jimagain

Rants & ramblings of the disaffected

Archive for the category “Historical Fiction”

Ten-thousand Lives

It’s a grim scene, a young man to be excecuted by hanging, charged with espionage. Such is the senseless ravage of war that so often cuts short the young life in it’s prime. Facing the gallows with resignation, he spoke of giving “ten-thousand lives” if necessary. Could it be, before his life was taken, that a dying man’s regret somehow becomes fulfilled?

DNA: the strand of life; a pool of common genetic material from all of humanity has been drawn, connected across the generations. One life, one event reaches out across the span of history. Perhaps the young man was granted his dying wish?

An ancient text reads, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” ( Deuteronomy 32:7 ). History is more than dates and insignificant trivia dredged up from days long past. To be appreciated, it must be viewed from the persepctive of those who lived it. History cries out, it tells a story to those who listen.

Pascifists and Rabble-rousers

These are the times that try men’s souls.” A young man writes with passion at a wooden desk, an oil lamp flickering in the background. He pauses to reflect, then continues. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The scene progresses to a printer busy at work, reading the words out loud as his assistant sets the type. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Next we cut to two men standing on the street corner, one reading a pamphlet out loud to himself as the other listens intently. “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” One or two gather to listen until others crane to hear. The man reads the words out loud to a raucous but uneasy crowd, lifting up his voice. “Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

British soldiers march In the background, eying the boisterous gathering.

Two things there was no shortage of in the colonies in those days; pacifists & rabble-rousers, with the masses caught up in the middle. The climate darkens with the prospect of war. Whatever your opinion or side, the outcome seems inevitable.

The Pool of Human Experience

This thing we call, DNA: could it be more than random groups of complimentary base pairs connected by hydrogen bonds and wound about a double helix frame of phosphate and ribose? Perhaps we only arrogantly assume science knows all, that no mysteries remain to be solved or explained. How then do codons and indels and RNA primers work together to express that code? We understand the basic concept of the exchange of genetic material that takes place between parallel sets of chromosomes during meiosis, expressing unique physical traits and characteristics. But what about personalityand behavior? How little do we know? How much deeper does this current run beneath the surface in the course of humanity? Are experience and behavior, personality and pre-dispositions somehow simultaneously copied and transcribed and reproduced along with the physical traits; handed down from one generation to the next?

Into The Lair

A man sitting alone in the crowded tavern is a admission to the fact that he’s out of place, he doesn’t belong. In a place where men go to meet and share a drink, a man by himself attracts attention. This young man sits silent, listening. Under normal circumstances such an aberration would be politely ignored. but these times are anything but normal. The country is at war. a large force overseas is stationed in the city. This is a war of neighbor against neighbor, Whigs against the Tories and Loyalists, the pacifists and those clamoring for war. It is a civil war, a revolutionary war. This is a time of war and everyone is a suspect.

Background: New York falls to the British about mid-September, 1776 . As Howe draws the noose, Washington narrowly escapes. A young man volunteers to go behind enemy lines in order to spy on the British. He knows full well the risk should he be caught.

One man sits and watches. “Hello? What have we here,” he asks himself. “Sitting alone, is he? And why, pray tell does a man sit alone in a tavern unless… he’s not from here.” He takes a sip from his glass. Could he be a spy? A few ales later and some idle talk from some of the regulars, eager to talk at the prospect a free draft…

“He’s a quiet man, they say.” Only recently has he begun to frequent the establishment. They talk in hushed tones against a raucous din of noisy patrons spewing out ale along with the news of the day. “Mostly he just sits and listens as people talk. Says he’s a teacher of sorts. Just recently arrived. Not from here, he is.”

“That so?” Later on he joins the lone patron.” Mind if I join you,” he asks, then sits before he can consent …or object.

“Not a bit, Sir.”

