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THERE ARE SEVEN CATEGORIES LISTED BELOW

AFTER THAT LIST YOU CAN SCROLL FURTHER DOWN FOR A MUCH MORE DETAILED LIST OF THE CONTENTS

 

♠NONFICTION



YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION (Part 1)   (Japan’s radical protest movement turned its streets into war zones)       (3,800 words)

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION (Part 2)  (Then it all went haywire and homicidal) (6,900 words)

AFRICANUS  (This obscure preacher in an obscure colony figured a race-based rebellion would do the trick)    (2,800 words)

THE COCONUT KING   (The nude dude [1875-1919] and his attitude to food)     (1,700 words)

THE YAGHAN PEOPLE OF TIERRA DEL FUEGO & THEIR INSURMOUNTABLE LANGUAGE   (It’s a wonder the missionary’s brain didn’t explode)    (2,000 words)

GRAFFITISTAN       (Inconvenience raised to an art form)  (800 words)

THE KANNIBAL CLUB    (The cuisine that not only comes pre-packaged but transports itself across Siberia)      (1,000 words)

WHIPPED BY THREE FLAGS  (Yang was pitted against the enemy of his former enemy’s enemy)   (2,800 words)

THE CITY OF HYPHENS (or THE DRUNKEN CORONER (The Italian city with more psychiatrists per capita than even Buenos Aires)    (2,900 words)

THE MEN WHO WEREN’T THERE(Butch & Sundance are dead. No they ain’t. Yes they are. No they ain’t. So where are they?)      (Currently undergoing a rewrite)

 

♠FICTION

THE LATIN LOVERS  (Her finely calibrated cruelty shook Cat to the core)   (1,700 words)

BEYOND THE DEAD CHINAMAN   (She had the man and she had the plan. But did she have the luck?)    (4,100 words)

MASCULINE PLURAL  (As if his life wasn’t complic8ed enough, Zander entered the clone zone and doubled his DNA)    (5,300 words)

SO YOU WANT TO TRAVEL THRU TIME   (Theres big big big money in it lol)     (2,000 words)

THE MAFIA ON THE MOON   (Spacecraft with built-in ashtrays and ice dispensers)   (700 words)

WHAT THE EYES BEHOLD (The thief of time might steal your dignity)   (900 words)

THE KISS OF ’96(Mr. Edison’s contraption could bring us ruination!)      (900 words)

 

♠NEOLOGISMS

TOO MANY TO LIST. CLICK THE LINK.

 

♠MUSIC

THE FALL    DEAN & BRITTA and LAURIE ANDERSON   BRIAN ENO    VAN MORRISON/LUC BOONEN and HOZIER    JAMES    SERGE GAINSBOURG & JANE BIRKIN    ARCADE FIRE     SIR RICHARD BISHOP   MISSISSIPPI FRED McDOWELL and HOWLIN’ WOLF

 

♠FILMS & TV

THE HOSPITAL (1971)    THE HOSPITAL (1971)    WITHNAIL & I (1987)   WITHNAIL & I (1987)     BURN!    RODNEY DANGERFIELD    WOODY ALLEN   WOODY ALLEN    WOODY ALLEN   sex, lies and videotape   WHO’S ON FIRST?   THE MUSIC OF MEN’S LIVES   THE FUTURE KING OF COMEDY?

 

♠SPOKEN WORD PERFORMANCES

TOYAH WILLCOX & ROBERT FRIPP     DANIEL PELISSIER   WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS   WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS

 

♠WHAT DOESN’T FIT (UNCLASSIFIABLE)

TOO MANY TO LIST. CLICK THE LINK.

 

♠POEMS

FROM FAR & WIDE. TOO MANY TO LIST. CLICK THE LINK.

 

HERE’S THE MUCH MORE DETAILED TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THE MAIN CATEGORIES

 

NONFICTION:

 

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION (Part 1)

Japan’s radical protest movement went wild as the nation’s campuses and cities became war zones (3,800 words)

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SAY HELLO TO MY GEBABO

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YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION (Part 2)

The road to Revolution in Japan will be paved with bombs and corpses! 

