrike, including five children. Doctors in Aleppo use codenames for hospitals, which they say have been systematically targeted by government airstrikes.

“On Tuesday, Russia launched airstrikes in Aleppo and two other provinces from a base in western Iran, the main regional ally of the Assad regime.

“The horror generated by the image of Omran echoes the anguished global response to pictures of Aylan Kurdi**, the drowned Syrian boy whose body was found on a beach in Turkey. Those pictures came to encapsulate the horrific toll of Syria’s civil war.

All this said, this may be the worst I have yet to see.

Since this is from the BBC, please click on the link to view this video:

And to think the Libertarian Party candidate for President of the United States, Gov. Gary Johnson, had no clue what Aleppo‘ was.

Perhaps he should ask this very young lad, who ought never to be be anywhere near such indiscriminate barbarism and which took his uncle-provider away, what it is all about?


[A Syrian boy is comforted as he cries next to the body of a relative who died in a reported airstrike on April 27, 2016 in the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Soukour in the northern city of Aleppo.]

Then again, it seems that unlike Omran, it is the children who are most at risk, and whose undernourished tiny bodies have no extra strength



No child should ever die like this baby, above.  As much as anything, this particular photo reminds one of the victims of Pompeii’s eruption in A.D.79, but these are not victims of a natural disaster.

One looks,  and then, looks away.  Just like the world.

Governor Johnson and that grotesque insularity on his part remind me of Mark Twain’s famously wry, but, now, sadly accurate sizzler:

“God created war so that Americans could learn geography”.

Apparently, some didn’t, or, yet haven’t.

But, I’m still fixated not only on wee Omran, but also on the BBC’s graphic report of the child who was shot and took that bullet in his back.

“God Bless The Child”

Hallelujah, hallelujah,
God bless the child who suffers
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
God bless the young without mothers
This child is homeless,
That child’s on crack
One plays with a gun,
while the other takes a bullet in his back
This boy’s a beggar,
That girl sells her soul
They both work the same street,
The same hell hole

Hallelujah, hallelujah,
God bless the child who suffers
Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Let every man help his brother

Some are born addicted and some are just thrown away
Some have daddies who make them play games they don’t want to play

But with hope and faith
We must understand
All God’s children need is love
And us to hold their little hands

This boy is hungry, he ain’t got enought to eat
That girl’s cold and she ain’t got no shoes on her feet

When a child’s spirit’s broken
And feels all hope is gone
God help them find the strength to carry on

But with hope and faith
Yea, we can understand
All God’s children need is love
And us to hold their little hands

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Let us all love one another
Hallelujah, hallelujah
Make all our hearts blind to color
Hallelujah, hallelujah
God bless the child who suffers

Is it too much to wish that every wee child in Aleppo will still have both parents to take hold of his or her hands?


Hat Tips:  

**For my previous comments about Aylan Kurdi, the now thankfully identified wee lad washed up on a lonely beach, see Little Waves, with Their Soft White Hands

One of Dr. Attar’s unvarnished reports, written for The New England Journal of Medicine and yet fully understandable by lay readers, is here:

The Guardian (London):

British Broadcasting Company (BBC), London.

Miss Shania Twain



Twitter:  @ShaniaTwain



Samuel Clemens Society and The Mark Twain House and Museum



Ringing on a Glass, Ringing in the Soul


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[If you are reading this on email, mobile device or tablet, for much better viewing with all features, please, click on the title of this piece thus allowing full-screen viewing.]

Anyone who has looked carefully at the masthead of this blog or read some of the introductory remarks will see and, perhaps understand, at least part of your dutiful scribe’s affection for Prague in the modern day Czech Republic.

Indeed, it was on a lovely evening when my bride and I decided to have a post-prandial stroll across the beyond-historic Charles Bridge. Suddenly, as carried on the cool breezes of the evening came the most wonderfully evocative sounds. charlesbridgedusk

[Evening on Charles Bridge]

Off we went looking to find the source of this aural dessert to perhaps end an otherwise lovely day.

Shortly, all were encompassed in the golden glow of the light-standards.

Couple at Night on Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Couple at Night on Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Just ahead stood an older man behind a table set out before him with dozens of wineglasses.  Each glass contained an amount of water which was just slightly more filled than the glass next to it.