He seems a bit nervous, the young man. His new found companion appears to be more than a bit tipsy. “So what’s a man like yourself here alone in a crowded tavern. Not a good place to be alone, I think.” He grins. He watches his manners and conduct. Obviously he’s well-educated but I think naive. He’s a spy alright but not a good one. Let’s see if he’ll take the bait.

He lowers his voice in the crowded tavern to voice his displeasure at the politics of the day. Feigning his allegiance to the American colonies, he seems bitter. “Lost my business to the King. Confiscated for lack of payment…” he leans in close “…taxes,” he says! “Thugs and robbers, the lot of them. I have information,” he offers. “…troop movements and the like. How’d I’d love to share it with those rebels after what they did…” The trap is set. He arranges a hasty meeting with his contact. Later that night the stranger is apprehended by the Queen’s Rangers. Interrogated by General Howe himself, he is charged as a spy.

The Substitute

The scene cuts to a school in New York. A young man enters a classroom. The substitute teacher has arrived. It’s cold outside. He wears a scarf wrapped tightly about his neck.

“Who are you,” the class demanded?

“Perhaps it is I who should be doing the asking. Who are you,” he countered? “For the next two days I will be your substitute teacher. I see by the lesson plan, we’re studying the Revolutionary War.” I’m going to jump in with an excert from a play by the name of, “CATO”, holding up his well-worn copy.

“A play, they ask? How boring is that? “Boring.” he replies?

“Have you read it?!!” Ignoring their protests he begins to read. His words rise to compete with his audience. Passion rings from his words as one by one they fall quiet, caught up in the fervor of the words.

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue! Who would not be that youth? What pity is it That we can die but once to serve our country.

This play helped serve as an ideological inspiration to the American cause during the war. These words inspired General Washington during Valley Forge; besides him, we think also inspired Patrick Henry to utter, “Give me Liberty or give me death!’ And one other, an apparent reference from the remarks of Nathan Hale in his last words as he went to the gallows.

“How do you know so much about history?”

“Mostly from reading eye-witness accounts. That’s the answer I’m going with,” he smiles. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Two days later, the regular teacher returns to class and the myterious substitute slips away as quietly as he appeared.

At The Gallows

It’s a grim scene at the gallows to watch an execution. The young man conducts himself with resolute firmness and dignity. He is resigned to his sentence, unapologetic to the end. He makes his last remark, defiant. His is not the first young life lost to war. Lives lost, interrupted are a casulty of war. Cut short by a bullet or a bayonet or in this case… a hangman’s noose.

Before he dies, he utters words that still live on. He has a regret, not that he had been caught or he had been sentenced to death so young. His regret is of a different sort. As we listen to his words we get the sense that as unpleasant as his fate may be; given the choice he would do it again if need be. His regret is that he only has one life to give. Accounts vary but something to this effect. Should he have ten thousand lives to live, he declares that he would readily give them all. “Ten thousand lives,” he said. And then he is summarily executed. Spectators witness the grisly scene. Witnesses, gripped by what they saw that day record the event for posterity. This sacrifice, given once will be told again. Rehearsed, recounted, and perhaps even …re-lived?!!

The Dictates Of The Past

Who are you?

No, really. Who are you?

Surrounded by our modern environs, besieged by mind-numbing television in a culture satiated with entertainment; operating under the pretense that science can explain all the mysteries of life. I suppose it may be easy to convince yourself you are a mere random act of chance and not something deeper, a product more of design than chance. A healthy dose of skepticism should alert us that we may know so little of what we only assume. Perhaps your roots go deeper than you comprehend, perhaps you are more closely connected -wired- to the past than you suspect. Is it possible that memories may not be inherited from one generation to the next? Just maybe the thread of DNA that runs through our genetic flow, runs deeper than we realize. Maybe an exchange of genetic material gleaned from our past progenitors, an undercurrent in the gene pool carries you along in its tow. Perhaps it dictates more than the color of our eye or the complexion of our skin? Does your past still exert an influence over you, stronger than you understand? Maybe this explains why we’re so unique and yet so similar? Do we inherit more than physical expressions of our progenitors? Maybe history does indeed repeat itself, not a script we act out verbatim as mindless drones but predispositions that run deep within, exert more power than we realize..

