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I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.

When Nov. 11 rolls around, this quote from Breakfast of Champions gets dragged out of storage and put on display for the occasion of Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday and Armistice/Veterans Day. But that’s what remembrance and ceremony are for, after all, as mile markers on our half-blind flatcar ride through time. So it goes. And since it remains an awesome quote, and since Vonnegut never feared flirting with cliché (who are we kidding? He eagerly consummated the relationship), neither will we. Let us indulge — for our sixth consecutive year, if you can believe it! — in another nice rummage through the mental attic with Uncle Kurt:

So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two.

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.

Breakfast of Champions (1973)

It’s just such a wonderfully Vonnegut-y quote, for all the terrific reasons there are to love Kurt Vonnegut: the short, clipped sentences; the backwards time travel; the affectation of spelling out the year; the “men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind” — Jesus, what a lovely line! The definitive declarations that sound like pure Truth, but on reflection are, OK, kind of simplistic. The self-aware nostalgia and sentimentality, even as he cautions against nostalgia and sentimentality. And Romeo and Juliet, for chrissakes? Not King Lear, at least?

In some ways, loving Vonnegut almost feels like an adolescent thing to do, and sometimes it’s tempting — especially if you get into a graduate literature program — to think of Vonnegut as a writer you should have grown out of by now. It’s a problem of which Vonnegut himself was quite aware, of course, as he acknowledged in his interview with Playboy, also from 1973:

I deal with sophomoric questions that full adults regard as settled. I talk about what is God like, what could He want, is there a heaven, and, if there is, what would it be like? This is what college sophomores are into; these are the questions they enjoy having discussed. And more mature people find these subjects very tiresome, as though they’re settled.

By the time you’re in grad school, you know better than to talk about Vonnegut as if he were quite as deep as you were sure he was at 17. Grownup Serious Literature Students are allowed to quote Vonnegut as much as they want, as long as they treat him as an affectionate artifact they’ve outgrown, like model airplanes hanging from the ceiling or stuffed animals on a dorm bed. And then after you’re comfortably past the one-upmanship of a graduate seminar, you can go back to just plain enjoying Kurt Vonnegut all over again, even if you no longer zoom a plastic B-25 Mitchell bomber around your room (though maybe that’s more of a Joseph Heller thing, anyway).

The other great Vonnegut quote about Armistice Day turning into Veterans Day comes from Mother Night (1961), and doesn’t get quoted nearly as often, but we like it for its explicit grumping about the motivation for the holiday’s metamorphosis:

“Oh, it’s just so damn cheap, so damn typical.” I said, “This used to be a day in honor of the dead of World War One, but the living couldn’t keep their grubby hands off of it, wanted the glory of the dead for themselves. So typical, so typical. Any time anything of real dignity appears in this country, it’s torn to shreds and thrown to the mob.”

We’ll agree the quote from Breakfast of Champions, as Vonnegut worked it out over a decade later, is a grander, more quotable passage, but there’s something awfully nice about the raw bitchiness of the earlier version. It’s sort of surprising to us that we haven’t seen any online pairings of the two, either. After all, yet another of the fun things about reading Vonnegut is seeing him turn over ideas again and again in his novels, taking them through their permutations like a Tralfamadorian looking through time.

There are some things it might be a mistake to grow out of.

And so we’ll go on quoting Kurt Vonnegut as much as we damn well please, thank you. So happy Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday, and a peaceful Armistice/Veterans Day to all of you.

Since there are few things more fun than quoting Uncle Kurt, here are a couple of collections of Vonnegut quotes. We added a quote for Armistice Day 2013 that wasn’t in the inaugural version of this column:

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.”

Cat’s Cradle

For 2014, with a beautiful new war in Syria starting and too many people who should have known better urging that we get “boots on the ground” — let’s only talk about the boots, not the young men and women wearing them (children, really! Their cerebral cortexes aren’t even grown up yet!) — our new, cautionary Vonnegut quote came from a 1991 interview, shortly after the first Gulf War:

“We have become such a pitiless people,” Vonnegut lamented. “And I think it’s TV that’s done it to us. When I went to war in World War II, we had two fears. One was we would be killed. The other was that we might have to kill somebody. And now killing is Whoopee. It does not seem much anymore. To my generation, it still seemed like an extraordinary thing to do, to kill.”

Then in 2015, mere weeks after our president (Nobel Peace Prize 2009) apologized to Doctors Without Borders (Nobel Peace Prize 1999) for American planes strafing and bombing a hospital in Afghanistan, killing at least 30 patients, doctors, and nurses, we managed to dig up another Kurt Vonnegut quote about war, this time about the terrible ethical legacy of World War II:

One of the great American tragedies is to have participated in a just war. It’s been possible for politicians and movie-makers to encourage us we’re always good guys. The Second World War absolutely had to be fought. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But we never talk about the people we kill. This is never spoken of.

Then came Armistice Day 2016, days after we found ourselves with a brand new president-elect who couldn’t wait to be Commander in Chief, since he knew more about ISIS than the generals, wanted to bomb the shit out of them and take their oil, looked forward to bringing back waterboarding — and worse!! — and hinted he’d be willing to go to war with any punk bitch country whose sailors give the finger to our beautiful destroyers.

Donald Trump is more like a fantastic bad guy out of a Kilgore Trout story than any other president our great nation has had. Listening to Donald Trump talk during the campaign about the supposed efficacy of torture, the wonderful inventiveness of torture, reminded us of a Kurt Vonnegut essay from 1971, “Torture and Blubber,” in which Vonnegut — who as a survivor of Dresden knew far more about what happens when you bomb the shit out of them than Donald Trump will ever understand — explained, 45 years before the advent of “President” Trump, the flaw in the man’s thinking.

Agony never made a society quit fighting, as far as I know. A society has to be captured or killed–or offered things it values. While Germany was being tortured during the Second World War, with justice, may I add, its industrial output and the determination of its people increased. Hitler, according to Albert Speer, couldn’t even be bothered with marveling at the ruins or comforting the survivors. The Biafrans were tortured simultaneously by Nigerians, Russians and British. Their children starved to death. The adults were skeletons. But they fought on.

The problem with Donald Trump’s understanding of war — of the world in general — is that his moral sense is roughly that of a twelve-year-old, and a bully at that:

One wonders now where our leaders got the idea that mass torture would work to our advantage in Indochina. It never worked anywhere else. They got the idea from childish fiction, I think, and from a childish awe of torture.

Children talk about tortures a lot. They often make up what they hope are new ones. I can remember a friend’s saying to me when I was a child: “You want to hear a really neat torture?” The other day I heard a child say to another: “You want to hear a really cool torture?” And then an impossibly complicated engine of pain was described. A cross would be cheaper, and work better, too.