Lightly dipping his long fingers into a pot of water, he began to ever so slightly move his fingers around the top of the glass, producing bewitching sounds never previously heard.

This gentleman’s repertoire ranged from classical music to popular tunes, even a few Christmas carols.

During a break, since my command of Czech is ‘limited’ indeed, in German, I asked this Maestro about his technique.

That short but stunning discussion humbled me.  What this musician was doing to entertain the crowd and earn his living had been ‘invented’ over 2,500 years ago… by the Persians, amongst others!

How about in Europe?

In 1638, Galileo spoke of a “wet finger around the wine glass” phenomenon in his “Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences” or Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche Intorno a Due Nuove Scienze. (No, I’ll not embarrass by asking how many of you have read that!)

However, reputedly, the first musician to ever play classical music on a set of wine glasses was an Irishman, one Richard Pockrich.

In 1731, he created what he beautifully called an “angelic organ”.  That was a set of 25 wine glasses ‘tuned’ with water and mounted in a wooden box.   Mr. Pockrich became a virtuoso glass player and is known to have extensively performed, mostly in the British Isles.

Musician and composer Christoph W. Glück (Bohemian-born but considered German) was known to be a virtuoso glass player before becoming famous for his operas (especially, Orfeo ed Euridice or, ‘Orpheus and Euridice’ and Alceste).

Just to offer a hint of Glück’s genius, this glorious if too brief  “Che faro senza Euridice?” or “What will I do without Euridice?” as sung by, seemingly, every lady’s favorite, the formidably magical Siberian bass-baritone, Maestro Dmitri Hvorostovsky:

 Che farò senza Euridice
Dove andrò senza il mio ben.
Euridice, o Dio, risponde
Io son pure il tuo fedele.
Euridice! Ah, non m´avvanza
più socorso, più speranza
ne dal mondo, ne dal cel.

What will I do without Euridice
Where will I go without my wonderful one.
Euridice, oh God, answer
I am entirely your loyal one.
Euridice! Ah, it doesn´t give me
any help, any hope
neither this world, neither heaven.

In an effort to self-publicize, rather egotistically, Maestro Glück declared he was able to perform anything that could be done on a violin or harpsichord.  The mind boggles!

Inevitably, or so it seems to me, the very serious polymath, Benjamin Franklin, also got into the act. Having attended a glass music recital in London, not only did he announce he considered the sounds “celestial”, he had to do even better.

His improvement on the then-technique?  He cajoled a skillful glass maker to create a set of glass bowls.  Each would ‘nest’ inside each other and spin around on a rod.

With his tweaking of the system, the rims were very close to each other.  As a result, that allowed more notes to play simultaneously. In 1761, Franklin named it his “glass harmonica”, and thus yet another of his adornments of inventions.

By the late 1700s, “glass music” gained popularity all around Europe.

Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and other famous composers wrote music for the glass harmonica.  Curiously, and like other flashes in the musical pan, by start of the 1800’s, all this largely died a death.

However, briefly at least, and as I now recall I learned from my psychology professor in Vienna, the German physician Franz Mezmer (think ‘mezmerizing’) induced hypnotic states in his patients via use of, yes, a glass harp!

When librettist Hugo von Hoffmanstahl worked with Richard Strauss on the gloriously beautiful opera,  “Die Frau Ohne Schatten” (‘The Woman Who Cast No Shadow’) and which premiered in 1919, Strauss included a glass harp as by then modified into a ‘glass harmonica’.


[Glass Harmonica, early 20th Century]

So, why am I so crystal clear about my love for these ancient yet enchanting sounds?

Try Johann Sebastian Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D minor’, BWV 565

Or, for an astonishing combination of playing several individual parts, and then re-mixing these for a positively near-unworldly sensation, I’ve never been more moved by Johann Pachelbel’s redemptive ‘Canon in D’ than as you will hear it, here:

Now, go into the kitchen and break a few cheap glasses trying all this out.

No, far better, fill your glass with a nice Champagne or one of the Gruet Winery’s sparkling wines and experience the redemption Johann Pachelbel had in mind and intended for all mankind a mere 300 years ago!

May “Lift a glass” never mean the same, ever again!  Cheers!