(How Japan’s radical protest movement went haywire and homicidal.) (6,900 words)

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WE WERE JUST GETTING STARTED

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THE KANNIBAL CLUB

Fresh food which not only transports itself through Siberia but comes already packaged  (1,000 words)

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THE  COCONUT KING

The nude dude (1875-1919) and his attitude to food (1,700 words)

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IT BECAME “THE DONE THING” FOR VISITORS TO…HAVE THEIR PHOTOS TAKEN WITH THE LOCAL NAKED LOONY

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THE YAGHAN PEOPLE OF TIERRA DEL FUEGO & THEIR INSURMOUNTABLE LANGUAGE

The most basic technology imaginable but a language of mind boggling complexity (2,100 words)

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YOU SOON LEARN THAT LOOKS AREN’T EVERYTHING

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THE CITY OF HYPHENS (or THE DRUNKEN CORONER)

This Italian port city is so obscure that many Italians aren’t even sure it’s in Italy (2,900 words)

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TRIESTE HAS MORE PSYCHIATRISTS PER CAPITA THAN EVEN BUENOS AIRES

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THE MEN WHO WEREN’T THERE

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid: their survival depended on sowing confusion and piling up the contradictions. So can we pierce the fog and fish out the facts without mixing too many metaphors?  (This article is currently undergoing a rewrite.)

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HERE’S THE PLAN: WE’LL GO STRAIGHT TO ARGENTINA AND GO STRAIGHT

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AFRICANUS

The colonial preacher said he only wanted justice. So he started a rebellion. (2,800 words)

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HE’S A REBEL

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GRAFFITISTAN

If it’s Sunday and you want to spend money, heroin and hookers might be your only options  (800 words)

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MAYBE SOMETHING’S OPEN?

 

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WHIPPED BY THREE FLAGS

Yang was pitted against the enemy of his former enemy’s enemy (2,800 words)

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THEY ALL GOT A PIECE OF YANG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GO TO: NONFICTION FICTION

MUSIC SPOKEN WORD 

POEMS FILMS & TV WHAT DOESN’T FIT

 

 

NEOLOGISMS:

 

NEWLY COINED WORDS FOR WHEN WE DON’T ALREADY HAVE WORDS.

TOO MANY TO LIST HERE.  JUST CLICK NEOLOGISMS AND IT’S AN EASY SCROLL.

(Examples: WHAT IS THE WORD FOR “LAUGHING AT YOUR OWN JOKES?

ORSOMEONE WHO CLAIMS TO BE THE VICTIM OF MULTIPLE ALIEN ABDUCTIONS?

ORSOMEONE WHO’S MORE THAN AN ACQUAINTANCE BUT LESS THAN A FRIEND? )

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GO TO: NONFICTION NEOLOGISMS 

MUSIC SPOKEN WORD 

FILMS & TV POEMS  WHAT DOESN’T FIT

 

 

FICTION:

 

 

MASCULINE PLURAL

Three can be a bit of a crowd in the clone zone. So what’s the solution?  (5,300 words)

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MAYBE ZANDER SHOULDN’T HAVE SAID OUI

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 BEYOND THE DEAD CHINAMAN

Now that he and Maggie were in cahoots, he wondered if this might afford him special privileges   (4,100 words)

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A WOMAN, A MAN AND A CRIMINAL PLAN IN POST-BELLUM TEXAS

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SO YOU WANT TO TRAVEL THRU TIME

Hey there to the max! Thats our future your playing with lol. Dont forget. (2,000 words)

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ITS THE YEAR 2118 (TWENTY-ONE 8EEN) ALREADY LOL & THERES BIG MONEY IN TIME TRAVEL LOL

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THE LATIN LOVERS

We can imagine him standing before a polished copper mirror, telling himself to get a grip, get a grip, get a grip   (1,700 words)

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LIZ’S FINELY CALIBRATED CRUELTY SHOOK HIM TO THE CORE 

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 THE KISS OF ’96

Everyone knows I haven’t a prudish bone in my body  (900 words)

 

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MOVING PICTURES WILL SURELY LEAD SOCIETY TO PERDITION!