At one time, simple blobs of protoplasm were sufficient an explanation to satisfy a man inclined to believe that life could be so simple, or so simply explained. Some say love is merely a combination of certain hormones and the physiological interaction of the sympathetic nervous system. Is it mere chemistry? Or is there more to it than neurotransmitters and biochemical reactions? Maybe what we call science is less than the perfect knowledge we assume it to be, is instead an oversimplification of more profound truth we have yet to comprehend?

Everyday Heroes

I see them everyday. soldiers. Just ordinary people whose lives have been interrupted, preparing to deploy overseas. Most come back. Some return but not the same as they left. Some do not at all.

“Here,” she says, handing him a letter. “This came for you today, looks official,” she says. “What is it?” He reads to himself in disbelief, lips moving silently. His heart drops, he pauses. Then with somber expression looks up. “Orders,” he replies. “These are my orders. My unit”, he pauses… “were being mobilized. Afghanistan.” Winded by the news. They embrace. “I’ve got to go,” he says. She nods but doesn’t let go.

Most return, some do not.

Inconclusive

A few days later the FBI show up at the school to investigate the recent substitute teacher. “We’re not at liberty to discuss the case.

A couple of agents confer in private. “Who was he? And why would he impersonate a teacher?”

The other agent replies,”Can’t say that we know just yet. Maybe he’s an idealogue of some kind. Maybe he had some agenda. We’ve got some background check information on him but not much more. The information we gathered so far indicates he was a veteran. Here’s his the file with an I.D. card. According to this, let’s see, last name…” pauses… “Hale …he was a captain,” Pausing again… “but that can’t be right?

“Why not?”

“Last year, about this time… he was killed in action in Afghanistan.”

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Back To The Dark Ages!

Want to eliminate over-population, wipe out the high cost of healthcare, reduce unemployment, etc. ???

The answer is obvious. Shut down the hospitals. Fine doctors and nurses for prolonging the quality of our lives, ban health care altogether. Or….if you want to avoid the appearance of callousness, turn the entire health care industry over to gov’t regulation to ‘manage’ it and it will soon go the way of social security and public education. You can always blame whichever political party of your preference.

In short, we must go backward if we are to move forward!

Good grief, people! What’s wrong with us? Has humanity been reduced to a bunch of namby-pamby cry-babies? During the dark ages people were so miserable, they were lined up to die. They had to invent new and interesting diseases like the Black Death or the Bubonic Plauge. And wars?!! They couldn’t keep enough wars scheduled. War’s really weren’t the refined affairs we see today but were basically arranged like turkey shoots; where both sides lined up and politely took turns wiping out each other, one rank at a time. Think of a game of Red Rover…with guns! And the gov’t did its part by holding mass starvations…and if there were any stragglers, they routinely rounded up random groups of people for public executions (hint of sarcasm).

Is this too cheery a picture? Let’s listen in on the town crier in the ‘ye olde towne square’;

“Hear ye, hear ye: Today’s current events, we have mass starvation in the cities; Public executions to be held today in the town square, applicant’s now accepted, limit two per family; the forecast for next week is war, followed by rampant disease. Mass human suffering and misery now available to qualified applicants – offer may expire, void where prohibited; and Tuesday’s normally scheduled inquisition has been postponed to Thursday…and now a word from our sponsor…”

The French Revolution was a case in point; in the name of enlightenment, liberty, human rights and dignity, academic enrichment, and the unprecedent scientific advances made by mankind, we were able to execute large amounts of the population in extremely short periods of time (steeped in sarcasm). It was a Malthusian wet -dream.