 Maestro Dmitri Horovstovsky



Twitter: @Hvorostovsky

YouTube Channel:


Maestro Robert Tiso’s details are here:



Twitter: @roberttiso

Maestro Tiso’s latest album “Crystal Harmony” may be downloaded or purchased as a CD, here:

Glass Duo

Also, credits to:

Wishes for the End Before A Beginning


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I’d like to take a poll, please, amongst others of you, Dear Readers, who have already long since reached this stage of life.

I refer to what I’ll call ‘Impending Grandfatherhood’.  Personally, I find that this gate through which I am due to pass makes me worry, and not merely about the health and future of our Little Bundle, but also, of lots and lots of other little bundles out there, and all around the world, and in all sorts of locales.

Indeed, for only a fleeting moment when, mere weeks ago, the American President ordered his minions to make a $400-Million Dollar ($400,000,000, or, €358,802,000, £300,135,000, or over ¥41.4 Billion) cash offering in material support to what one assumed would be towards Islamic terrorism, I wondered if any of this vast sum might actually ‘trickle down’ to those most needy.

We recall that the U.S. secretly flew that $400 million worth of currencies stashed inside wooden pallets which were stuffed with nary a single Dollar.

IranPalletOfCashSentToIranRather, this bootle was in Euros, Swiss Francs and other foreign currencies and arrived in Tehran on January 17.

That same day, four US citizens were magically released in exchange for seven Iranians held in the United States. “Nothing to do with the money!” minions tried to assure us all.

Good news for these men and their families, assuredly.  But what the Hell else is going on out there?, I wondered.

And then, I ran across this.

“I wish my mother had killed me in her womb….”


Iranian Baby Lying in Rags

A report from the sale of unborn babies in Iran

What follows in this report is not just a commentary of an unpleasant event.

This is a report of a revolving, horrendous and tragic fact of life under the mullahs’ regime in Iran.

The fact that there are babies in Iran who have been sold even before they are born.

This is the story of Iran under the mullahs; sale of unborn or newly born babies…

Clipped from the News:

– Mahmoudreza M., admitted that he had bought nine baby boys and sold them each for 9 million tumans (about $2,500 each);

– L. was arrested with charges of trading babies;

– Amerik was arrested with related charges;

– A physician admitted to the sale of eight (8) newborn babies;

– A nurse admitted to the sale of 25 newborn babies;

– Destruction of a gang selling babies in Arak, in Isfahan, in Shiraz, Tehran…;

– A woman who had sold her own baby for 210,000 tumans (less than $100), is now trading babies for hospitals with a price range of 2-3 million tumans each (~$1000);

– Only in Isfahan 145 newborns have been sold for a total price of 5 billion tumans ($5,000,000).

Women are the most vulnerable social group in Iran and have naturally become the main selling point for babies. The trade starts with someone announcing the sale, and then the buyers will start with their offers.

Sales people:

– My husband left me when he found out I was pregnant. I had to sell my baby;

– I was a drug addict. I did not have the money to even buy the drugs. If I kept the baby, s/he would have been even worse than me. Wherever my child is now, it is surely a happier place;

– My husband was arrested when I was pregnant. I had to work to barely feed myself and my children. I had to sell this one;

– I was pregnant. When my husband was arrested, I had to sell the baby to pay the blood money and free my husband. If my husband is freed, and I can get some money, I will buy my baby back;

– I don’t know who the father of my child is. I sold my child to an unfertile couple;

– I traded my child before giving birth, to make the separation process easier;

– I cannot pay for my husband’s drugs. How could I feed my child?

– My husband and I are both jobless. We could not raise our child because we are too poor;

– I was married by force and got pregnant;

– I live in a cardboard box and had no space for a child.

Last year 780 addicted women died on the streets.

What would have happened to their babies if they were pregnant?  Such a wide source of supply will have a proportionate demand.

Not all the babies are adopted by infertile couples.

Those who are not bought or adopted by barren couples often have a dreadful fate.

Most of these babies are HIV positive before they are born.

Many are born prematurely or very weak or with disabilities, as a result of the physical conditions of their parents.

Most of these babies are sold to become the future beggars. Some of these children are deliberately blinded or disabled by gang members, to make them look more miserable when begging. [Emphasis mine].