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WHAT THE EYES BEHOLD

“…And now doth time waste me.” (Don’t let this happen to you!) (900 words)

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A DOUBLE CAPPUCCINO AND THEN REALLY KNUCKLE DOWN

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THE MAFIA ON THE MOON

He’d drink the first martini and smoke the first cigarette in space because who needs NASA? (650 words)

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A $100 BILL IN EVERY POCKET MEANS NOBODY SAW NOTHIN’!

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GO TO: NONFICTION NEOLOGISMS

FICTION POEMS   TV & FILM

MUSIC     WHAT DOESN’T FIT

 

 

SPOKEN WORD PERFORMANCES:

 

THE LADY OR THE TIGER?

He understood her nature

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THE CLASSIC TALE PERFORMED BY TOYAH WILLCOX AND ROBERT FRIPP

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TO PROVE A VILLAIN

Since I cannot prove a lover…

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DANIEL PELISSIER‘S WITTY RENDITION OF THE FAMOUS SHAKESPEARE BIT

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THE TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMINGS

Perhaps the appendix is already out, doctor

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WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS INTRODUCES DR. BENWAY

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THE DO-RIGHTS

Get there firstest with the brownest nose!

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THEY SAID WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS HAD THE WRONG ATTITUDE

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GO TO: NONFICTION   NEOLOGISMS 

SPOKEN WORD  FILMS & TV MUSIC

FICTION 

WHAT DOESN’T FIT

 

 

POEMS:

I KNOW.

BUT MOST OF THEM ARE AMUSING. AND ALL ARE SHORT.

(THE “POEMS” LIST IS ALSO SHORT. IT’S AN EASY SCROLL.)

 

POINTY BIRDS by STEVE MARTIN

 

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A POEM IN THE STYLE OF JOHN WILMOT, 2nd EARL OF ROCHESTER (1647-1680)

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THE MOVIE THE LIBERTINE WAS BASED ON HIS LIFE 

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FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

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IT’S A YUGE HONOR, I HAVE TO BE HONEST.

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WEE WORKS FROM VARIOUS POETS

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BREVITY SOUL WIT

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A MODEL OF CONCISION

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WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827)

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A POST-STRUCTURALIST LAY DYING

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GO TO:

NONFICTION

NEOLOGISMS

FICTION

FILMS & TV

POEMS

SPOKEN WORD

WHAT DOESN’T FIT

 

MUSIC TRACKS:

Brian Eno      The Fall       Van Morrison and Hozier       Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin     James       Arcade Fire       Dean & Britta and Laurie Anderson      Sir Richard Bishop     Mississippi Fred McDowell and Howlin’ Wolf

 

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ON EACH TITLE IN THE MUSIC CATEGORY

 

AN ENDING (ASCENT)

Brian Enos cosmic calm. Play this in a dark room on full screen at a comfortable volume and see if your perspective isn’t altered.

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THRICE FALLEN

Three (?) songs by The (mighty) Fall

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“THEY REALLY (WERE) QUITE MAGNIFICENT, YOU KNOW.”

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TWO SONGS, LOTS OF PHOTOS & A VIDEO

Van Morrisons Purple Heather (photos by Luc Boonen) followed by Hoziers version of Morrison’s Sweet Thing

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THIS IS WHY THE FRENCH DON’T SUCK

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (late 1960’s)…

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PERFORMING Je T’aime,…Mois non plus (LATE 1960’S)

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LAID

by James (U.K.) 1993: a boppy little track, this

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HER DIMENSIONS

by Arcade Fire (Montreal). A track from the soundtrack of the Spike Jonze film Her (2013)

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THE SONG BOB DYLAN WROTE & THEN VIRTUALLY FORGOT and IT TANGO

Dean & Britta‘s version of the long lost Bob Dylan song I’ll Keep It With Mine and Laurie Anderson‘s It Tango

 

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IT TAKES 1 TO KNOW 1

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MAHAVIDYA

by Sir Richard Bishop (A solo guitar track)

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ARISE, SIR RICHARD”

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“I DON’T PLAY NO ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!”