But children believe that pain is an effective way of controlling people, which it isn’t — except in a localized, short-term sense. They believe that pain can change minds, which it can’t. Now the secret Pentagon history reveals that plenty of high-powered American adults think so, too, some of them college professors. Shame on them for their ignorance.

If Kurt Vonnegut were with us today — and through his writing, he is — he would be among millions of us saying to Donald Trump, “Shame on you for your ignorance.” For all he’d listen to us, even if we all painted ourselves blue and went on all fours all day long and grunted like pigs.

Now that we’ve had a year to see him being presidential, Donald Trump still scares the shit out of us, which in a way is good, because we still know this is not normal. Instead of saying he’s smarter than the generals, Trump seems happy to turn the conduct of our wars over to them so he won’t have to do anything more than take credit for victories and yell at widows for losses. He also seems, at times, like he’d like to turn the rest of the government over to generals so he could just go play golf and Tweet. And threaten to rain nuclear death on North Korea.

For Armistice Day 2017, I’d like to ask your indulgence to listen to Kurt Vonnegut’s 1982 sermon at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, “Fates Worse Than Death,” which was later included in a book of the same title, but you can also read the full text here. This is a sermon imagining how humans could possibly go on living without hydrogen bombs, a pretty hot topic in 1982, and today. If you don’t have the half hour to listen to it, I’ve fished out a nice quote below the embed.

Vonnegut says that, apart from crucifixion, he really couldn’t think of anything that would be so much worse than death that humanity would really give up on life. He also notes that no country can hire enough carpenters to crucify everyone in another country, so if we get rid of The Bomb, we might be in good shape. He also has this observation about technology and the possiblity — not the guarantee, sadly — of human empathy:

Even in my own lifetime, it used to be necessary for a young soldier to get into fighting before he became disillusioned about war. His parents back home were equally ignorant, and believed him to be slaying monsters. But now, thanks to modern communications, the people of every industrialized nation are nauseated by war by the time they are ten years old. […]

So we now know for certain that there are no potential human enemies anywhere who are anything but human beings almost exactly like ourselves. They need food. How amazing. They love their children. How amazing. They obey their leaders. How amazing. They think like their neighbors. How amazing.

Thanks to modern communications, we now have something we never had before: reason to mourn deeply the death or wounding of any human being on any side in any war […]

We have often heard it said that people would have to change, or we would go on having world wars. I bring you good news this morning: people have changed.

We aren’t so ignorant and bloodthirsty any more.

Which isn’t to say we’re no longer ignorant and bloodthirsty — just less so. The wonder of Kurt Vonnegut is that he was such a keen observer of our capacity for barbarism and a believer that we could stop being barbarians, because that’s necessary for survival.

We can probably keep adding a new, timely Vonnegut quote about war to this column every year until we run out of quotes, or we run out of wars. We fear we can keep this up this tradition forever, since we’ll be in Afghanistan at least that long. Don’t worry; if by some fluke a Nov. 11 should come about when Americans aren’t in combat somewhere, we can handle it. Vonnegut wrote about a lot of other things, too.

We also discovered an invaluable book last spring, though it’s a couple years old now: Ginger Strand’s The Brothers Vonnegut, a biography of Kurt Vonnegut and his older brother Bernard, the GE scientist Kurt probably loved more than any other human being. Bernard’s ambivalence about his own research into cloud seeding led both to Kurt’s novel Cat’s Cradle and to a UN treaty banning weather modification as a weapon of war. Strand reminds us that four days after Bernard died, Kurt finished his fourteenth and final novel, Timequake:

“I was the baby of the family,” he explained at the end. “Now I don’t have anyone to show off for anymore.”

And that, too, is why I love Kurt Vonnegut.

Since Vonnegut liked music enough to consider it the only really plausible evidence that God might exist, here’s a song for Armistice-Remembrance-Veterans Day, Eric Bogle’s “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” to remember the over 9,750,000 who died during the Great War. There are no living veterans of that war; the last, Florence Green, died in 2012 just two weeks short of her 111th birthday.

Let’s try to at least imagine a world where we won’t need veterans’ parades.

What, one more video? OK, if you insist.

[Breakfast of Champions / Mother Night / Cat’s Cradle / Slaughterhouse-Five / “Torture and Blubber” / Fates Worse Than Death / The Brothers Vonnegut / Timequake]

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  • Villago Delenda Est

    Thanks, Dok.

    The classics are always appropriate on this day.

  • SDGeoff3

    Thank you, Dok. This is a wonderful gift for Armistice Day.

  • Skwerl the Taco Hunter

    Thank you.

  • Thank you, Dok. That is the finest thing I’ve ever read on Uncle Kurt and Armistice Day.

    You are the best, and Uncle Kurt would be most proud.

    God Bless You Mr. Zoom.

    • Covfefe

      See. There is a use for English majors.

    • doktorzoom

      Aw, thanks. I’m just a fan.

  • Hiss

    “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” should get more exposure. Also, the original Irish version of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”: “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye.”

    Ye haven’t an arm and ye haven’t a leg, haroo, haroo (three times)
    Ye’re an eyeless, boneless, chickenless egg,
    And ye’ll haveta be put with the bowl to beg,
    Johnny, I wish they’d slew ya.

  • mancityRed6

    “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five

  • House0fTheBlueLights

    Beautiful, Dok. Thank you.

  • Mavenmaven

    He was right about how many genders there are as well.

  • DoILookAmused2u? Résistance☨

    How does one greet somebody on Armistice Day? “Happy Armistice Day” doesn’t sound right.

    • bbayliss

      Kaboom, glad you’re not dead, is acceptable.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      Yeah, “Happy” is problematic on this day. I use it reflexively, but it seems wrong somehow.

    • natoslug

      Stick with tradition: “Yo, ‘sup?”

  • bbayliss

    “In some ways, loving Vonnegut almost feels like an adolescent thing to do, and sometimes it’s tempting — especially if you get into a graduate literature program — to think of Vonnegut as a writer you should have grown out of by now.”

    This may be true, and having been an adolescent at the time I discovered Vonnegut, my memory may be colored, but I think a little historical/sociological perspective is called for.
    Because as I remember it, Portnoy’s Complaint and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull were both more widely read than Vonnegut at the time.

    • theCryptofishist

      I found that passage interesting, because I’ve long wondered why he’s included in fiction or even literature and not science fiction, when he’s happy to write about science fiction things, like time travel, and innovative ways to stack cannon balls. So even though he’s allowed on those shelves, he doesn’t get the full respect that, I dunno, Updike? gets.

      • doktorzoom

        As Vonnegut said, “I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled ‘science fiction’ … and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal.”

