Monthly Archives: April 2013

‘and the ladies they will all turn out.’ How war came to Main Street enlistingevery single one of us. Some thoughts.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author’s program note. I was restless the evening of April 18 and so did what I almost never do, turning on the television for some light entertainment. This, however, was not destined to take place. Indeed, there was to be nothing light and no mirth at all for that day and the excruciatingly long day to come…

I saw the feature that so often distinguishes late night newscasts, video feed from a crime scene, the place usually being somewhere in the inner city no sensible person would ever go to, much less in dead of night. Sirens blared. The sharp reds and blues pierced the night. Police swaggered, made the kinds of adamant gestures which look so officious and ridiculous but which we card-carrying members of the middle class are glad at moments like this are on our side.

Yes, it was the usual late-night distraction that would be buried on page 8 or so in tomorrow’s paper. Nothing to do with me… not even the caption on the bottom of the screen: “MIT security officer killed.” But from then on, through the long night and the longer day that followed everything was direct, personal, everything to do with me.

The reporter noted the crime scene as Vassar Street, Cambridge while the on-screen video showed a great fortress-like structure that was a building well known to me. There the overflow of my pack-rat life is stored… copies of my books and articles, my father’s letters from the Pacific front in World War II, both sides of the voluminous correspondence when my mother and I were working out the rough patches in a relationship where loving each other did not keep us from saying the sharpest, often wounding of words, she in her copperplate hand, mine rushed and illegible.

Such things and so many others were the crucial artifacts of life, things to be stored in boxes now, to be considered at leisure, some day, I promise… It was all in the building behind the reporter… and I glanced at the time, just about 11 p.m. Life was about to change forever as the total war of our times swept me up, imperious, without thought of who I was, what I had been doing, no matter how important. My desires, wishes, priorities counted for nothing… and neither did yours.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

The lyrics to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”‘ were written by the Irish-American band leader Patrick Gilmore. Its first sheet music publication was deposited in the Library of Congress on September 26,1863, with words and music credited to “Louis Lambert”, a pseudonym Gilmore unaccountably used instead of his own name. The copyright was retained by the publisher, Henry Tolman & Co., of Boston.

Determining who actually composed the music is much trickier. There is, for instance, a melodic resemblance to an earlier drinking song entitled “Johnny Fill Up the Bowl”. Someone named J. Durnal claimed credit for its arrangement, though not its composition. This in turn had a distinct melodic resemblance to a tune by Robert Burns, “John Anderson, my Jo”, which harked back to a tune of 1630 entitled “The Three Ravens,”… which harked back to… but you get the picture.

The important thing is how popular it became both with Confederate and Union troops. And no wonder… it’s a grand marching song… the music urging tired feet to go farther and never waver… while the lyrics remind them of the delights of home, theirs soon to savor and enjoy, just one more battle… just one. Before continuing, go to any search engine where you’ll find several fine versions. Listen carefully to lyrics which are now ironic and as far away as ancient Troy.

“The men will cheer and the boys will shout.”

This was how wars were fought in those days… and, until just the other day, in ours. We knew who the enemy was. We knew where he was. We knew what he was fighting for and we knew he had a martial code of honor which would (at least occasionally) cause him to think twice before doing the unspeakable. To be sure, it was a code more often honored in the breach… but it did exist, if only in one Geneva convention or another.

Thus did our much loved troops dress up in battle kit, self conscious about the last kiss to girlfriend or wife; these held back the tear that will surely fall when alone just minutes from now when the beloved is gone, perhaps forever. Fathers hugged the children they would not recognize when they returned; they grow so fast.

This was the war we knew… cheers on departure, certain victory for our cause was always right and our resort to warfare always reluctant and unwilling… then loud, sustained, enthusiastic cheers when Johnny comes marching home.

Now that kind of antediluvian warfare is only a thing of memory, resemblance, and wishful thinking… for now we do not go to war in full regalia, flags flying, the music brassy, suitable for the high affairs of the Great Republic. No indeed. For now we do not go to and return from the war. That war comes to us and confounds our lives more than even the greatest of battles… for we are all of us fully engaged in this new kind of undeclared, limitless war without any rules and procedures whatsoever, war where the first casualty may well be a child of 8, his life sundered and blown to bits by malefactors whose movements are secret, stealthy, and murderous, utterly without meaning, honor and the respect soldiers in the other wars might give their worthy opponents.