Mississippi Fred McDowell’s Shake ‘Em On Down followed by Howlin’ Wolf‘s unforgettable Smokestack Lightnin’

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GO TO: NONFICTION

NEOLOGISMS

FICTION

SPOKEN WORD

POEMS

MUSIC

WHAT DOESN’T FIT

 

 

KEY SCENES FROM KEY MOVIES (AND A LITTLE TV):

 

(THE UNDERLYING QUESTION IS ALWAYS: WHY AREN’T SOME OF THESE FILMS BETTER KNOWN?)

 

QUINTESSENCE OF DUST: final scene from Withnail & I (1987 comedy-drama)   

 “THE WRONG POOR SON OF A BITCH: early scene from The Hospital (1971 satire) 

THE FUTURE KING OF COMEDY? : He’s a funny guy, right?  Right?           

BAGS OF HANGUPS: sex, lies and videotape (1989)           

BURN!: a neglected film from Marlon Brando’s middle period        

CALL-WHAT’S-HIS-NAME-AND-ASK-HIM-ABOUT-HIS-HOUSE: early scene from Withnail & I (1987) 

“YOU HAVE MEDDLED WITH THE PRIMAL FORCES OF NATURE!”: pivotal scene from Network (1976) 

I SAID, ‘EVERYBODY LIVES WITH LIES’!”: pivotal scene from The Hospital (1971) 

THE INTERROGATIVE PRONOUN PLAYS AT BASE #1: classic comedy routine from 1953 

LOVING AND DYING: subjectively objective scene from Love and Death (1975)           

HE HAS THEM……: the pinnacle of stand up comedy            

DEEP IN THE RUSSIAN SOUL: more from Love and Death          

THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL LOVEMAKING: and Love and Death again          

THE MUSIC OF MEN’S LIVES”: scene from Mark Rylance’s acclaimed stage performance in Richard II

 

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ON EACH TITLE IN THE KEY SCENES FROM KEY MOVIES (AND A LITTLE TV) CATEGORY

 

QUINTESSENCE OF DUST

The scene from Withnail and I (1987 comedy-drama) where Withnail and “I” part company for the last time

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WELL, THIS IS IT

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“THE WRONG POOR SON OF A BITCH”

The scene from The Hospital (1971 satire) where they find a dead doctor in a patient’s bed

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YOU AND I HAD BETTER HAVE A LITTLE CHAT

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THE FUTURE KING OF COMEDY?

From the TV series Life is Too Short (Ep 1)

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I’M A FUNNY GUY, RIGHT?

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BAGS OF HANGUPS

The 1989 drama sex, lies and videotape in its entirety

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THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN

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BURN!

One of Marlon Brando‘s lesser known films, languishing in undeserved obscurity since 1968

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WORTH A LOOK EVEN JUST FOR THE OPENING CREDITS

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CALL-WHAT’S-HIS-NAME-AND-ASK-HIM-ABOUT-HIS-HOUSE

A narrow escape for Withnail and “I” when someone takes exception to the perfume “I” accidentally spilled on his shoes (Withnail and I, 1987)

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AND NOW I’M CALLING YOU ONE!

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“YOU HAVE MEDDLED WITH THE PRIMAL FORCES OF NATURE!”

The scene from the satire Network (1976) in which the immutable by-laws of business are made clear

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“…AND I WON’T HAVE IT!”

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“I SAID, ‘EVERYBODY LIVES WITH LIES’!”

The famous “impotence monologue” from the satire The Hospital (1971)

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“THE ONLY THING I’VE EVER TRULY LOVED”

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THE INTERROGATIVE PRONOUN PLAYS AT BASE #1

Classic comedy skit from 1953. FF to 0′ 50″

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Q: WHO GETS THE MONEY? A: EVERY DOLLAR OF IT.

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LOVING AND DYING

Early scene from the comedy Love and Death (1975)

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OBJECTIVITY IS SUBJECTIVE

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HE HAS THEM…

…eating out of the palm of his hand. 

A Rodney Dangerfield stand up routine.

 

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SHE USED TO BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. THEN SHE SAW ME NAKED. NOW SHE’S AFRAID OF THE LIGHT.

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DEEP IN THE RUSSIAN SOUL

More from Woody Allen‘s Love and Death (1975)

 

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IT’S A VERY COMPLICATED SITUATION, COUSIN SONYA

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THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL LOVEMAKING

And more from Love and Death

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YOU’RE DISGUSTING. BUT I LOVE YOU.