Some of these babies become victims of those who trade human body parts.

Therefore many of the babies do not survive these initial abuses and lose their lives.

As if one can read in the eyes of such babies: “I wish my mother would have killed me in her womb”…

The solution to this catastrophic problem is neither boycotting the beggars with children, nor arresting them. The problem needs to be evaluated at its source and the supply chain, which is the socio-economic conditions of the families and the impossible, hopeless conditions created for women under the mullahs’ regime.

Note the following pieces of news:

In a hospital in Yaftabad, Tehran, a mother gave birth to twins, but was unable to pay the hospital bill.  The nurses took one of the twins hostage for 27 days to force the mother pay the bill in full.  The mother had paid 1.7 million tumans (about $500), but the hospital demanded $2,000 because she had twins.

The mother had to sell all her possessions to be able to release her other child. What would the mother do if she did not have the money? She could be a supplier.

A nurse mentioned that in some hospitals, there are middle men who pay the hospital bill as the first installment for the child.  He could be the market or the demand. According to the same nurse, very young mothers sell their children after getting an offer during their last days of pregnancy.

The root of the problem lies in the deliberate and purposeful mistreatment of women.

The corrupt Iranian welfare and social security system has no protective plan for the homeless or widowed women.

Tragically, in the Islamic Republic of Iran selling babies has become a way of providing for basic daily needs. The unprotected women sell their children as the last resort to find some income to feed other members of their families or simply hoping their newborn can have a better life than what they do.

When a woman is abandoned by her husband, she has no help from the government. Similarly, widows are not protected, nor women who are the caregivers or breadwinners of the family.

Many of homeless women have higher education but cannot find a job. Yet, they have no help from the government.

The Iranian government gathers its forces and organizes attacks on women to correct the way they dress or look, but does not spend the people’s money on the welfare of women and children.

The oppressive Iranian government is fully aware of the potential power of women in the society, and therefore tries to evade that threat by oppressing women in any possible way. [Emphasis mine]

The ray of hope for these subjugated women shines from the lines of the Iranian Resistance that is being powered and led by women for many years.  The fact that women can function, lead, organize and fight against the misogynist mullahs, empowers Iranian women and gives them hope for a brighter future.

But, can there be hope for a new day, when all the newborns in Iran would open their eyes to a promising, bright and shiny prospect?

This perhaps remote possibility reminds me of the poem, ‘Cradle Hymn’, by the 18th Century English poet, Isaac Watts, and now very recently set to ethereally beautiful music by the very young, relatively new on the scene Norwegian composer, Mr. Kim André Arnesen:



Hush my babe lie still and slumber

Holy angels guard thy bed

Heavenly blessings without number

Gently falling on thy head.

Sleep my babe, thy food and raiment

House and home thy friends provide

All without thy care and payment

All thy wants are well supplied.

Soft and easy is thy cradle

Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay

When his birthplace was a stable

And his softest bed was hay.

Lo he slumbered in his manger

Where the horned oxen fed

Peace, my darling, here’s no danger

Here’s no ox a-near thy bed.

Hush my babe lie still and slumber

Holy angels guard thy bed

Heavenly blessings without number

Gently falling on thy head.

Alas, for all these children in Iran, a place where we now know that nurses, of all people, take newborns for ransom, Serenity, Sanity and Humanity are towns yet to be even conceived much less to be built, or, possibly. to be one day discovered in the Islamic Peoples Republic of Iran (sic).



National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)Women’s Committee

The fine, indeed brave ladies of the NCRI can be reached at their website:, also by

Twitter: @NCRI_Women_Comm,



Kim André Arnesen, Composer



Twitter: @KimArnesen

The work you heard was commissioned by The Nidaros Cathedral Girl´s Choir and conductor Anita Brevik, Trondheim, Norway, and premiered in Nidaros Cathedral on December 28, 2010.









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Those who have previously read my thoughts before know that there truly seems to be a soundtrack to my life.

Per the USA “Billboard Hot 100” for the 17th July 1971, the Number One singer in the USA was Carole King. She had a double-sided hit. (Remember 45 RPM records? No, or never even seen one?)