But this new kind of war is entirely different, insidious, taking prosaic objects and situations, turning them into the weapons of fear, anxiety and random death. This is a world where evil can lurk behind young and boyish faces and demeanors. Where there are no military helmets, but rather baseball caps, worn backwards in approved adolescent chic. This is a world where the element of deadly surprise always belongs to the attackers and thus can be wielded with merciless accuracy and acute precision.

This is a world where the elements for the bombs made to maim, dismember, and destroy are no further than your local hardware store, for amidst the waxes, sprays, paints and screws are the essential tools of pitiless catastrophe and the reverberating fear that paralyzes a great city whilst causing millions more worldwide to wonder if this could happen to them, knowing full well in their anxious hearts that these purveyors of death could already be about their cruel, selfish work; perhaps the surly young man who scowled when greeted today… worse, perhaps the handsome young man who smiled, offering a friendly quip or passing pleasantry. You see, the agent of mass pain and suffering can so easily wear the most amiable of faces.

These are the aspects of our new kind of war, the war, here now, here for the rest of our troubled, fretful lives.

“Stay in your house. Do not open your door.”

I had never received such a call before, but I feel sure I will get others like it in the years ahead. I had decided to go out and see what I could see. But I never got the chance because the Cambridge Police Department called to say I was to stay at home and to make sure I didn’t let any strangers in. They called this lockdown; it turned me, and hundreds of thousands of others, into a legion of the interned…

And so all of us, surrounded as we are by a plethora of communications devices, used them to feed our anxiety and disbelief. On the firing line as we were, we listened intently for each piece of often inaccurate, incomplete, and alarming detail. Like any good journalist, we examined, reviewed, made deductions, listened to more suppositions and soon-to-be-discarded “facts”… veering first one way, then another as events unfolded; our attention rapt and disbelieving that so much was happening, so close, so unaccountable, in my city, my neighborhood and on my very doorstep.

It was surreal, unforgettable, riveting, frightening, the new reality of our challenged, jittery, insecure times. And it can all take place anywhere at any time against any of the peoples of this Earth, people whose race, creed, color or disposition are deemed unsuitable by some “superior” group whose first target is killing the very idea of diversity. For in a world which must necessarily value, strive for, and cherish the diverse; they aim for just one truth, theirs, and as such are willing to go to any length, destabilize any society, engage in any barbarity to secure their way. These are the absolutists of world politics… the lordly thugs who hold the rest of us and everything we value at risk…. they offer hate, violence, an agenda of unmitigated evil and unrelenting malice.

Against such a litany of horrors all the good people of this planet must stand united for our credo, tolerance for all, acceptance, humanity, diversity, inclusion and always love, for without love there can be no lasting peace… and lasting peace is what we strive for. This way, the way of unity and community, is the only way. Otherwise random death and the awesome apparatus of response will be our portion… Thus to save our freedom we are forced to give up our freedom, losers whatever happens. We are already on this perilous road, right to be apprehensive and filled with grave foreboding and growing alarm.

“And let each one perform some part/ To fill with joy the warrior’s heart/ And we’ll all feel gay/ When Johnny comes marching home.”

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is a well known author of 15 books, 3 ebooks, and over a thousand of articles on a variety of topics. Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer

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‘Aisle be seeing you in all the old familiar places.’ Thoughts on efficiency, radishes, and unlikely friendships that enrich lives.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author’s program note. If you’re English or an aging subject in one of the great Dominions beyond the seas; if you’re, that is, one of the now fast dwindling number of World War II veterans, civil or military, from whatever piece of Earth on which the sun never set; if you are one of those who knows in your heart that Winston Churchill was right when he talked about the “finest hour” because you were there and lived it… then one song rendered by one singer who became in time an icon of England and its grit, tenacity, and grace under pressure is like a faucet for the involuntary tear. You hear it, you sing it, you are touched by it all over again… and the tears come… all over again.

The song was “I’ll be seeing you”; music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Irving Kahal. It was first recorded by (now Dame) Vera Lynn in 1938, as if the principals somehow were preparing for the mayhem and sadness just around the corner. It was lovely, wistful, haunting and, of course, recorded by an avalanche of talented singers who felt the magic, but could never enhance the original.

“I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places/ That this heart of mine embraces all day through.”