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THE MUSIC OF MEN’S LIVES

A scene from Act V of Richard II in which the Anglo-American actor-director Mark Rylance‘s performance won wide acclaim. This was staged at the Globe Theatre in London.

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“I WAS UNKING’D BY BOLINGBROKE”

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GO TO: NONFICTION

FICTION     MUSIC

POEMS    SPOKEN WORD   FILMS & TV  NEOLOGISMS

 

AND

 

VARIOUS OTHER THINGS WHICH DEFY CLASSIFICATION:

WHAT DOESN’T FIT: 

Which includes

TWEETS FROM GOD

&c ,  &c.

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IF YOU HAVE NO PARTICULAR PREFERENCES, AND YOU JUST WANT TO TAKE THE ENTRIES AS THEY COME, THEN SIMPLY KEEP SCROLLING DOWN ON THIS HERE PAGE.

YOU’LL FIND EACH AND EVERY ENTRY IN DESCENDING CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. THE MORE RECENT IT IS, THE CLOSER IT IS TO THE TOP.

HAPPY READING VIEWING / LISTENING

(ALL ORIGINAL ARTICLES THOSE WHICH ARE NOT CREDITED TO THEIR AUTHORS/CREATORS OR ARE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN ARE ©manfacingnortheast.com)

 

 

 

 

 

WHIPPED BY THREE FLAGS

NONFICTION             RETURN TO HOME PAGE

 

   Pitted against the enemy of his former enemy’s enemy.

 

[​IMG]
Here we go again

 

Every twist of fate leads to other twists of fate.

This is the story of a man who experienced some big ones. A pawn in a giant game whose rules he didn’t understand, he wound up serving in three armies in Asia and Europe. And was a prisoner of war (POW) in three countries.

 

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It seemed like a good idea at the time

 

His name was Yang Kyoungjong (Yang was his surname). He was born in Korea on 3/3/1920, about 10 years after Japan incorporated Korea into its Empire. This made him a Japanese national, although as an ethnic Korean he was denied all the privileges of Japanese nationals born of Japanese parents. He did, however, incur all the obligations of a Japanese national, so he was drafted into Japan’s permanent military force in Manchuria, northeastern China (“The Kwangtung Army”).

Our story opens here in 1938.

 

Japan had grandiose plans for enlarging the Japanese Empire by seizing Mongolia and swathes of Siberia. This would be easy for two reasons:

Firstly, Manchuria – ostensibly the independent nation Manchukuo – was Tokyo’s obedient puppet state, providing The Kwangtung Army with the ideal base for a war of conquest.

And secondly, while the Soviet Union and its obedient puppet state -Mongolia – stood in the way, the Red Army (the Soviet military) was reportedly in tatters. Its generals had been arrested in droves, tortured and executed. This arose from the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s paranoia about traitors in every closet and spies under every bed. Japanese intelligence officers noted with satisfaction that the Red Army’s leading tank warfare specialist was among the first to disappear into oblivion. The Red Army’s morale, said the intelligence reports, could hardly be lower.

Smashing the Red Army would be a cinch.

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“…are hereby sentenced to death…”

 

Not so fast! said the Japanese Navy. The admirals saw the acquisition of sub-Arctic tundra as a monumental waste of effort. (Not to mention this was all the Army’s idea, so the Navy could not partake of much glory.) But the Army had the Emperor’s ear, and he gave Operation Hokushin his approval.

Meanwhile, Yang and his fellow Kwangtung Army troops geared up for what they were told would be a brief campaign resulting in certain victory. But the Soviets inflicted a stinging defeat on the invaders. Japan’s generals searched for someone to blame, the admirals said We told you so and the Emperor now gave the Navy’s idea – seizing American and European colonies in the Asia-Pacific area – his earnest attention.

All this meant nothing to Yang, who – along with 3,000 other Japanese and Manchurian soldiers – was now a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union.

 

Back home Yang’s family received notification he’d been killed in action. Japanese military tradition compelled its troops to commit suicide rather than fall into captivity. To spare their loved ones the shame of a POW in the family, Yang and the others were declared dead, case closed. (For the Army they were as good as dead anyway.)