        He was ambivalent about it the rest of his career

        • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

          I hope the critics are finally letting go of the literature vs genre writing shit. Slapping SF or whatever label on writing used to be a way of dismissing it.

        • theCryptofishist

          But he’s considered closer to serious lit than PKD is. And Dick is closer to it than most of the competent authors who are considered firmly in the science fiction drawer.

      • bbayliss

        I believe he was initially given second tier status as a science fiction writer.
        Not that I agree that SciFi is less worthy than other genres, it seems more like convenient classification.

        • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

          And dismissing it as not being serious, having nothing important to say, etc.

        • theCryptofishist

          I don’t consider it to have less worth, either. In fact, I hold to the idea that while any genre contains some really crappy, lazy books, you can also write a masterpiece in any genre. If one thing that literature is supposed to do is to say what it is to be human, don’t stories about aliens and robots bring something new and different to the table?

          • bbayliss

            & Time? It’s a real mystery

    • Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

      Enough guano to last a Jamaican Rasta a whole crop season…
      https://i.pinimg.com/564x/3b/e5/25/3be525ddbe9af9769c8f57dcda2bc145–jonathan-livingston-seagull-canvas.jpg

      • bbayliss

        There’s crap and then there’s guano.

      • bbayliss

        Thanks, even more insipid than remembered.

  • Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs

    Hey Mr Spaceman, can I please go along? I promise I won’t do anything wrong…
    https://media.makeameme.org/created/ok-i-believe.jpg

  • Reximus
    • Bobathonic

      Those MONSTERS!

      • Ricky Gay

        Proof reader should be “canned!!!”

        • Carrie

          Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
          On tuesday I got a brand new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It Sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
          !dm272d:
          ➽➽
          ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleNetJobsAcademyWorkFromHome/more/cash ★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫:::::!dm272lh

    • Ghenghis McCann

      That’s what you get for relying on a spellchecker and not a human being.

    • Bill Diaz

      Fresh sex clams are so much better than canned sex clams (unless they are littlenecks). I like my sex clams hawt and only lightly dressed!

      Have a great day!

    • Covfefe

      Ben never has written a headline. “Clams” fits.

  • Jennifer R

    One of these years I will read a book of his.

    • bbayliss

      You are cheating only yourself.

    • mancityRed6

      I’ve read and owned several, I’ve never read a bad one.

      • Dept. of Space Tacos

        ehhh, I love him – but couldn’t get into one, disliked another.

        • mancityRed6

          try him again in 10-15 years. there are some things I couldn’t get into when I was younger that I got a lot out of when I got older.

    • OrG

      God Bless You Mr. Rosewater is my favorite.

      • Shartiblartfat

        Short, poignant, and funny.

    • Shartiblartfat

      I have read and owned them all; but in a de-cluttering shortly after I retired, I gave away nearly all of my books. I had the epiphany I was’t going to read them again, and they were only reading trophies.

    • Indeniable Ron

      You will, I think be glad you did. Make sure you read any introductory material, though. Getting a sense of the man will give you insight into his work.

  • DoILookAmused2u? Résistance☨

    Wonkette has Official Twitter/Blog haters!

    https://twitter.com/KateHarding/status/929096886283329536

    • Hiss

      Say what you want, just spell our name right.

    • Ricky Gay

      Rachel Maddow might disagree…

    • OrG

      Any relation to Tanya?

      • Saxo the Grammarian

        Or Warren G.?

        • OrG

          The G Funk era.

    • Joe Beese

      Oh yeah, that guy from yesterday.

      I’d forgotten him already.

    • Dept. of Space Tacos

      which part is sexist or ageist?

      • DoILookAmused2u? Résistance☨

        Some people just don’t get dick jokes? I dunno.

      • Saxo the Grammarian

        The linked article from someone called “Alex Nichols”. He seems nice!

      • doktorzoom

        The article she links to, not us.

    • House0fTheBlueLights

      Well, ouch.

    • House0fTheBlueLights

      She writes a thing called “Nasty Women: Feminism and Resistance” but we’re the Clinton apologists? (Although yeah, Trix is never gonna live down the rape-is-ok-if-Bill-does-it-(allegedly) article)

      • DoILookAmused2u? Résistance☨

        i smell catfish

    • Stulexington

      nvm

      • Conservative? I assumed it was one of the bad kind of BernieBros.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      theoutline.com is getting significant flak for this garbage.

      Which is right and proper.

      • Saxo the Grammarian

        I am surprised that Nichols didn’t slag us for our use of “A Idiot”.

    • Saxo the Grammarian

      Wonkette posts LOL cat memes? How unforgivably jejeune!

      • natoslug

        We need something to break up the pony memes.

      • Villago Delenda Est

        PRW sez: No, it’s just retro!

    • TheGrandWazoo2

      Is the com/post part of that address a spoiler alert?

    • Kiri the Unicorn

      Wonkette has a pet unicorn. That alone makes it superior.

      • Saxo the Grammarian

        And we have no pants. But there are cakes that we like.

        • Doug Langley

          And cedar cheese.

          • Résistance Land Shark Ω

            And never forget the vegan babby buttholes also too.

          • Phried Ω

            And a Wonkebago.

        • Kiri the Unicorn

          There’s a causal link between “no pants” and “pet unicorn”.

        • puredog

          And when the murders begin, WE CALL THEM OUT.

      • arundel

        And someday we’ll have comments.

        • Kiri the Unicorn

          Shhh!

    • bbayliss

      The narrative no one needs:

      Kate Harding‏Verified account
      @KateHarding
      12h12 hours ago
      More Kate Harding Retweeted Newsweek
      Once again, the pathetically low bar set by other GOP politicians makes GWB seem like a grand fuckin’ statesman.

    • doktorzoom

      Folks, please don’t slag on Ms. Harding — she’s calling the piece attacking us — which we thought wasn’t worth responding to — as “sexist, ageist horseshit” –not calling US that.

      • DoILookAmused2u? Résistance☨

        in ma defense, twas not obvious from tweet and initial thread which hadz me confuse

    • gedjcj

      The blog nobody needs

      Thanks for letting me know I’m irrelevant. Who the fuck are you?

  • Any Alcoholic Republican Chickenhawks dropping by today?
    https://i.imgflip.com/1z7c90.jpg

  • John Thorstensen

    Thank you for this. One personal connection – many years ago we in the Dartmouth physics dept. invited Bernie to give a talk in our Department, timed for when his more famous brother was on campus as a distinguished visitor. Bernie was a really exceptional scientist, a pioneer in the study of atmospheric electrification. I happened to sit next to Kurt at Bernie’s talk. Being a college professor is, in many ways, The Life.