Let me give out a big high five to technology; and Joseph Guillotine, who (obviously so) invented the device bearing his own name that ushered in a realm of terror and population control; previously we had to rely on hangings which were replaced by a kinder and gentler method of execation (more sarcasm).

To illustrate how conditions were, I will let you in on a little peek backwards into the past. Three guys are languishing in the dungeon, one painfully stretched out on a torutre rack, one suspended from the ceiling in a metal cage, the other in stocks with a large rat contentedly gnawing at his leg.

“It’s my pet,” he explained.

In walks the executioner. “Bad news. We’re almost out of rope, guys. and I’m only issued one bullet – apparently he was the genetic predecessor to Barney Fife – so only one of you lucky guys gets executed today.”

Simultaneously sighs in unison escape from the dejected crowd: “Oohhh”!

“But hey, cheer up guys. We can’t be all greedy…So, I’m making you pick. We can vote you out or draw straws, or we can play the shell game. You get to help me choose who gets it”.

“Me, me. My turn!”

“Don’t be so selfish”, the others chided.

See how it was then? I was able to meticulously and historically recreate the scene through 2000 year old forensic evidence, after watching only one episode of CSI. And this is what I was able to infer…with a little help for my over-active imagination.

Everything was going fine and the population was kept in check, until those pesky ‘do-gooders’ came along and ruined everything for the rest of us.

First this Alexander Fleming guy came along with the unmitigated goodwill to invent penicillin from moldy food. Next thing you know people aren’t dying like they used to. And that is why you had to pay too much for your prescription at the drug store.

Fortunately for humanity, we still had our Marie Antoinettes’ who ate cake while the masses died of starvation but there’s only so much one gal can do. Sigh!

Now all we can do is lament that things are so good no one gets excited about dying prematurely anymore. 30 or 40 used to be ‘old’, now we’ve turned the entire Florida peninsula into a retirement home for old fogies who impertinently refuse to kick the bucket.

So after further review, I have come to the conclusion that life is good despite a bad economy, expensive healthcare, and the constipated system of government we endure.

And I think I can live with that!

Ten-thousand Lives

History Tells

It’s a grim scene, a young man to be excecuted by hanging, charged with espionage. Such is the senseless ravage of war that so often cuts short the young life in it’s prime. Facing the gallows with resignation, he spoke of giving “Ten-thousand lives” if necessary. Before his life was taken; a dying man’s last regret somehow becomes fulfilled.

DNA: the strand of the living. A pool of common genetic material from all of humanity has been drawn, connected across the generations. One life, one event reaches out across the span of history. Perhaps the young man was granted his dying wish?

An ancient text reads, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” ( Deuteronomy 32:7 ). History is more than dates and insignificant trivia dredged up from days long past. to be appreciated, it must be viewed from the persepctive of those who lived it. History cries out, it tells a story to those who listen.

Pascifists and Rabble-rousers

These are the times that try men’s souls.” A young man writes with passion at a wooden desk, an oil lamp flickering in the background. He pauses to reflect, then continues. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The scene progresses to a printer busy at work, reading the words out loud as his assistant sets the type. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Next we cut to two men standing on the street corner, one reading a pamphlet out loud to himself as the other listens intently. “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” One or two gather to listen until others crane to hear. The man reads the words out loud to a raucous but uneasy crowd, lifting up his voice. “Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

British soldiers march In the background, eying the boisterous gathering.

Two things there was no shortage of in the colonies in those days; pacifists & rabble-rousers, with the masses caught up in the middle. The climate darkens with the prospect of war. Whatever your opinion or side; the outcome seems inevitable.

The Pool of Human Experience

This thing we call, DNA: could it be more than random groups of complimentary base pairs connected by hydrogen bonds and wound about a double helix frame of phosphate and ribose? How do codons and indels and RNA primers work together to express that code? We understand the basic concept of the exchange of genetic material that takes place between parallel sets of chromosomes during meiosis, expressing unique physical traits and characteristics. But what about personalityand behavior? How little do we know? How much deeper does this current run beneath the surface in the course of humanity? Are experience and behavior, personality and pre-dispositions somehow simultaneously copied and transcribed and reproduced along with the physical traits; handed down from one generation to the next? Perhaps?