He languished in the Soviet Union, learning the debased Russian vocabulary of the prison camps, never knowing if he’d see another day, never knowing what fate held in store. Then geopolitics intervened.

In June 1941 Hitler’s forces (the Wehrmacht) and its Axis allies (Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Romania) invaded the Soviet Union.

 

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They caught the Soviets with their pants down, taking hundreds of thousands of prisoners. Only the U.S.S.R.’s vast distances and the brutal winter of 1941-42 saved Moscow itself from capture.

The Soviet leader, Josef Stalin, ordered all Red Army units to hold firm and fight to the last man. Surrender was forbidden. But hopelessly cornered Red Army troops facing certain death surrendered in droves.

The Soviet manpower situation became critical. Stalin now looked to the prison camps (the gulag) in Siberia and Arctic Russia. In 1942 he ordered the release of political prisoners plus the POWs from Manchuria. The idea was: put a little meat on their bones, give them rudimentary training and pitch them straight into battle. That should buy us some time, Stalin thought.

It bought Yang about a year. But in early 1943 the Wehrmacht captured him at Kharkov. He was now in a German prison camp.

 

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Will trade rag for potato

 

Prison camp was a generous term. Stalin’s communist regime ignored all international agreements on the treatment of prisoners of war, so Germany had no legal obligation to provide its Soviet captives with adequate food, shelter or medical care. Most of them huddled in barbed wire enclosures, left to freeze and starve, sleeping in piss puddles, surrounded by putrefaction and despair.

The “lucky ones” were used in ghoulish medical experiments. Some wound up as slave workers as far away as Norway and the Channel Islands. And a surprising number were either forced into the Wehrmacht (the German armed forces) or enthusiastically volunteered to fight against Stalin.

 

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Join us and fight for a brighter Europe!

 

Nazi ideology permitted the concept of Honorary Aryan: “racially acceptable” non-Europeans, like the Japanese and northern Indians.  There’d be no objection to them serving in German uniforms (whether they wanted to or not). Nazi racial experts toured the camps, selecting POWs to replenish the Wehrmacht‘s numbers after its heavy losses fighting the Soviets.

The coerced ones and the eager volunteers trudged out of the piss puddles, stepped over the corpses, were deloused, received decent food and were issued German uniforms. Next they’d be assigned to Ost-bataillone (Eastern battalions): Wehrmacht units under German command but comprising troops from the Soviet Union’s non-Slavic populations. (Later, as we’ll see, the Slavs’ sub-human status was conveniently forgotten and any Russian POW or defector wanting to fight Stalin could join in.) The keen Estonians and Latvians were high up the racial totem pole, and the Caucasians (Armenians, Georgians and so on) were also good to go. So were the Central Asians (Kazakhs, Turkmen, Uzbeks…).

 

Yang made the cut as an Honorary Aryan. Whether some racial expert simply liked the look of him or whether Yang somehow managed to convey to his captors that he was Japanese (his Korean ethnicity being irrelevant here) we’ll never know. But some time in 1943, Yang Kyoungjong, formerly of the Imperial Japanese Army and the Red Army, became a private in the Wehrmacht‘s 709th Infantrie-Division. That was a static division – it relied on horse-drawn vehicles and many of its troops were far from being first-rate.

Next stop, France.

 

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We’re racially acceptable

 

What went through the Korean’s mind as he was shunted across Europe to Normandy to  be pitted against the enemy of his former enemy’s enemy?

At least he was still alive and in one piece despite often coming close to being neither. One spring day in 1944 he climbed off the troop wagon at the opposite end of the Eurasian landmass from where he’d started, felt the salty tang of the wind from the English Channel and joined his new Wehrmacht buddies in a unit charged with repelling the expected Anglo-American invasion.

The 709th Division had its fair share of ex-Red Army soldiers, Russians and lots of Georgians. Their combat effectiveness wasn’t expected to be high and their willingness to lay down their lives could never be taken for granted. So, when the invasion of Normandy came, the U.S. paratroopers assigned to that area overwhelmed them without much trouble.