    • Dept. of Space Tacos

      Didja get to talk to him? I’d have killed to have a drink or six with him.

      • John Thorstensen

        I don’t actually remember – I may have mentioned to him that I’d gone to high school with his nephews Scott and Terry. Bernie lived in the same suburb of Albany, NY that I grew up in (Delmar); he, like my father, taught at SUNY Albany. You’ll notce that in Cat’s Cradle, much of the action happens in a mythical upstate NY city called “Ilium” — I think he was echoing his brother’s life there. Upstate NY was a scientific powerhouse in the day, with RPI, SUNY, GE research labs, and a whole raft of tech stuff going on around Rochester.

        • doktorzoom

          The Brothers Vonnegut mentions that no bookstore in Rocheste would stock Cat’s Cradle for years.

    • doktorzoom

      Oh, wow… Someone who posted here years ago said they’d worked in an atmospheric science lab in New Mexico where Bernard Vonnegut’s data folders were still right there on the shelves.

  • Dept. of Space Tacos

    hola! Coming to you from that corporate syphillis that is Starbucks. Been a good two weeks, so treated myself to FIVE FUCKING DOLLAR fancy coffee while I do some stuff for internship. (Gonna get this lawsuit against us dealt with).

    I saluted the super duper young former USAF guy working the counter. He said I get a free coffee, today, I told him I wasn’t a vet.

    • Résistance Land Shark Ω

      How did the exam go? Did you kick ass as requested?

  • Joe Beese

    Saul Bellow, on his Nobel Prize: “I was only trying to show up my brother. I didn’t have to take it this far.”

  • wait! what?

    According to a terrible speech Pence is giving; he didn’t realize the quiet cost of war unti he realised there would be fewer grandkids. But only kids and kids of kids that came from people coming back from war and marrying their sweethearts…

    • Villago Delenda Est

      He wasn’t called “Congressman Dense” for nothing, you know.

      • wait! what?

        …and I think he’s deliberately slighting every person who doesn’t fit his bible driven heteronormative view of humanity.

    • Resistance Fighter Astraea

      What.

      • wait! what?

        Yeah, it was pretty bad. He’s confirmed my suspicions that he’s really Erich Kriegler.

  • Ricky Gay
    • jowgajen

      Lol. It took me too long to get this.

    • weejee
    • Dept. of Space Tacos

      “Have you ever had the butt thermometer?!?”

      • Courser_Resistance

        LOL! Years ago, I sometimes worked as a Veterinary Assistant. One day, we got a very sick kitty in early in the morning. Upper respiratory stuff is super-contagious in cats, so we waited until our morning appointments were over before we addressed the kitty.

        While the vet finished up with a patient, I took kitty out of his carrier to take his vitals. Burning with fever, he was just as limp as a noodle as I noted his respirations and heart rate. Time for the butt thermometer.

        That was the Last Fucking Straw for this kitty. He’d had quite enough, thank you VERY much and wrapped himself around my arm, biting as hard as he could. Poor thing.

        ETA: A short course of antibiotics put kitty right within a few days. Glad I wasn’t the one who had to pill him.

        • Dept. of Space Tacos

          rofl, that woulda been the last damn straw for me too.

    • katkelly57

      This vet, does not like hearing, “Thank you for your service” at all.
      Falls out of the mouth like, “Have a good day…”.

      Lip service is all it is.
      To me anyway.

      • Ricky Gay

        Thank you for your…. upfist!
        :)

        • katkelly57

          Anytime.
          ;p

      • Phried Ω

        Along with magnetic yellow vinyl ribbons made in China.

        • katkelly57

          Yes!

      • Mirful

        I’ve often said something very like that myself…

        • katkelly57

          I’m sure there are many others who feel like we do.

  • Riley Whodat Venable

    Thank you Dok.

  • pgjack

    Lovely column. Always nice to be reminded of Vonnegut’s wisdom. Sadly here in the US ‘veteran’s day’ has become a commercial promotion day and a war glorification day. War is not a good thing. Sometimes necessary but always evil. I heard that from Jimmy Carter but I’m sure someone else said it first.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      Jimmy Carter, Rickover trained nuclear submarine engineer, graduate of Annapolis.

      • wait! what?

        Hyman Rickover: change the capital “R” to a capital “D” and he instantly becomes a hermaphroditic Bond villian.

      • Doug Langley

        I remember the Carter years. It seemed as if everyone called him the “peanut farmer”.

    • 🍁 Girl Guide Salute 🖖🏻

      Whenever I see “Veteran’s Day Sale,” “Memorial Day Sale,” even “Martin Luther King Day Sale” (!!!) I’m reminded that $$$$$ is the only thing anyone ever cares about in this country and why we’ll never have peace.

      • doktorzoom

        Well, commerce is the basis for a lot of our wars, so it all goes around.

        And as Milo Minderbinder would happily remind us, everyone has a share.

        • Phried Ω

          So what is the going exchange rate for parachutes and Egyptian cotton?

  • CovfefeOfTheThoughtlessMind

    Great column, Dok.

  • FukuiSanYesOta

    Dok, it’s remiss of you not to mention the Strand book.

    Oh, you did.

    EVERYONE! CLICK ON THE LINKY FOR BROTHERS VONNEGUT AND GIVE WONKETTE MONEYS!

    It really is a great book.

  • (((Alt-Sedagive)))

    Ambrose Bierce was the only major American writer to fight on the front lines in the Civil War. It broke him physically and emotionally, but it lead him to do great, great, work.

    His short story “Chickamauga” is one of the most devastating things I’ve ever read; it’s an indictment of war, and a nightmare for the ages. I revisit it every so often, to marvel at humanity:

    http://www.online-literature.com/bierce/992/

    • doktorzoom

      Good god yes, that is one of the most haunting stories ever. Even more devastating in its way than Twain’s “The War Prayer,” although the latter packs a wallop of its own.

      • weejee

        for sure

    • Reximus

      An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

      http://compositionawebb.pbworks.com/f/owl.pdf

      • (((Alt-Sedagive)))

        He was so far ahead of his time.

  • weejee

    So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

    In Flanders Fields…

    Canadian author, but what the hay, eh? He doctored the wounded in the Great War.

    • doktorzoom

      Vonnegut didn’t worry too much about nationality, and much though America acts like it owns all world wars, France, Britain, and Germany suffered far worse losses in the Great War.

      • Villago Delenda Est

        Not to mention Russia. Like the Tsar and all his ministers!

      • 🍁 Girl Guide Salute 🖖🏻

        The Canadians in particular were slaughtered at the Somme, sent to die in broad daylight charging the Germans while their British masters sipped tea at a far-off Belgian chateau. Trudeau got mocked mercilessly by the cons for that CBC TV movie ten years ago, but I saw it on YouTube and thought it told a really great story about the “forgotten war” (which is really only “forgotten” in the USA).