On the lesser side was, “It’s Too Late”, with gloomy lyrics certainly not celebratory in any way.

However, on the flip side, and considering that this day was Our Wedding Day, the rather more  more ‘appropriate’ recollection is, “I Feel the Earth Move!

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you’re around

Ooh, baby, when I see your face
Mellow as the month of May
Oh, darling, I can’t stand it
When you look at me that way

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you’re around

Ooo, darling, when you’re near me
And you tenderly call my name
I know that my emotions
Are something I just can’t tame
I’ve just got to have you, baby, uh huh huh uh huh huh yeah

I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, a’tumbling down
I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, a’tumbling down
I just lose control
Down to my very soul
I get hot and cold, all over, all over, all over, all over
I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, a’tumbling down
I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down, a’tumbling down,
A’tumbling down, a’tumbling down, a’tumbling down, a’tumbling down, tumbling down!

Well, we were all a bit younger then!

Those who have been married a while, or have parents or relatives or friends who have know that some times are simply to be endured.

Perhaps when times are rough, or when someone else you know has suffered a hardship, or an all-too-lengthy time away from one another, or a severe illness, or, on the opposite side, indeed, a delightful chat, a relaxing or inspiring trip, or even a close call, maybe that’s the day(s) when you say to yourself and to your partner: God only knows what I’d do without you!

Oddly enough, that phrase became another favorite musical moment between the two of us.

If you’re old enough to remember the name Claudine Longet, a very French chanteuse and for 14 years, wife of the late crooner, Andy Williams, you’ve likely shared this memory with us, and perhaps from the same recording we still have.

I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it

God only knows what I’d be without you

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you

If you should ever leave me
Well life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me

God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows what I’d be without you
God only knows
[ x6 ]

From our younger days, and until today, the music of the late American crooner, John Gary, has always been for quiet, late nights at home.

If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in summer
Seeing you in summer, I never would go
Your hair streaked with sunlight, your lips red as flame
Your face with a luster that puts gold to shame

But if I’d ever leave you, it couldn’t be in autumn
How I’d leave in autumn, I never will know
I’ve seen how you sparkle when fall nips the air
I know you in autumn and I must be there

And could I leave you running merrily through the snow
Or on a wintry evening when you catch the fire’s glow

If ever I would leave you, how could it be in springtime
Knowing how in spring I’m bewitched by you so
Oh, no, not in springtime, summer, winter, or fall
No never could I leave you at all!

Truer words were never written, spoken, or sung!

So, My Lovely, here’s to our next 45 years!


Our favorite Gruet bubbly’s in the fridge.  Time for a toast!

Now, for that Anniversary Waltz around the kitchen!

Join us, please, Dear Readers!

To us, to you and your next anniversary, L’Chaim! To Life!



Carole King


Twitter: @Carole_King

Facebook: Carole King


Mrs. Claudine Longet Austin lives a very private life with her husband in Aspen, Colorado.





Sacred Sacrifice, Shared in Blood


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Monday, 30th May, is Memorial Day in America.

This is the one day of the year when the battle-injured and The Fallen, from all and whatever the conflict, are honored, not only by the Great and the Good, but also, and more importantly, those genuine, decent, patriotic families Who Will Remember Them.

In the past half century, wars have indeed become both more ‘amorphous’, so to speak, and literally, more insane.

Women who encourage, indeed, strap suicide belts onto the very youngsters to whom they personally gave birth, say, eight or nine years earlier, ululate, scream Allahu Akbar (God is Great), and send these wee ones to their absurdly early, to say nothing about wholly “unnecessary” deaths!

In other words, the enemy not only attacks from anywhere and everywhere, but in ways most shockingly barbaric, or to the psyche of those reared in the broad ethos and longstanding Christian and Jewish faiths of Europe, North America, and other civilized lands.

Indeed, when it comes to jihadis and kindred islamists, they attack from any and every direction, against men, women and even babes-in-arms, and regardless whether one is in any sort of military uniform of not.

These cretins target total Innocents: women, children, grandparents; the most hale and hearty as well as the very weakest amongst us, the wee child to the most elderly.

‘Leaders’ (sic), especially those who have themselves have never worn the uniform of their Nation’s armed forces, refuse to accept that self-declared enemies are just that.