We don’t know exactly how Yang’s third capture happened, but we know he was luckier than some. Many of his fellow soldiers met a grizzly end, as the movie Saving Private Ryan depicted. In an early scene the Americans take heavy casualties on the beach then fight their way slightly inland. They encounter a German bunker complex. Two Wehrmacht guys emerge with their hands in the air, shouting something the Americans can’t understand. With the noise of battle and the fog of war they might as well have spoken Tamil. The Americans shoot them anyway.

 

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Wir sind Russen! Russen!

 

 

The G.I.’s guarding Yang and his fellow-prisoners saw four East-Asian-looking men among them and discovered one of them was “Japanese” (Yaponskiy). They immediately assumed all four were Japanese. The guards sent word to their superiors who sent word to their superiors who sent word to Washington D.C. There are Japanese troops fighting for Hitler in France! We have the proof right here!

Questions immediately arose. How was this even possible? They couldn’t cross the Japan Sea to the U.S.S.R. and travel overland to France. Did they somehow cross the Pacific, traverse South America and cross the Atlantic to Europe? Why go to all that trouble? And how many troops are we talking about? Enough to tip the balance?

Even in 1944 the Anglo-Americans had little idea that the Wehrmacht included hundreds of thousands of ex-Soviet citizens of all ethnicities. When the Western Allies encountered almond-shaped eyes and high cheekbones they immediately saw “Japanese”. Only later, as Germany’s war effort collapsed and they took masses of prisoners, did the reality hit. But the NKVD (the KGB’s predecessor) already knew all about this.

 

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Cossacks for Hitler

 

 

The practice of POWs switching sides was not entirely new. During the American Civil War some 5,000 Confederate prisoners joined the Union Army and about 1,600 Union POWs signed on with the Confederate Army.

The scale here was massive. As early as 1942 NKVD officers saw ample evidence of Soviet troops defecting en masse to the Germans. They learned not only of POWs voluntarily switching sides, but soldiers on active duty. Whole units joined the enemy without waiting to be captured. Not only troops from ethnic minorities, but actual sons of Russia. Not only ordinary Russian soldiers but officers too. Military academy graduates! Not only officers – and this made the sweat trickle down the investigators’ backs – but actual Communist Party members. The Soviet elite! Holy Mother of God! the NKVD officers whispered under their breath as they two-finger-typed their reports to Moscow.

Comrades, let’s not kid ourselves, these reports said (although less straightforwardly). We can understand – but can never forgive! – Ukrainians acting on anti-Soviet impulses after the harsh treatment – harsh but totally justified, comrades! – they received during the agricultural collectivization campaigns before the war. And we can understand – but never forgive! – the Central Asians’ resentment at the Soviet government’s completely justified suppression of their Islamic practices.

As for the Armenians, Chechens and so on, well, comrades, who can trust those people?

And so on. The revelation that Homo Sovieticus would so eagerly betray the motherland and communism shocked the Kremlin. Stalin (never one for half-measures) ordered a 25-year Siberian prison camp sentence for every Soviet POW surviving enemy captivity and returning to the U.S.S.R. – whether he’d joined the German war effort or not.

Then worse revelations came.

 

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He would liberate Russia

 

General Vlasov survived Stalin’s mass arrests in 1938. By 1942 he was a highly decorated hero hailed by the Soviet media. But that summer his forces – undermanned and undersupplied, unable to advance but forbidden to withdraw – were hung out to dry. He was captured on July 12, readily betrayed to the Germans by a local farmer.

Vlasov later claimed this senseless waste of lives turned him against Stalin and the Soviet system. In the prison camp he approached the Germans with a seemingly outlandish offer: he wished to recruit POWs of Russian ethnicity and train them as an army to fight side-by-side with the Germans against the Red Army.

Russians will fight with passion against the Communist beast, he told anyone who’d listen. And I, Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, will lead them in this crusade.

But his idea to use an army of Russian prisoners to liberate Russia was ignored. Later, though, as Germany’s manpower situation deteriorated, the thinking evolved. In Berlin the conversations might have gone thus:

These creatures in their barbed wire enclosures must be miserable.

Certainly.

Living in their own filth, waiting to shrivel up and die.

Quite.

Is it true there’s cannibalism in those camps?