        • doktorzoom

          Mentioned it in a separate post above, but if you haven’t read Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars, you gotta.

  • DoILookAmused2u? Résistance☨
    • natoslug

      I don’t know what you people want from Moore — he clearly stated that he always asked permission from the little girls’ mothers before he started molesting them.

    • Phried Ω

      Why do I suppose none of these dates ever involved going to movies or roller rinks or sharing a cherry coke down at the malt shop? You know, teenage stuff in the late 1970s.

  • doktorzoom

    Kids, I have to be away for an hour or so but will be back soon to chat about Vonnegut with y’all.

    • natoslug

      Woo-hoo! No adult supervision! Alright, everyone, hide the commenting rules before Dok gets back!

    • (((Alt-Sedagive)))

      Thank you for a wonderful post. Much needed after the events of this week, month, year.

      • natoslug

        This week alone was a ridiculously long year.

        • (((Alt-Sedagive)))

          It feels like time itself is collapsing, or telescoping, or ballooning. Not normal.

        • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

          No shit. This past year has felt like centuries.

    • Doug Langley
  • Little Lulu Ω

    Thank you, Dok. This post of yours was a lovely experience from beginning to end. I’ll carry it with me for the rest of the day.

  • Bub, the cynical zombie

    “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
    ― Voltaire

  • Dept. of Space Tacos

    Ugh, I”m trying to work and the lady next to give me is giving a lecture (she’s a teacher) about “detoxing” and other “natural” treatments for sickness.

    AND I FORGOT MY HEADPHONES.

    Sigh.

    • Dept. of Space Tacos

      “I also put peppermint all over my body.”

      /eyeroll

      • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

        There are some places where that’d sting.

      • Dept. of Space Tacos

        “in order to be regulated by the FDA, something negative has to come from it, like somebody died or something. There’s nothing negative with this, so it’s not regulated.”

        Yeah, it DOESN’T FUCKING DO ANYTHING POSITIVE EITHER.

        • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

          Not true either. There are a lot of substances grandfathered in.

          • Dept. of Space Tacos

            “98 percent of the essential oils on the market are adulterated with chemicals…you can really hurt yourself.”

            “Companies these days want to make money…”

            Sigh.

          • Dept. of Space Tacos

            “these are actually going to heal your body…”

            “Frankensence is very grounding and calming.”

            So far we’ve got frakenensce, peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus oil, essential oils, “vitality” (product name), “boosting” one’s immune system, chemicals, the FDA..

          • amrak63

            I fear I would be less polite than Taco is.

          • Ants In My Eyes Johnson

            And those oils named are ones more likely to irritate the skin, cause problems with asthma, or cause an allergic response, too, even if properly diluted before use. Except for maybe frankincense, I don’t know enough about that one.

          • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

            Chemicals like H2O?

          • HooverVilles

            No. Dihydrogen Monoxide.

        • Raan

          Well, as long as you don’t count people dying from cancer because they slathered themselves in peppermint instead of seeing a fucking doctor.

          • Dept. of Space Tacos

            IKR? She was saying her pediatrician asked where she’d had been, CAUSE THE OILS WORK SO WELL FOR HER KID!

            or at least that was the barely fucking implied.

        • bbayliss

          Jeeezus, I think the standard is “safety AND efficacy”

      • doktorzoom

        Cheaper and better smelling than caviar.

        • Raan

          At least caviar doesn’t set your sinuses on fire in quantity.

          I assume.

          • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

            Or other sensitive mucous membranes.

          • Phried Ω

            Avoid cats, though.

    • John Thorstensen

      Sounds like you got a regular Gwynth Paltrow there.

      Me, I always ask for extra thimerosol with my flu shot.

    • Resistance Fighter Astraea

      “AND I FORGOT MY HEADPHONES.”

      https://m.popkey.co/b20107/zEjM3.gif

      • Dept. of Space Tacos

        it is how I’ve survived in public this long.

        • Resistance Fighter Astraea

          They’re a necessity. Never forget your headphones!

          • Dept. of Space Tacos

            IKR? And I have three pairs.

    • bbayliss
      • Dept. of Space Tacos

        If I was a real asshole, I’d play this video, with the volume cranked up and just laugh in the most sarcastic, condescending way I can muster.

        • bbayliss

          DO IT!!!!!

      • Zyxomma

        The N.D. who trained me, in the FIRST class I ever took with him, told us, “If you’re dying or severely injured, get to an emergency room. ER doctors will save your life.”

        He walks his talk. When he was struck by lightning on the temple, he was mute (burnt vocal cords) and blind (that was temporary). He gestured for pencil and paper, and scrawled, “NO hospital.” I met him a year later, when the only remaining symptoms from what could have been a deadly lightning strike were seizures (he later healed the seizure disorder), and cardiac arrhythmia. I found the single-herb remedy for the arrhythmia.

        • bbayliss

          (he later healed the seizure disorder) seizures are a symptom not a disease.
          What you describe is a traumatic event that caused ocular blindness.
          Believe me when I tell you I’ve had way more experience with
          epilepsy, and encephalopathy than I would ever wish on anyone, and that your story is in no way remarkable.
          Also there’s the part about you being full of beans.

    • katkelly57

      Stick your fingers in your ears and say you’re listening to a new radio station via your internal FM receiver.

  • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba
    • Villago Delenda Est

      I do believe that many on this totally unfunny site were saying that if the GOP did indeed nominate Donald, it would be the doom of said party.

      The prophecies come to pass.

      • John Thorstensen

        Somehow, the end of “Koyaanisqatsi” — the Prophecies — is going through my head.

    • natoslug

      They’ve been the party of hypocrisy, anti-woman, anti-lgbtq, anti-humanity, pro-guns and child rape party for decades. Why would a little bad news slow them down now?

      • bbayliss

        Because they’ve finally clearly revealed that they believe none of their principles?

    • 🍁 Girl Guide Salute 🖖🏻

      Not just junk it, but Nuremberg it to all hell. No one should get a free pass for cozying up with Nazis and the evil empire.

  • Bub, the cynical zombie

    “You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.”
    ― Hồ Chí Minh

    • amrak63

      True, but–what did they win?

      Vietnam now cozies up to us–due to their much older enmity with China and our mutual suspicion of China–and has become just another Third World sweatshop country.

      Like China, Vietnam has become more authoritarian-capitalist than Communist.

      All that sacrifice, for NOTHING.

      • 🍁 Girl Guide Salute 🖖🏻

        We lost the “war” but won the “peace” (by ensuring there never would be one). The world is a business, Mr. Beale.

