The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Monday, October 26, 2015

Shark Mouth: The P40 Warhawk

When I was in my adolescence I developed a little skill at drawing things (things not people). I understood perspective and loved to draw automobiles and airplanes of the time.

One plane I must have drawn a thousand times was the Curtis Wright P-40 Warhawk. Except for the problems my hand tremor presents nowdays, I think I could easily draw it today from memory.

I don't have to rely on my memory however. The internet is full of wonderful pix and videos of this great WWII airplane.

From its shark mouth nose logo (at least on Commander Chennault's squadrons), to its turtledeck, to its neatly curved tail, the P-40 was an eminently sketchable plane.

What about that shark mouth? Where did it come from? Comments on a web forum (The Wings of the Web) indicate that it originated on P-40s being used by the RAF in North Africa who copied if from German flyers who used something similar on their Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin engined fighter bombers.

The shark mouth has been used on more modern aircraft as well, including the F-105Ds and F Thunderchiefs, and the A7D Corsair, and the A 10. One guy on the forum even said he saw a  C130 with the shark mouth. No matter where it came from or what it's been used on since, the sharkmouthed P-40 has become an icon for WWII aircraft.

The P-40 was the 3rd most produced fighter in WWII and served in most of the Allied Powers' air forces. Wiki says,
Although it gained a postwar reputation as a mediocre design, suitable only for close air support, recent research including scrutiny of the records of individual Allied squadrons indicates that this was not the case: the P-40 performed surprisingly well as an air superiority fighter, at times suffering severe losses but also taking a very heavy toll of enemy aircraft.[9] The P-40 offered the additional advantage of low cost, which kept it in production as a ground-attack aircraft long after it was obsolete as a fighter. In 2008, 29 P-40s were airworthy.
The P-40 gained some of its fame because of a popular John Wayne movie made in 1942, Flying Tigers. From Wiki:

Flying Tigers (aka Yank Over Singapore and Yanks Over the Burma Road) is a 1942 black-and-white Republic Pictures war film, starring John Wayne, John Carroll, and Anna LeeFlying Tigers dramatizes the exploits of the American Volunteer Group (AVG),Americans already fighting the enemy in China prior to the U. S. entry into World War II....Jim Gordon (John Wayne in his first war film) leads the Flying Tigers, a squadron of freelance American pilots who fly Curtiss P-40 fighters against Japanese aircraft in the skies over China. The pilots are a mixed bunch, motivated by money (they receive a bounty for each aircraft shot down), or just the thrill of aerial combat.
Here's the fuzzy old trailer from the movie which gives you some idea about the importance of the P-40 to the movie.

When the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, there were sixty-two P-40s lined up wing tip to wing tip on Wheeler Field, and most of them were destroyed in the attack. But two American pilots, George Welch, and his friend Kenneth M. Taylor, got two P-40s on Haleiwa Field in the air and shot down some of the Japanese attackers' aircraft. They were credited with two kills apiece (4 Japanese Aichi D3As, Val dive bombers).

Here's a short, contemporary video of a beautifully restored P-40 starting up, taking off and flying.

As for the shark mouth logo...Do you think we could get the "Donald" to put that shark mouth logo on his 757? Works for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cubs Lose: It Makes No Difference Now

The Cubs were swept in 4 straight games in the 2015 NLCS. The Mets are happy. I'm just a little depressed. But I'll get over it. I'll get by. Jimmie, Willie, and Fats help me express my emotions with versions of the same song.

First Jimmie Davis.

Next, Willie Nelson.

Finally Fats Domino.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An Old Cubs Fan

I've been a Cubs fan since about 1993.

Watching my team win the NLDS on Tuesday night, made me think back to a time in July of 1955 when I was 15 years old. Our family visited my Dad's sister and her husband who lived on Long Island in NY.

I don't remember much about that trip, but one thing stands out -- one night we saw the Cubs play the Dodgers at Ebbets field. I was excited to see the Brooklyn Dodgers and all their stars that I'd only seen on baseball cards up till then, stars like Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, and Duke Snider. Campanella hit 32 home runs that year, and Hodges 27. Baseball's royalty, the Duke, hit 42. The Dodgers were in the middle of a great season in July of 1955, which culminated that fall in their winning the World Series against the New York Yankees.

I was pretty much a Yankee fan in those days (there was no southern major league team in those days and the Yankees got a lot of national press coverage -- I read about them daily in both the Tennessean and the Nashville Banner), but even the Nashville papers had plenty of stories about the Cubs new shortstop, Ernie Banks, who was Rookie of the Year runner up in 1954. He continued his slugging in '55 as well and ended up that year with 44 home runs.
I don't remember much about the game, just the feeling I got when we came up the ramp and saw the field. Ebbets Field! The Major Leagues! It was one of the biggest thrills of my young life. We sat on the lower deck somewhere on the third base side. The Cubs probably lost the game (the Dodgers beat them more than anyone else that year, winning 14 out of 21 games), I do know from checking the stats that the Cubs lost the only July series they played at Ebbets Field that year. They finished 6th that year with a record of 72 wins and 81 losses and one tie (I'm guessing that was a rained out tie that didn't get made up).

I didn't become a Cubs fan at that point, but I did follow them some over the years. Beginning in the '70s, like lots of other Americans, I became a quasi fan of Ted Turners "America's Team," the Atlanta Braves. Most of the time the Braves weren't that good but you could watch most of their games on TV.