As a result, they simply refuse to acknowledge the plain-as-a-pikestaff lethal threats.

Will such ‘leaders’ move, swiftly, and with unrelenting lethal force to destroy those who would murder Innocents?

Staggeringly, no.  Never.

A few months ago, groups of men, by the dozens, were rounded up by jihadists, caged, and using some combustible liquid, were simply set alight, en masse.

One such unfortunate man happened to be a member of the Jordanian Army.

Jordan’s King, His Majesty Abdullah II, born of an English mother, educated in English schools including Sandhurst (near enough, Britain’s West Point) and a former Captain  in the Blues and Royals of the British Army, reacted precisely as a real leader might.

KingAbdullahIIOfJordanInBattleFatiques[HM King Abdullah II of Jordan]

A skilled-fighter pilot, with wholly-justified almost paternal rage, His Majesty personally led sorties which smashed into the tiniest of fragments those ISIS attackers responsible for the outrage.

Days ago, many more dozens men under ISIS control were tied up and individually dipped into vats of acid; thus a new war crime: Death by Dissolving.

Indeed, many may never before have read or otherwise heard about this latter outrageous act.

Nonetheless, most but especially western Nations’peoples, if not their individual “leaders” (sic) or governments, understand the real meaning of existential threats.

In this perhaps generations-long battle to ensure that all our children and grandchildren live in a better world than we ourselves inherited, the brutally sad fact is that some gave some, some gave all.


[Memorial Day At Arlington – Mary McHugh mourns her slain fiance Sgt. James Regan at the Arlington National Cemetery May 27, 2006, Memorial Day weekend. Regan, a U.S. Army Ranger from Long Island, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in February, and this was the first time McHugh had visited the grave since the funeral. When he died, Regan was on his fourth combat deployment – twice in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq.]

I knew a man, called him Sandy Kane
Few folks even knew his name
But a hero, yes, was he
Left a boy, came back a man

Still many just don’t understand
About the reasons that we are free

I can’t forget the look in his eyes
Or the tears he cries
As he said these words to me

“All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all”

Sandy Kane is no longer here
But his words are oh so clear
As they echo throughout our land
For all his friends who gave us all
Who stood the ground and took the fall
To help their fellow men

Love your country and live with pride
And don’t forget those who died
America can’t you see?

All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the Red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all

And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall, yes recall
Some gave all
Some gave all

To those men and women who can hear or read these words today, may I say we are debtors to those who fell, or those who came home as only a fragment of the man or woman who left all that was sane and comfortable for Duty, Honor and Country.

To the families of The Fallen, may your loved ones Rest in Eternal Peace.

BoyAtDadsFuneralGrettingFlagI want my Daddy, Sir, not this flag”            [Nikolous Poulin, 5, with his aunt, Jennifer, holding flag covering his father’s coffin.  National Guard Specialist Dennis Poulin died in Germany of wounds suffered in Afghanistan. RIP]

Quite how the children of these families cope is an ever-expanding dimension of explaining The Unexplainable, and certainly to those who innocence we cherish, for their sakes, but which has been shattered in ways no child can ever even hope to comprehend.

To the rest of us, may we forever honor both The Fallen and their grieving families, and knowing their pain will never completely end.



Mr. Billy Ray Cyrus  Website:


YouTube Channel:

Twitter: @billyraycyrus




Loving Angel, Tender, Tough & Strong


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Today is Mother’s Day in America or, the equivalent to me of the always more expressive ‘Mothering Sunday’,  in Britain and The Commonwealth.

Legend has it that Mother’s Day celebrations can be dated back to ancient Greece and Springtime celebrations to honor Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, who herself was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia.

Not only was Rhea was the Mother of the Gods, she was also a goddess of female fertility, motherhood, and generation.

Rhea means “flow” and “ease.” As the wife of Kronos (‘Time’), and as Queen of Heaven, she represented the eternal flow of time and generations.  As the great Mother (‘Meter Megale’), the “flow” was menstrual blood, birth waters, and milk.

She was also a goddess of comfort and ease, a blessing reflected in the common Homeric phrase “the gods who live at their ease (rhea).”

When Rhea’s husband, Titan,  heard a prophecy that he would be deposed by one of his children, he took to swallowing each of them…just as soon as they were born!