  • Juan de Fuca

    Slightly O/T but funny. I texted Miss de Fuca’s high school boyfriend and possible future son-in-law, who is serving in the Navy, the following:

    Me: “It’s thank a vet day and thank you for your service.”
    Him: “Thank you.”
    Me: “Actually was yesterday but we’re celebrating it today, so thank you. How’s everything going out there?”
    Him: “It’s going good. Still figuring everything out. It’s good.”
    Me: “Cool. Lemme know if ya ever wanna talk, just call. We’re proud of you.”
    Him: “I just got a new phone and haven’t added this number in yet. Who is this?”
    Me: “It’s *Juan de Fuca*. You might want to add this number in.”
    Him: “Oh Hi, *Juan*! I just added it and thank you for your service! Really sorry about that.”
    Me: “Yeah, smart move! And maybe next time, don’t get into a text conversation with someone you don’t know?”
    Him: “You really are like my own dad.”

    Yup.

  • God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut.

    Our current president reminds me of the Kilgore Trout short story Hail to the Chief where a chimpanzee gets elected President of the United States of America. He wears a specially tailored jacket and jumps up and down when he hears the Marine Band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’.

    Sound familiar..?

    • Phried Ω

      Substitute a particularly dim and unrestrained orangutan.

  • Angela Ruzzo

    I always liked the final scenes of “The Killing Fields” where Dith Pran reaches the top of the hill and looks down on the refugee camp in Thailand, and then he meets Schanberg again in the camp, and they play John Lennon’s “Imagine”. It brings tears to my eyes.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwgHauFn9Gc
    (John Lennon would have been 77 last month).

    • 🍁 Girl Guide Salute 🖖🏻

      Very sad story about Dr. Ngor. He survived the actual killing fields in real life, only to be murdered by a gang that reportedly had ties to the Khmer Rouge itself.

      Sidney Schoenberg died last year too.

    • doktorzoom

      For a hell of a double feature, combine The Killing Fields with Swimming to Cambodia

      • Phried Ω

        Only if you are feeling irrational exuberance and need to sober up.

  • reelreeler

    A Trump supporter pays a visit in Slaughterhouse Five

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OixVPcCbcx0

    • “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

      ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Mother Night

    • Courser_Resistance

      I try to do this every day. Just yesterday, I was discussing a breathtaking Denver sunrise with a Lyft passenger on our ride to the airport. There’s just something about sharing my city and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets with strangers that’s really special. There’s something I truly love about transporting people in the early morning.

      I’ve found that, for me anyway, driving Lyft is a little like therapy. Sometimes someone is dealing with a really shitty day and I’m someone they can vent to. Other times, I express frustration about stuff and passengers discuss it with me. What’s more, I have something like a 4.94 rating (out of 5) with my passengers. Plus, I get amazing tips.

      • Unmutual Tetsu Kaba

        I miss the sunsets. When I was an undergrad at CSU, people would stop what they were doing in the chemistry building and just watch the sunset out the mountain facing windows.

        • Courser_Resistance

          They really are something special. I used to commute from Bailey to Denver for a couple of years and seeing every sunrise from Windy Point was unbelievable. (via Hwy 285)

      • Wow, that’s awesome. I used to work at a Camp and Conference Center across the river from my place, and I loved seeing the awe and appreciation in people’s faces as they wandered about the 70 acres of forests and meadows. The children were my favorite. I would actually get misty-eyed watching them in their excited wonder and innocence, knowing full well the harsh world that awaits them. But in the moment it was just pure delight.

        • Courser_Resistance

          Well, the irony of gorgeous sunrises and sunsets is that they are at their most spectacular when our air is its shittiest. It’s the particulates in the air that refract in the light.

          Smoke from distant wildfires is particularly spectacular.

          • This last summer was AMAZING. We had the smoke from the terrible wildfires east of the mountains cross over here in western Washington state. You could look directly at the sun for a moment because it was a perfect red orb in a thickly hazy sky. I’ve never seen anything like it. The smell was awful though. Burnt everything has a uniquely disturbing smell.

          • Courser_Resistance

            Same here. If there are big fires anywhere in the NW we get a lot of smoke. No kidding, it stinks. My north-facing apartment smelled like exhaust (to me) in the evenings for a couple of weeks.

            But the sunrises and sunsets were incredible. The local news station I watch *always* shows viewers’ rise/set pics every day on the weather cast.

          • katkelly57

            I remember waking up on one particular morning…open the slider blinds and I couldn’t see things clearly at all.

            I rubbed my eyes like 3 times wondering what the hell was going on….I opened the door all the way and saw it wasn’t me.

            Was a bit of a scare for a moment….just waking up, no coffee yet and not comprehending what you’re seeing.

          • katkelly57

            Although the air was hard to breath at times….we had some mighty sunsets this summer in the Seattle area.

      • doktorzoom

        So you don’t point out that the sunsets are especially vivid when there’s extra particulate pollution?

        • Courser_Resistance

          See below.

          Yes, I pointed out that sunrises are at their best when our air is at its shittiest.

  • 🍁 Girl Guide Salute 🖖🏻

    Interesting Yahoo article about why the “white poppies” movement never caught on in Canada. Short answer: even Canadians are suspicious of antiwar peaceniks being “disrespectful” to the soldiers. When actually, the white poppies movement is about commemorating the horrors of war, and advocating for a more peaceful world where those horrors never happen to anyone again.

    https://ca.news.yahoo.com/white-poppies-why-symbol-peace-175931531.html

  • yyyaz

    It is 11:11 MST. Peace.

  • rosenbomb

    This is one of my favorite posts of the year. Like many others, I discovered Kurt in high school. I was distraught when he died, but I’m glad he’s not around to see Trump thrash our democracy.

    “Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

    • wavicles

      It’d kill him.

  • Raan

    I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen “ambivalence” used correctly.

    • John Thorstensen

      I’m of two minds about that.

  • doktorzoom

    Since we’re talking WW I, gotta give another recommendation to Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars.

    And anything else by Hochschild, too!

    • yyyaz

      Thanks, Dok. BTW, the Eric Bogle video is perfect.

    • bbayliss

      He’s the author of “King Leopold’s Ghost”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004KZOWEG/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

      A book that haunts me to this day. Well worth reading

    • puredog

      I am particularly partial to the poetry of Wilfrid Owen. But, then, I sang Britten’s War Requiem as a soprano at a tender age, and have never gotten over it.

      • Resistor Radio

        Between the waltzing Mathilda and the Owen you replied with earlier, onion ninjas got the better of me.

    • Phried Ω

      Shout out to Kubrick” “Paths of Glory” though I can never quite realize Ralph Meeker is not Vic Morrow. Also Lewis Milestones “All Quiet…”.