Find it in any search engine in its pristine form and enjoy it thoroughly as your young and dance mad grandparents did… and before I’ve used its unforgettable tune and bitter sweet lyrics for an entirely different purpose!


I don’t like admitting it, but I am a very busy fellow. What’s more, I was long ago programmed to set worthy goals; set meaningful objectives; and never stop achieving them. Frankly, I cannot imagine another kind of life, much less a life of sloth and excuse making. What’s more at 66 I am just too old and obstinate to change. Thus, you will always find me “doing something”, never bored.

In fact when the subject of boredom raises its ugly head, I instantly recall a marginal note penned by Her Majesty Queen Mary (once an impecunious and superbly efficient princess of Teck). In an unauthorized biography of this most industrious of sovereigns its incautious, uninformed author accused her of episodes of boredom, of all things.

The Queen’s trenchant, unanswerable comment, arresting in her copper plate hand, was stark, “The Queen is never bored!” Neither am I. And both for the same reason: there is just too much of interest and importance always awaiting those with a zest for education, amelioration, and improvement.


This doesn’t mean, don’t you know, that I do anything at hand, treating the small and insignificant with the same importance and resolution as the cosmic and Earth-changing. No indeed. Rather, I have developed an acute realization about what is truly significant and must be done by my own fair hand… and what must be done by others, and not just any others either, but by people who can do the delegated tasks (nearly) as well as I can, “nearly” because my grandmother, a paragon of unerring Prairie common sense, was always quick to proclaim “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” And so she did…

But I do not.

The key to efficiently and the well lived life is a determined and committed delegation. And so over the years as wealth and resolution made possible, I have shucked off tasks which were all necessary but which each in its way was impeding progress and the early realization of insistent goals deemed more valuable and critical.

And so bit by bit I gave up washing clothes (even folding them and putting them away); driving a car (I always thought a limousine so much the superior mode of transportation, not least because I rest easy during metropolitan grid lock, emerging equable and good natured, even jaunty from the comfortable state room on wheels en route to everywhere my inclinations and schemes necessitate, which could be anywhere at all.)

I gave up, too, trips to post office, bank, cleaners, all the must-have services we rely upon, services that are voracious in eating up time and emotional stability, delivering in my crowded urban area parking tickets and frequent demonstrations of rage and ungentlemanlike behavior. But I had a secret weapon and his name was Aime Joseph. Meeting him was one of the miracles of my life; a literal godsend and like all miracles it came when least expected… and most needed.

Mr. Joseph, as he is well known about Cambridge, was an ordinary taxi driver. which meant he was beset with such characteristic and unpleasant problems as abusive (even armed and dangerous) customers; a dismaying hackney system which was elaborately and expensively stacked against him, cut-throat competition and the feeling that the hurrier he worked, the behinder he got.

Then fate served us both, for when I hailed a cab outside the Sheraton- Commander Hotel, I got far more than another opportunity to show-off my practiced ability to shoe-horn myself into manifestly inadequate space. This therefore was a day of revolution, for we both got Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, a way out and up indeed.

As things developed, his side of an increasingly happy arrangement turned into a black sleek limousine comme il faut, whilst mine meant I never had to think of where we were going, how to get there and the damage purportedly licensed and “responsible” drivers were doing to my (limited) good nature.

The drill.

Mr. Joseph calls me three minutes before he arrives chez moi; I make it a point never to keep him waiting overly long. As soon as he sees me in the lobby, he opens the door and we are on our way, my entire focus on what must be achieved with maximum efficiency, so much so that one very rainy day in Harvard Square, I opened a packet of important documents from my bank without considering the belligerent weather.

Mr. Joseph, unnoticed by me, had the broad golf umbrella opened over my wind swept graying locks. I was oblivious. Others did see, however, and one admiring wag of discernment shouted, “Where can I get someone like that?” Wherever one finds life rearranged by kismet, I would have said had I been paying attention. But that’s the point… I didn’t have to.

Another bright idea.

And so things waxed and waxed again… my subtly flavored asparagus cooked just so (though not the first time); a new cleaners found (half the price of the old); and the unforgettable evening Mr. Joseph and his sympatica wife Mercedes were the first people I called after a particularly nasty fall which opened a deep gash to my right temple. (I was adamant that he should not say ‘Wow’ while bathing the wound in alcohol. I also told him patients were opposed to care givers whispering about them in the kitchen. I told them to sit down and enjoy a fine bottle of my Veuve Clicquot instead. They did not demur and were louder (and less ominous) in their commentaries on my bloody head and bones no one but God has seen before.

