The post I reblogged reminds me of one of the most thought provoking  — if overlooked — works of Mark Twain.


The first time I heard of The War Prayer was in a film adaptation of Twain’s The Private History of a Campaign that Failed.  “The War Prayer” is dramatized as an epilogue to that story. This the YouTube version: 

I chose “The War Prayer” to read at an interfaith service when I was at college.  This was in 1991 when pro-war preaching both religious and civil was still very common in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

“The War Prayer” remains relevant to this day.

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

(Updating dead links, especially from the late and lamented (here at least) VodPod, I found myself back in 2008, with this post on Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”  Fortunately, I found the film migrated to YouTube, though split in two parts.  Some information that should have caught our attention in 2008 deserves noting now, and we can update and add new links.)

It’s largely forgotten now, especially in history texts in high schools.  After the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. wrested several territories from Spain, including Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, the U.S. quickly got mired in one of the original guerrilla wars in the Philippines.  It took 15 years, but the U.S. finally put down the rebellion — 15 brutal, bloody years.  The conduct of that war shocked many people, including Mark Twain.

This piece was written partly in response to that war.


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Book Reviews: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Author: Chad Harbach
Title:  The Art of Fielding
Publication Info: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2011.
ISBN: 9780316126694

Set at a liberal arts college in Wisconsin, this novel focuses on shortstop phenom Henry Skrimshander and the Westish College catcher and captain Mike Schwartz who recruits him for the school and team.  The early part of the novel focuses on Henry’s fish out of water at college and his sassy gay roommate Owen Dunne.  Owen seems to good to be true as he not only writes plays but also is on the baseball team (and gets away with reading books in the dugout) .  The novel takes an unexpected turn when the college president Guert Affenlight becomes the central character as he deals with reconciling with his estranged daughter Pella and an obsession with Owen.  Eventually the stories of all five characters come together, although the unlikelieness of their grouping based on a number of coincidences is one of the weaknesses of the story (especially the actions of these characters at the conclusion of the novel which just don’t ring true).  The strengths of the novel are strong characterization and beautiful prose.  Harbach is adept at describing baseball like a great sportswriter but also fills his novel with literary references (most obviously to Herman Melville, but the novel often seems to be channeling John Irving).  The Art of Fielding is not a perfect novel but it is an enjoyable read with unforgettable characters.

Recommended books:  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger, and The Little Book by Selden Edwards.

Rating: ***

Beer Review: Tröegs DreamWeaver Wheat

BeerTröegs DreamWeaver Wheat
BrewerTröegs Brewing Company
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.0 of 10)
Comments: True to its style, this beer has a cloudy, golden appearance with a thick head.  The taste is adequate with a balance of fruits and spices, but it was a bit overly sweet for my tastes with an unpleasant aftertaste.  This is a serviceable brew, but there are much better wheat beers out there.

Book Review: 1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About by Joshua Clover

Author: Joshua Clover
Title:  1989: Bob Dylan Didn’t Have This To Sing About 
Publication Info: University of California Press (2010)
ISBN: 0520267877

Cultural critic, poet, and professor Joshua Clover examines the pivotal year of 1989 as it manifested itself in popular music.  He has three main focal points.  First, the transition of rap music from Black Nationalism to gangsta, from East Coast to West Coast, through Public Enemy and NWA (with a short dalliance into the third way of De La Soul’s da inner sound, y’all).  Next, he goes to England for the rave scenes of “The Second Summer of Love” which is both a term I’ve never heard before and a culture I knew little about.  Back in the US, Clover heads to the Pacific Northwest for the emergence of the inwardly focused punk/metal blend of grunge.  Later chapters also explore what was on the Billboard charts in 1989 and explicates the vapidity of the Jesus Jones’ song that provides the subtitle of the book.  The ultimate conclusion is that popular culture embraced the image-event of the fall of the Berlin Wall but missed that actual revolutions of  that year.  Overall, this was an entertaining trip down memory lane (not to mention filling in the gaps of the things I missed the first time around) but found the author’s use of an overly scholarly tone off-putting.  If you’re interested in music criticism and the history of the late 80s/early 90s, pick up this book as it won’t take long to read, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it.

Recommended books: How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll by Elijah Wald and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield.

Rating: **1/2

Singing in the Fall

In the coming months I will be singing thrice weekly with a variety of organizations.  It looks like it will be a lot of fun, although maybe a challenge for time commitments as well with rehearsals starting this week.

For the first time, I will be singing with the Mystic Chorale.  The fall concert Pastures of Plenty – Woody Guthrie at 100 will take place Saturday, Nov 17, 8:00pm and (my birthday!) Sunday, Nov 18, 3:30pm at Tremont Temple in Boston.  I’m looking forward to singing songs written and inspired by one of my all-time favorite persons.

My son and I will also once again be performing with SingPositive, JP.  This multi-generational, family chorus will be making our sophomore outing with a concert themed on Optimism in Hard Times on Sunday, December 16th, 4pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain.  If you are looking for a musical, community experience, I definitely recommend looking into SingPositive which is branching out into other communities in the Boston area.

Finally, my daughter and I will be attending regular classes of Music Together at the Children’s Music Center of Jamaica Plain.  There’s no performance with this one but it may be the most fun.  I enjoyed singing with my son when he was little and look forward to repeating the experience and introducing my baby girl to music and rhythm.

This post is partially shameless self-promotion to get you to come out to my performances, but I also hope that anyone looking for opportunities to sing and perform music in the Boston area (with or without children) will see this post.  I highly recommend all of these organizations and suggest you check them out and get involved if you’re interested.  If you know of any good singing and music activities in the Boston area, let me know in the comments.

Photopost: New Hampshire

A selection of photographs from our family vacation in New Hampshire which includes stops at Canobie Lake Park, Franconia Notch State Park, Littleton, and  the Kancamagus Highway.

The Untamed roller coaster has a drop I only thought possible in my childhood drawings.
Tree roots seeks sustenance around any obstacle
Sentinel Pine Bridge
A selection of the 700-800 jars of candy on the 112 long candy counter at Chutter’s in Littleton
The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram
Sabbaday Falls

Many more photos in my online album.