  • proudgrampa

    I miss Kurt.

    And I hope that I never outgrow my sense of wonder and delight at what he wrote.

    And so it goes.

  • Ωbjectifier

    Rented a tent, a tent, a tent;
    Rented a tent, a tent, a tent.
    Rented a tent!
    Rented a tent!
    Rented a, rented a tent.

    – Uncle Kurt

  • amrak63

    Going away for a while. Homemade tacos, then off to Wally World, then back to do more laundry.

  • ken_kukec

    “… they treat him as an affectionate artifact they’ve outgrown, like model airplanes hanging from the ceiling or stuffed animals on a dorm bed.”

    Didn’t Uncle Kurt write somewhere that his Indiana adolescence was devoted to building model cars and masturbation? At least, pace certain grown-up graduates of serious literature programs, he outgrew the masturbation (of the mental variety, anyway).

    • doktorzoom

      It’s possible I may have worked an allusion or two in there.

      • Resistor Radio

        It’s possible I may have picked up on that.

  • One of the best, strangest, and even horrific films about The Great War is Able Gances J’ACCUSE!. There’s the 1919 and a 1938 sound version.

    The silent version is easier to find, but I prefer the sound one. The sound version is in desperate need of restoration.

    FUN FACT! Gance used real battle-scarred, disfigured vets for his ‘Army of the Dead’.

    REAL Life or REEL Life? : You Probably Don’t Want to Know

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e170d4269aac8cc02190351ce559eab38d0f605c60d5a945c8727eb40187af4f.jpg

  • Mark Harper

    My great uncle went to Cornell and his roommate, briefly, was Kurt Vonnegut. WWII ended their time there. It sounds like fiction, but his sister, my Grandmother, Nancy, was a passionate reader, and lifelong John Updike fan. They even shared an apparently secret pen pal relationship where Updike sent her some pretty riske and suggestive letters. She died in 2007 and asked me to care for her Updike collection, including the letters and postcards. My favorite, a photo of himself at age 3, with this written on the back – “Dear Nancy Cross, how nice it is to have a shrine somewhere! You can add this to it – me at the age of 3, by the side porch in Shillington. Best wishes, John Updike.”

    Sadly, that’s about as close as I get to having any real literary culture.

    • bbayliss

      Please treasure these and think a little about their future.
      Correspondence between my mother and her brother, that I first came across as a teenager, went into a dumpster before I could get there.
      I’d kill to have those letters now.

      • Resistor Radio

        I still have the postcard my grandfather sent
        my grandmother from Paris on VE day.

        • bbayliss

          wow…priceless.

          • Resistor Radio

            It reads:
            V is for V ____ ! ( her name)
            V is for Victory!

          • bbayliss

            Can you imagine?

          • Resistor Radio

            makes me smile

      • Mark Harper

        I will. I have a huge, I assume complete Updike collection, some signed, others with notes and letters she wrote and he wrote to her. He was pretty naughty in a couple of them. Flirting with her. My sweet and perfect Grandma! It’s a cool piece of history and I’ll donate it all to a library or museum someday.

  • And now it seems like the world we’re living in is an epilogue that began with the death of Kurt Vonnegut.

    Fun Fact! Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007. It went mostly unnoticed, because that was also the day Don Imus fatally overdosed on his own Kool Aid.

    “My goal is to goad people into saying something that ruins their life,” said Mr Imus.
    “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be,” said Mr Vonnegut.

    And: “One of the few good things about modern times: if you die horribly on television you will not have died in vain, you will have entertained us.”

    • doktorzoom

      Also good for these days: “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”

      • Jennifer R

        The trombone section leader under me (I was low brass caption head) taught my high school until recently when he moved to a college I almost went to.
        Pretty chilling shit.

        • Jeffery Campbell

          I am fascinated by this phrase: “low brass caption head.” It is, if you’ll pardon the expression, musical.

      • NorthernSaber

        We’ll, I’m pretty sure that the lion’s share of my graduating class from 1982 voted for the Orange Horror, so there we are- rural Maine, mills now gone, lots of angry white people furious that they have nothing the world needs. So yeah, that sounds right- and considering some of these people, terrifying…

      • Mike Steele

        Unlikely in the lifetime of Lady MS, who attended an all-girls public high…

    • Maclare’s Castle o’ Crap 🏰

      I had the misfortune of running into Imus several times back in my college intern years at WNBC AM. We were told not to look him in the eye…

      • mfp, all 6s&7s&9s

        i would almost take that asshole imus back in return for the insufferable joe and mika…as it is, i’ll never forgive imus for that little tidbit alone, that his assholery eventually gave us the morning blowhard crew

      • Jeffery Campbell

        That seems like self-preservation advice.

  • Résistance Land Shark Ω

    If Mr Vonnegut’s prose is an adolescent thing, then I remain an adolescent.

    • dshwa

      If Vonnegut is adolescent, then the world would be better off not growing up.

  • Being at the VA, first as a client and now as a worker, I think Slaughterhouse Five comes closest to explaining PTSD to those of us who don’t have it.

    And of course, I treasure Vonnegut and Jonathan Winters and everybody else who shares my birthday.

    • John Thorstensen

      When I was a kid in upstate NY, Utica Club beer ran a series of hilarious commercials starring beer mugs Schultz and Dooley, brilliantly voiced by — Jonathan Winters!! An example:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqXLFWIuLNE

      • I remember those! I was in and around Saratoga Springs.

  • John

    I’m a Viet Nam infantry vet who dined out with my wife last night. The restaurant had big screen TVs showing nothing but sports. (supposedly uncontroversial…) Every time I looked up, there was another computer generated panorama of sanitized heroic combat and make-believe vicarious valor that is part of the Xmas campaign to pimp the newest “Call of Duty” video game (and war…) to today’s impressionable crop of malleable males. As a child, I used to watch war movies, read “Sgt. Rock” comics, and once saved up for a Mattel plastic burp gun. I was a twig who got bent, and a few years later, I got a real M-16, the boots, uniform, and 1968 Viet Nam. I did everything expected of me, and it mentally messed me up really thoroughly for quite a while. One of the first Nuremburg War Crimes defendants to go to the gallows was in charge of developing primary school curricula and the textbooks. The older I get, the better I appreciate the rightness of that verdict. And that’s my Nov 11nth message….

    • Phried Ω

      THIS ^

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    • (((Aron)))

      Thank you.

    • doktorzoom

      Bravo. Some brilliant comments in this thread.

  • ken_kukec

    Reading those Vonnegut quotes reminds me of an incident with my father who, like Vonnegut, was a WW2 veteran, though he’d done his fighting in the Pacific.