Into The Lair

A man sitting alone in the crowded tavern is a admission to the fact that he’s out of place, he doesn’t belong. In a place where men go to meet and share a drink, a man by himself attracts attention. This young man sits silent, listening. Under normal circumstances such an aberration would be politely ignored. but these times are anything but normal. The country is at war. a large force overseas is stationed in the city. This is a war of neighbor against neighbor, Whigs against the Tories and Loyalists, the pacifists and those clamoring for war. It is a civil war, a revolutionary war. This is a time of war and everyone is a suspect.

Background: New York falls to the British about mid-September, 1776 . As Howe draws the noose, Washington narrowly escapes. A young man volunteers to go behind enemy lines in order to spy on the British. He knows all too well the risk should he be caught.

One man sits and watches. “Hello? What have we here,” he asks himself. “Sitting alone, is he? And why, pray tell does a man sit alone in a tavern unless… he’s not from here.” He takes a sip from his glass. Could he be a spy? A few ales later and some idle talk from some of the regulars, eager to talk at the prospect a free draft…

“He’s a quiet man, they say.” Only recently has he begun to frequent the establishment. They talk in hushed towns against a raucous din of noisy patrons spewing out ale along with the news of the day. “Mostly he just sits and listens as people talk. Says he’s a teacher of sorts. Just recent arrived. Not from here, he is.”

“That so?” Later on he joins the lone patron.” Mind if I join you,” he asks, then sits before he can consent …or object.

“Not a bit, Sir.”

He seems a bit nervous, the young man. His new found companion appears to be more than a bit tipsy. “So what’s a man like yourself here alone in a crowded tavern. Not a good place to be alone, I think.” He grins. He watches his manners and conduct. Obviously he’s well-educated but I think naive. He’s a spy alright but not a good one. Let’s see if he’ll take the bait.

He lowers his voice in the crowded tavern to voice his displeasure at the politics of the day. Feigning his allegiance to the American colonies, he seems bitter. “Lost my business to the King. Confiscated for lack of payment…” he leans in close “…taxes,” he says! “Thugs and robbers, the lot of them. I have information,” he offers. “…troop movements and the like. How’d I’d love to share it with those rebels after what they did…” The trap is set. He arranges a hasty meeting with his contact. Later that night the stranger is apprehended by the Queen’s Rangers. Interrogated by General Howe himself, he is charged as a spy.

The Substitute

The scene cuts to a school in New York. A young man enters a classroom. The substitute teacher has arrived. It’s cold outside. He wears a scarf wrapped tightly about his neck.”Who are you,” the class demanded? “Perhaps it is I who should be doing the asking. Who are you,” he countered? “For the next two days I will be your substitute teacher. You can call me, ‘Mr. H’. I see by the lesson plan, we’re studying the Revolutionary War.” I’m going to jump in with an excert from a play by the name of, “CATO”, holding up his well-worn copy. “A play, they ask? How boring is that? “Boring.” he replies? “Have you read it?!!” Ignoring their protests he begins to read. His words rise to compete with his audience. Passion rings from his words as one by one they fall quiet. Mesmerized, caught up in the fervor of the words.

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it

That we can die but once to serve our country.

This play helped serve as an ideological inspiration to the American cause during the war. These words inspired General Washington during Valley Forge; besides him, we think also inspired Patrick Henry to utter, “Give me Liberty or give me death!’ And one other, an apparent reference from the remarks of Nathan Hale in his last words as he went to the gallows.

“How do you know so much about history?”
“Mostly from reading eye-witness accounts. That’s the answer I’m going with,” he smiles. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Two days later, the regular teacher returns to class and the myterious substitute slips away as quietly as he appeared.