Clever as a proverbial fox, Rhea bore her youngest, Zeus, in secret, and hid him away in a cave in Crete.

In Zeus’ stead, she presented Kronos with a stone.. wrapped in swaddling clothes… and which he promptly devoured!  Linger on that thought for a moment!

From that must come the fallacy that the steaks which Dads attempt to try to fix as a fancy lunch for the mothers in their lives turn out rock hard?

Nah, I just made that up.

In the Far More Sane department, would you find it odd that Edgar Allen Poe,  in his short, tragic life, who wrote some truly dirge-like, indeed dark, frightening poems (especially ‘The Raven’) also had a very soft spot?


[Edgar Allen Poe, 1809-1849]

His Poem, “Sonnet – To My Mother” sums it all up:

Because I feel that, in the heavens above,

The angels, whispering to one another,

Can find, among their burning terms of love,

None so devotional as that of ‘mother’ —

Therefore by that sweet name I long have called you —

You, who are more than mother unto me,

And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you,

In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.

My mother — my own mother — who died early —

Was but the mother of myself; but you

Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew;

By that infinity with which my wife

Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.

As one can immediately see, since his own mother was by this time deceased, Poe was actually honoring and addressing his Mother-in-Law and aunt, Maria Clemm.

All this adds to enhancing the curiosities of Life, and how a wee baby must struggle to take in a new, almost wholly incomprehensible world.


A far more modern, perhaps even more touching poem, “Mom”, is written and set to music, here:

Little baby told God, hey I’m kind of scared.
Don’t really know if I want to go down there.
From here it looks like a little blue ball
That’s a great big place and I’m so small.

Why can’t I just, stay here with you?
Did I make you mad, don’t you want me too?
God said oh child, of course I do
But there’s somebody special waiting for you

So hush now baby, don’t you cry
‘Cause there’s someone down there waiting whose only goal in life
Is making sure you’re always gonna be alright
A loving angel tender, tough and strong
It’s almost time to go and meet your mom.

You’ll never have a better friend
Or a warmer touch to tuck you in
She’ll kiss your bruises, your bumps and scrapes
And anytime you hurt
Her heart’s gonna break

So hush now baby, don’t you cry
‘Cause there’s someone down there waiting whose only goal in life
Is making sure you’re always gonna be alright
A loving angel tender, tough and strong
It’s almost time to go and meet your mom.

And when she’s talking to you make sure you listen close
‘Cause she’s gonna teach you everything you’ll ever need to know
Like how to mind your manners, to love and laugh and dream
She’ll put you on the path that bring you back to me

So, hush now little baby, don’t you cry
‘Cause there’s someone down there waiting whose only goal in life
Is making sure you’re always gonna be alright
A loving angel tender, tough and strong
Come on child it’s time, to meet your mom

How about that line, “Loving angel, tender, tough and strong…


To all you ladies who are The Givers of Life, have been or will be a mother by natural means or who have adopted a child, speaking for us male ‘bystanders’, you are or were the Centers of Our Universe.

And, so says every one!

Happy Mothers’ Day!



Wynn Varble and Don Sampson

The Gentlemen of the a capella group “Home Free”                                                         Facebook:
Twitter & Instagram: @homefreeguys

Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore                                                                                       Website:

Twitter: @EdgarAllanPoe



In a Flash, Life!


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America’s first President, General George Washington, remarked that all men must “Labor to keep alive in our breast that little spark of celestial fire we call Conscience.”

But there are other celestial fires that spark and burn deep in our souls.

The late funnyman who, as we found out, was near enough a manic-depressive, Robin Williams, remarked that “we’re only given that little spark of madness, and that we mustn’t lose it”.

I’ve always preferred to believe in the adage I’d heard since childhood that a ‘spark of kindness can start a fire of love’.

‘Fires of love’: What an apt description for the burning desire that a man finds overtaking all his senses when, finally, he meets The One, the most wonderful woman on the planet, and he will give his all to woo and win her.

Who knew that passions really do ‘spark’, and at a level which is, after all, truly what the most-lasting love is all about?

 Bright Flash of Light Marks Incredible Moment Life Begins When Sperm Meets Egg

Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.

An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.