    We used to watch the baseball game-of-the week together on Saturday afternoons in the summer. One Saturday, when I was about 9 or 10, I turned the set on to warm it up (as one had to do in those days) and the movie preceding the game was Sands of Iwo Jima. As I sat watching, my dad walked into the living room, just as John Wayne was storming the beach, mowing down row after row of Japanese soldiers with his sub-machine gun. The old man (who had a battle star from Iwo on his ribbons, and had spent time as a corpsman tending to disfigured Marines at the Pearl Harbor hospital — real Johnny Got His Gun-type stuff) took one look at the screen, shook his fist at John Wayne, and in his most disgusted voice yelled “That’s it, that’s it! Kill ’em all, KILL ‘EM ALL!!!” Then he turned to me (with more scorn than I felt was justified for a nine-year-old) and said “Son, don’t you think Japanese mothers cried every bit as hard as American ones did when their boys got killed in the War?”

    He then turned on his heels and walked out of the room, saying over his shoulder “Let me know when the goddamn game comes on.”

    • doktorzoom

      Oh, god, that’s a wonderful, heartbreaking jewel of a story. Thank you for sharing that. (would upvote, but my upvoter got broke)

      • javadavis

        I upvoted it for you, Dok. I guess my upvoter is broke for this time.

      • ken_kukec

        Thanks, Dok. Beats “cool story, bro.”

        • doktorzoom

          Cool story, bro.

  • CATMAN

    My favorite Vonnegut quote, which comes in handy when I see Trump supporters on tevee describing their adulation for the Great Leader, comes from The Sirens of Titan, a great exploding munition destroying the myth of deistic forces controlling human destiny, goes like this: “The biggest problem with stupid bastards is they are too dumb to know there is such a thing as smart”

    • Serai 1

      My favorite is, “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

  • Beelzebubba

    “Suppose we were conquered by an enemy who was too cheap to take good care of our children and old people.
    Or suppose we were conquered by an enemy who wouldn’t spend money on anything but weapons for World War Three.
    These are all tribulations we could live with, if we had to — although God forbid.”

    He saw all this coming, in 1982.

  • SeeTrain65

    Didn’t you post this last year?

    (I may make this my annual Veterans Day joke.)

    (EDIT: By popular demand, I will NOT be making this my annual Veterans Day joke.)

  • Fifth-and-a-Half Element

    I saw a Vonnegut lecture back in Nineteen ninety-five in Pittsburgh. He sang the Alma mater for Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) and told the story about hanging a sign above the entry to the English Department that admonished, “Will everyone stop being so goddamn serious for just one minute.”

  • Gosala

    I’ll see your college sophomore love of Vonnegut and raise you my high school love off Wilfred Owen:

    Dulce et Decorum Est
    BY WILFRED OWEN

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 

    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 

    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs, 

    And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 

    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots, 

    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 

    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 

    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind. 

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling 

    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, 

    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling 

    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—

    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, 

    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight, 

    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace 

    Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 

    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 

    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; 

    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 

    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 

    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 

    To children ardent for some desperate glory, 

    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 

    Pro patria mori.

    • YayConspiracy

      When I teach about rhythm in language, I use this poem. I read it aloud and make a point about the old lie. And make them hear the horrors of war in the blood that comes forth from froth corrupted lungs.

  • Husband Of Mrs God

    Tralfamadorians are clapping. Standing ovation.

  • Mike Steele

    For this again, we’ll try to live another year.

  • Serai 1

    The War Prayer, by Mark Twain

    The best and greatest piece ever written against war.

  • Mack N. Nietzsche

    I dunno Dok. At 50 I’m seeing new depths in Vonnegut that weren’t there when I was in my 20s.

  • GRH

    this quote sums up how I feel about our current situation…

    “Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.”
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

    • BeatnikBob

      This. Another great paraphrase from that book I can’t scrub from my brain…

      On the counter of every mom and pop grocery, tavern, and all establishments of small businesses across this nation, you can find right next to the cash register a small American flag attached to a small sign asking the reader:

      “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”

  • blaid droog

    I recently watched several documentary shows on netflix. Each had a different specific topic but they shared one theme. The Germans in ww2 built tremendous structures to repel allied invasion. Things that even today might seem impossible with improved technology and endless money tossed in. They built in months, factories, fortifications and armaments that should have taken years to accomplish. Their techniques were simple. Slave labor. Working nonstop 24/7. The bodies of the slaves simply thrown into the mix, literally, part of the construction. No need to feed the laborers or ever allow them to slow down or stop, even for a moment. Not to denigrate Vonnegut, as I too am a fan, perhaps a couple of his points were slightly askew. “While Germany was being tortured… Its industrial output and the determination of its people increased. This sounds remarkably simplistic. It would be better said that the fanaticism and mania of the leadership increased, not so much the nationalism of the citizenry. If your country is at war, of course you will likely fall in line and support it. If your country is being led by mad men most citizens will still stand behind the leadership. I don’t think it speaks well of the Germans, to say a country crushed in one war made a remarkable come back in the space of a decade to attempt to get even and conquer those countries that had so recently devastated your homeland. Am I stupid? Did I fail to get Vonneguts point. This would seem to be the nazi perspective; …a young boy named rocky raccoon… One day his girl ran off with another guy, hit young rocky in the eye. Rocky didn’t like that.
    He said I’m gonna get that boy.
    Isn’t that what Adolf said? I’m gonna get even. Except Adolf didn’t even have Gideons bible, in the end. Maybe I’m just an idiot, not fit to mingle with the intelligentsia.

  • Ulricii

    You get a too long delayed contribution just for this post, Dok. Better late than never, I guess. Many thanks. You made my Armistice Day weekend meaningful.

  • BeatnikBob

    Kurt Vonnegut was a Dirty Fucking Hippie. Therefore, he was right.

    About EVERYTHING.

  • Debra Dassow

    I have been reading and re-reading Kurt Vonnegut for over forty years. I taught his essay on the first ammendment from his Palm Sunday anthology to my high school Sociology classes.

  • ahughes798

    I’d rather read Vonnegut than Derrida or Focault any day.

  • sarahjane1912

    Bloody great piece, Dok, as usual, but particularly poignant and unsettling reading it today. Masterstroke to include a song of my youth in the Eric Bogle track. Wow. Armistice Day was observed back home in Australia, but still, it’s Anzac Day that rattles us most there, with ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, incredibly special to us all. Thank you, thank you, thank you …

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine

    I remember that Breakfast of Champions was like a Dave Barry article but political.

    I’ve seen the movie version of Slaughterhouse Five. I hope to eventually read the book.

  • Jeffery Campbell

    Thank you! This was essential.

  • mardam422

    Can this win the internet today?

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