Under the circumstances it was then I made the fateful suggestion that he go to Shaw’s Market in Porter Square… and that I’d call him there with what I wanted. And almost immediately we discovered the frustrations which can emerge when a man of precise words and equally precise directions tries to get his explicit wishes across to the conscientious, responsible helper eager to get the thing and only the very thing desired. And that is where the radish enters, for admit it, since you first saw the title, you’ve wondered.

Radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicacae family that was domesticated in Europe in pre-Roman times. I like a good sharp radish every once in a while… and so one particular day, me on my land line, Mr. Joseph on his cell, I asked him to pick up a bunch and was greeted with… incomprehension. “What is a radish?”, he asked. What indeed? Now try explaining it to a Haitian whose creole may be perfect but whose English is not; the best of a hundred attempts:

“It’s a friggin’ little red thing that is in the produce department, bunched and tied with a rubber band.”

Exasperated, I finally got the produce manager on the phone and the radishes were finally placed in the cart, a symbol of what happens to you when you don’t listen to your grannie and attempt to improve upon the folk wisdom of ages. But I haven’t given up yet. During a recent visit to Shaw’s (for, yes, I am going in person again) I placed a post it note where Mr. Joseph but no one else could find it… I expect it to facilitate the delivery of my radishes. I also taught Mr. Joseph a bit of Vera Lynn’s masterpiece, “Aisle be seeing you in all the old familiar places,” the aisle in question being number 1, where I learned just how difficult it is to achieve the perfect life when two people are entirely focused on making it happen. That’s what’s called a paradox and that’s why I go to the store with Mr. Joseph nowadays… where I’ll be seeing you.

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is the author of 15 print books, 3 ebooks, and over one thousand articles on a variety of topics. Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer Check out Info Cash ->

‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ The travails ahead threatening Generation X and what you can do about them.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author’s program note. It is unquestionably one of the greatest rock songs ever written, skewering as it does (with infectious beat) a culture unrelentingly focused on endless, deadening commercialism, no place to avoid the deluge, none whatsoever. In such an environment you are what you buy and only what you buy, and it better be the right brand, too, or your fragile social station plummets:

“Well he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me.”

This is, of course, the 1965 zinger by The Rolling Stones, the first tune to take them to the top in the Great Republic, the lyrics that made it clear they had Something To Say and were going to say it no matter how offensive, insulting or irritating as they could be, which was plenty. They weren’t going to take any guff, and they urged the rest of us to get guff-less at the earliest possible moment.

Now, boys with what high school coaches call “bad attitudes” may be able to get away with such irksome behaviors, especially if they’re as rich as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but the rest of us who live in the “real world” can only imagine a universe where we can actually say whatever we want, whenever we want to say it. The members of Generation X cannot even imagine it…

Meet Generation X, the first cohort in our history destined to be less wealthy than their fathers. Oh, my!

Sadly of all the generations going back to the live wires (masters of lese majeste’) who fomented and executed the revolution of 1776, the members of what advertising executives like to call “Generation X” (a phrase invented in the 1950s by Magnum photographer Robert Capra) will have to be the most patient, accepting and resigned of all… because they face a sea of troubles ahead, including a far less ample lifestyle than Mom and Pop. They are the first generation in the history of the Great Republic to be so afflicted

Nobody wants to break the bad news to them… nobody that is but the perennially adolescent Jagger whose unparalleled ability to deliver the most jarring and socially affronting comments was proven long ago and continues bright into a green (albeit aging) maturity. After all, he’s expert at getting satisfaction…

Generation X, the good news.

With its members born between 1961-1981 Gen. X (as it is usually referred to) may, as a cultural phenomenon, be far more interesting and influential that their notoriously influential parents, the Baby Boomers. This will strike some members of my Boomer cohort as a horrifying deduction, especially when I add this: that Boomers too often have been defined by what they were against, including parents, authorities, Vietnam, abortion and sexual restrictions of any kind, and the merest hint of cutting back Social Security (or raising the age to get it) and other government entitlement programs.