At The Gallows

It’s a grim scene at the gallows to watch an execution. The young man conducts himself with resolute firmness and dignity. He is resigned to his sentence, unapologetic to the end. He makes his last remark, defiant. His is not the first young life lost to war. Lives lost, interrupted are a casulty of war. Cut short by a bullet or a bayonet or in this case… a hangman’s noose. That’s what wars ultimately do.

Before he dies, he utters words that still live on. He has a regret, not that he had been caught or he had been sentenced to death so young. His regret is of a different sort. As we listen to his words we get the sense that as unpleasant as his fate may be; given the choice he would do it again if need be. His regret is that he only has one life to give. Accounts vary but something to this effect. Should he have ten thousand lives to live, he declares that he would readily give them all. “Ten thousand lives,” he said. And then he is summarily executed. Spectators witness the grisly scene. Witnesses, gripped by what they saw that day record the event for posterity. This sacrifice, given once will be told again. Rehearsed, recounted, and perhaps even …re-lived?!!

The Dictates Of The Past

Who are you?

No, really. Who are you?

Surrounded by our modern environs, besieged by mind-numbing television in a culture satiated with entertainment; operating under the pretense that science can explain all the mysteries of life. I suppose it may be easy to convince yourself you are a mere random act of chance and not something deeper, a product more of design than chance. A healthy dose of skepticism should alert us that we may know so little of what we only assume. Perhaps your roots go deeper than you comprehend, perhaps you are more closely connected -wired- to the past than you suspect. Is it possible that memories may not be inherited from one generation to the next? Just maybe the thread of DNA that runs through our genetic flow, runs deeper than we realize. Maybe an exchange of genetic material gleaned from our past progenitors, an undercurrent in the gene pool carries you along in its tow. Perhaps it dictates more than the color of our eye or the complexion of our skin? Does your past still exert an influence over you, stronger than you understand? Maybe this explains why we’re so unique and yet so similar? Do we inherit more than physical expressions of our progenitors? Maybe history does indeed repeat itself, not a script we act out verbatim as mindless drones but predispositions that run deep within, exert more power than we realize..

At one time, simple blobs of protoplasm were sufficient an explanation to satisfy a man inclined to believe that life could be so simple, or so simply explained. Some say love is merely a combination of certain hormones and the physiological interaction of the sympathetic nervous system. Is it mere chemistry? Or is there more to it than neurotransmitters and biochemical reactions? Maybe what we call science is less than the perfect knowledge we assume it to be, is instead an oversimplification of more profound truth we have yet to comprehend?

Everyday Heroes

I see them everyday. soldiers. Just ordinary people whose lives have been interrupted, preparing to deploy overseas. Most come back. Some return but not the same as they left. Some do not at all.

“Here,” she says, handing him a letter. “This came for you today, looks official,” she says. “What is it?” He reads to himself in disbelief, lips moving silently. His heart drops, he pauses. Then with somber expression looks up. “Orders,” he replies. “These are my orders. My unit”, he pauses… “were being mobilized. Afghanistan.” Winded by the news. They embrace. “I’ve got to go,” he says. She nods but doesn’t let go.

Most return, some do not.

Inconclusive

A few days later the FBI show up at the school to investigate the recent substitute teacher. “We’re not at liberty to discuss the case. A couple of agents are discussing the matter in private. “Who was he? And why would he impersonate a teacher?” The other agent replies,”Can’t say that we know just yet. Maybe he’s an idealogue of some kind. Maybe he had some agenda. We’ve got some background check information on him but not much more. The information we gathered so far indicates he was a veteran. Here’s his the file with an I.D. card. According to this, let’s see, last name…” pauses… “Hale …he was a captain,” Pausing again… “but that can’t be right?
“Why not?”
“Last year, about this time… he was killed in action in Afghanistan.”

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