“To see the zinc radiate out in a burst from each human egg was breathtaking.”, said Professor Teresa Woodruff, Northwestern University

Not only is it an incredible spectacle, highlighting the very moment that a new life begins, the size of the flash can be used to determine the quality of the fertilised egg.


[Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.]

Conception2Northwestern [Eggs flash as they meet sperm enzyme, capturing the moment that life begins] Credit: NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY]

The discovery could help fertility doctors pick the best fertilised eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

“It was remarkable,” said Professor Teresa Woodruff, one of the study’s two senior authors and an expert in ovarian biology at Northwestern.

“We discovered the zinc spark just five years ago in the mouse, and to see the zinc radiate out in a burst from each human egg was breathtaking.

“This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization.

“It’s a way of sorting egg quality in a way we’ve never been able to assess before. “All of biology starts at the time of fertilization, yet we know next to nothing about the events that occur in the human.”

Currently around 50 per cent of fertilised eggs do not develop properly and experts believe that faulty genetic code could be responsible.

Some clinics take videos of the egg developing to try pick up problems early, while others check for genetic mutations, but that is an invasive procedure which can damage the tiny egg. Often it is just down to a clinician decided which eggs look the healthiest.

But the new findings could give and extra indication that an egg is flourishing. A video of nine human eggs coming into contact with sperm enzyme showed two flashed much brighter than the rest.

“This is an important discovery because it may give us a non-invasive and easily visible way to assess the health of an egg and eventually an embryo before implantation,” said co-author Dr Eve Feinberg, who took care of the patients who provided eggs for the basic science study and collaborated with the research team.

“There are no tools currently available that tell us if it’s a good quality egg. Often we don’t know whether the egg or embryo is truly viable until we see if a pregnancy ensues.

“That’s the reason this is so transformative. If we have the ability up front to see what is a good egg and what’s not, it will help us know which embryo to transfer, avoid a lot of heartache and achieve pregnancy much more quickly.”

[The top right and bottom left egg flashed brighter showing they were healthier  Credit: Northwestern University]

The bright flash occurs because when sperm enters and egg it triggers calcium to increase which releases zinc from the egg. As the zinc shoots out, it binds to small molecules which emit a fluorescence which can be picked up my camera microscopes.

Over the last six years this team has shown that zinc controls the decision to grow and change into a completely new genetic organism.

In the experiment, scientists use sperm enzyme rather than actual sperm to show what happens at the moment of conception.

“These fluorescence microscopy studies establish that the zinc spark occurs in human egg biology, and that can be observed outside of the cell,” said Professor Tom O’Halloran, a co-senior author.

For a peek at the flash itself, click here and see the wonder!

In a companion paper published in Scientific Reports on March 18, a zinc spark is shown at the precise time a sperm enters a mouse egg.

This discovery was made by Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern.  Little is known about the events that occur at the time of fertilization, because it is difficult to capture the precise time of sperm entry.

The study will be published April 26 in “Scientific Reports.” [End Quote]

As at least some of you regular readers know, my life runs on soundtracks which seem to be produced from somewhere deep in my soul and which ‘sync’ with what’s going on around me.

Reading this ‘sparked’ thoughts about the majesty of Life, the crescendo of a loving relationship between a husband and wife which creates their flesh realized as the gift of a child.

Amongst music’s best of the steadily, passionately building crescendo which takes Life to another level of glorious explosion is the late French composer Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony Number 3.

Commonly known as the ‘Organ Symphony‘, SaintSaens himself admitted that the Symphony No. 3 was his greatest work. It was his last attempt at the symphonic form, and the composer claimed that he gave he gave everything he was able to give to this masterful piece.

Even that ‘fits’, so to speak, with the anatomical discussion above.

Here’s to Love!

Here’s to Life!

Here’s to New Life and Lives to come!



This column is dedicated to one very special couple and to all parents-to-be & grandparents-to-be everywhere!


The Daily Telegraph (London)

Professor Teresa Woodruff, Ph.D., Website:, Twitter: @teresakwoodruff

Professor Thomas V. O’Halloran, Ph.D. Website:

Dr. Eve C. Feinberg   Website:

 Orchestre National de Lille   Website:



Twitter:  @onlille