Our expertise is on seeing, wanting and grasping… then gloating over how clever we are at manipulating the system to get more than our share. Yes, we have learned how to get satisfaction, that’s what I say.

Boomers have been called many things but one designation consistently appears and that is “selfish” and all its related descriptors; spoiled, self-aggrandizing, and always manifesting an undue regard for self. “Living well is the best revenge,” and no one lives better than Baby Boomers (as their charged up credit cards attest.) Ours is the Louis XV of generations: “Apres moi le deluge”. This ultra-cynical policy certainly worked for His Most Christian Majesty, who enjoyed himself immensely (think Madame de Pompadour), whilst just managing to miss the guillotine. Cool.

Understanding Gen. X.

As you may imagine with the fate of the Great Republic, not to mention the world at stake, interest in Gen. X and what its members are all about is acute, though conclusions are by no means unanimous. Scholars, after all, must differ since their promotions are dependent upon exquisite, incessant nit-picking which is what defines the Academy. Here, for instance, is what Professor Christine Henseler, one of the most perceptive and sensitive of Gen. X observers, wrote in “Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion,” a collection of essays. In it she defined

“a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorship, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance and human rights for all.”

Nobody but nobody could ever have written such a celestial Valentine to the Baby Boomers who would have been too busy indulging themselves to read it anyway…. “Apres moi….”

More insight into Generation X.

In 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service ranked Generation X volunteer rates in the United States at 29.4% per year, by far the highest compared with other generations. The rankings were based on a three-year moving average between 2009 and 2011.

What’s more, compared with previous generations Gen. X. represents a more apparently heterogeneous generation, openly acknowledging and embracing social diversity in terms of such characteristics as race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Additional insights about this generation under a microscope include the following:

Item: The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Generation X statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at current age groups.

Item: The 2011 publication “The Generation X Report” dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970s and 80s. (Who could they mean?) This same study finds X-ers active, balanced, happy and famly-oriented.

But here’s the source and the quote that best sums up these astonishing paragons, each apparently issued a societal tool-kit and infinite calm at birth; “X Saves the World — How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking,” deep insights and saintly reflections in 2008 by “Details” magazine editor-at-large Jeff Gordinier.

Baby boomers mess up and stay safe and warm. X-ers cope with the perfect storm but love us anyway. What’s not to like?

Ok, so the Boomers have been battening on the X-ers since there were X-ers to batten upon. We like it that way; we’ll kill to keep them that way, even in face of the perfect storm already assailing our little buddies, a storm a new study from the Urban Institute, a nonprofit Washington research institution, lays out in merciless detail.

1) X-ers up to age 40 have accrued significantly less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the past quarter century.

2) The collapse of the housing market has hit X-ers hard. X-ers too often overpaid for properties which are now underwater and may never return to their purchase prices. What’s more tougher credit market standards will lock many out leaving them marooned, impecunious, and miserable, thereby producing lots of unhappy X-ers and broken marriages.

3) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these younger workers have faced a brutal, punishing job market for the last five years. The unemployment rate is 7.8 percent for workers between ages 25 and 34. For workers ages 45 to 54, the jobless rate is 5.5 percent and peaked at 8 percent in 2010.

What’s more, those who held on to their jobs through the 2008 “turbulent days” are often actually worse off. Wages, adjusted for inflation have stagnated for a broad swarth of workers for over a decade; moreover, wages have actually declined for millions of workers through the recession and the sluggish economy.

Problems, what problems?

Let me tell you how these problems will be solved. Ignore them. That’s right, pull that ol’ ostrich head in the sand number. Or re-enact the crowning achievement of those three cute monkeys, the primate “think, hear, say” no evil trio. You see my ever resourceful Boomer generation has already solved this muddle. Years ago when we first became aware of the insoluble mess we were creating, we experimented until we developed the perfect generation to follow our great and abiding glory.

And so we invented Generation X and populated it with progeny who would get next to nothing, leave us with everything, and be glad they have us to cater to. No, they’ll get absolutely no satisfaction… but they’ll never miss it. “Hey, hey, hey, that’s what I say.”

About the Author: Dr. Jeffrey Lant is a published author with 15 print books to his credit, several ebooks and has penned over one thousand articles. His articles cover topics including marketing, home business, US history and US politics. As a noted historian he is also considered an expert on the British Royal Family and European history. Republished with author’s permission by Daniel Fischer