In all probability.

And many of them must hate Stalin and all he stands for.

It stands to reason.

And this Vlasov fellow seems rational enough, don’t you think?

I do.

He’s not Jewish, is he?

No. We checked.

So what have we got to lose?

Nothing.

.

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The Russian Liberation Army

 

 

It took ages to get the ball rolling, by which time most ex-Red Army Russians were already ensconced in Ost-bataillone. Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army was too little too late. By then Yang was in his third POW camp.

The Americans shipped most of their Wehrmacht prisoners to the States. But Yang wound up in Britain. As victory in Europe drew closer Stalin demanded the Anglo-Americans  hand over all captured ex-Red Army men in German uniforms to Soviet authorities. This meant Yang. But he was also ex-Japanese Imperial Army, and strictly speaking he’d never been a Soviet citizen. So the British weren’t obliged to return him to the NKVD’s loving arms.

 

Let’s pause and examine the situation so far:

An 18-year-old Korean – officially a Japanese national – is drafted into the Japanese Army. He’s captured by the Red Army during Japan’s unwise attempt to seize territory from the Soviet Union’s Mongolian puppet state. He’s kept prisoner in the Soviet Union until 1942, by which time the desperate Red Army transforms political prisoners and POWs from into cannon fodder.

He’s thrown into the Red Army and the Germans capture him about a year later. They put him into their army and send him to France in time for the Anglo-American invasion. He’s captured again, this time by the Americans, and shipped to a POW camp in Britain.

What happened then?

Yang posed an administrative  problem. He wasn’t a German so couldn’t be repatriated to post-war Germany. The Soviets weren’t legally entitled to him. He was technically Japanese but Japan was half a world away and still the enemy. Then, with Japan’s defeat in August 1945, that country could no longer claim him, since Korea’s ties with Japan were severed and Yang was now a Korean. So what to do?

 

The details are murky, but Yang eventually emigrated to the United States in 1947. What transpired between the German surrender and 1947 remains unexplained.

Perhaps he was a Christian, like some other ethnic Koreans. That would have helped his application to move to America. Who knows?

We do know three things:

Yang settled in Illinois – at last! a place he could pronounce without strain! He married and had kids.

He never spoke about his experiences, even to his kids. He gave no interviews and resisted the temptation to write his memoirs.

He died in 1992, aged 72.

So how did information on the Yang saga emerge?

 

Bits and pieces from here and there surfaced over the decades. Other stories circulated about similarly surprising discoveries. Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 best-seller about the Normandy invasion – The Longest Day – mentioned American troops capturing “a Tibetan shepherd” in a Wehrmacht uniform. Ryan reported that months after this capture, when they finally found someone who could understand his language, the shepherd explained he’d been kidnapped by Soviets who’d illegally crossed the border to kidnap able-bodied men for the Red Army. Later, like Yang, the Germans captured him, put him in their army and sent him to France.

The problem here is that Ryan’s geography was way off. He should have seen that Tibet is a long way from the Soviet Union. It’s more likely the POW in question – if he did exist – was from China’s Xinjiang Province, whose Uighur people share ethnic and linguistic roots with some Soviet Central Asian populations. And Xinjiang’s long, porous border with the Soviet Union would have allowed Red Army “press gangs” easy access.

 

Some analysts contend that all of these events never happened to Yang. He may have come from the ethnic Korean community in the Soviet Far East, served in the Red Army as a regular conscript, was captured and forced into the Wehrmacht, then became a POW of the Americans. That’s not impossible.

Others argue Yang’s a composite character: the stories of two or more East Asian soldiers have been combined and conflated into one figure. That’s also not out of the question.

Only Yang knew for sure. But he remained stubbornly silent.

In 2011 a South Korean film studio made a highly fictionalized film about Yang (played by a handsome hunk with guaranteed box-office appeal to the ladies). My Way had its Wehrmacht Korean escaping from Normandy and somehow making it back to Korea (!). It was a critical and commercial flop. Don’t bother.

Because Yang never gave us his version of these events we can never be certain that the story we’ve inherited is 100% true. He took his tale to the grave. And unless something pops up to confirm or refute it, in the grave it will remain.

 

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