But in '93 I switched my allegiance to the Cubs. We had a big dish in those days and we got WGN. Many Cubs games were televised so I began to watch them. I remembered my trip to Ebbets Field in 1955 and became a loyal fan. I enjoyed watching players like Mark Grace, Sammy Sosa, and Ryan Sandberg, and WGN's colorful play by play announcer Harry Caray made the games fun. They finished 4th in the NL East that year.

So, I haven't been a suffering "lovable loser" Cubs fan my whole life, just for the past 22 years.

During those years, the city of Chicago itself has spiraled downward (they're 3 times deeper in debt than the city of Detroit was) and the whole state is so far in debt they can't pay their lottery winners.

But this post is about their financial woes. It's not a political post.

It's about baseball. And finally getting into the NL Championship Series feels great. "Hey Chicago, let's play two!" Two videos.

First, Eddie Vedder's tribute, "All the Way."

Now, The CrackerJack Music Video, an entrant in the Tribune contest.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

S. O. B.'s: The Three Types

In 2012, Alan Jackson released a new single, "You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore," penned by songwriters Jay Knowles and Adam Wright. The knockout line for most folks was "I'll be the S. O. B." in the first verse.

This great song was included on Jackson's album Thirty Miles West that same year.

IMHOP there are at least three kinds of S. O. B. -- (1) the person who consistently by his deeds and words is a true S. O. B., (2) the person who makes a stupid mistake that hurts someone or a group, and (3) the person who deliberately plays the role of S. O. B. to get something done.

(1) First, there's the real, authentic S. O. B.  Most of us have known a few. They might be in our family or maybe we worked for them or with them. But they're pretty good at disguises and deception so some of them go into politics. :-)  I don't think I personally belong in this category (although I know a few people who might disagree).

(2) As for category 2, I guess most of us have done or said something stupid a few times in our lives. I know I have, and I still remember and regret those times today. I've made some mistakes, said some stupid things that hurt someone. I can't go back and erase those things, all I can do now is accept my mistake and hope for forgiveness.

(3) At other times a person plays the role of S. O. B. in order to do a job. I'm thinking for example of the executive or administrator who because of circumstances has to fire someone, or of the military TI who has to discipline a recruit, etc. I've been in this category at least a couple of times, but it was over fifteen years ago, so the statue of limitations has probably run out.

The narrator in Jackson's song fits in this category as well. He's willing to play the S. O. B. role if it will make his lady's life easier after their breakup. The Knowles/Wright lyric is simple and unadorned, but emotionally -- very powerful. To illustrate, here's that first verse:
I'll be the bad guy, I'll take the black eye, When I walk out, You can slam the door, I'll be the S.O.B, If that's what you need from me, So you don't have to love me anymore. 
This great song has it all. A son of a bitch (at least a guy willing to play that role), a breakup, a broken heart, a sacrifice, a sense of regret...the very life blood of country music. And then there's the great singer who brought all that emotion to life -- Alan Jackson. All that makes it a top 100 song in my book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Little Songwriter Wisdom

“A song ain’t nothin’ in the world but a story just wrote with music to it.”
Hank Williams, Sr.

“Loving is the only sure road out of darkness, 
the only serum known that cures self-centeredness.”
Rod McKuen

"I am putting to music and words things that angered me and hurt me."
Nanci Griffith

“Country Music is three chords and the truth.”
Harlan Howard

 “It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.”
Dolly Parton

"I was rolling cars and wrecking motorcycles, drinking and doing everything I could to die early. But it didn't work."
Kris Kristofferson

"Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I've had to make myself."
Shel Silverstein

I don’t know why I write really depressing songs.
I’m a kind of melancholy guy, I suppose. But I figure I’m about normal.”
Townes Van Zandt

Monday, October 5, 2015

Krist Kristofferson and Jonathan Swift

The narrator in Kristofferson's talking blues song, "To Beat the Devil," says,
It was winter time in Nashville, down on Music City row,
And I was lookin' for a place to get myself out of the cold.
He says, "It'd been a month of paydays" since he's been paid and his "hungry neeed beans." He steps inside a tavern and begins a conversation with an old man in a bar who tells him that songwriter poets' lead a "tough life." The old man then asks the narrator why he's wasting his time speaking the truth to people who don't listen.

The narrator recognizes that this is the devil he's talking to and that "the devil haunts a hungry man."

So, in the end, the songwriter narrator doesn't claim to have "beat the devil," but he "drank his beer for nothing./ Then I stole his song." In other words, instead of giving in to the devil because he's hungry, he makes poetry out of it.

Listening to this song again recently reminded me of a poem by Jonathan Swift, the Anglo-Irish writer best known for Gulliver's Travels. In "The Progress of Poetry," Swift says pretty much the same thing Kristofferson says. He compares the poet to a goose who when fat "with corn and sitting still," can't "get o'er the barn-door sill," but when forced to look for food and exercise will eventually grow "lank and spare" which will enable her to successfully try "her wings" and take flight.

Both poets indicate that poetry is born from hunger and suffering and that success and riches might work against its creation. This explains why a successful songwriter's earliest work might be much better than that which comes after he's achieved success and has grown fat "with corn and sitting still."

Here's Swift's poem (you can find it and other poetry at The Literature Network).
The Progress of Poetry
The farmer's goose, who in the stubble
Has fed without restraint or trouble,
Grown fat with corn and sitting still,
Can scarce get o'er the barn-door sill;
And hardly waddles forth to cool
Her belly in the neighbouring pool!
Nor loudly cackles at the door;
For cackling shows the goose is poor.
But, when she must be turn'd to graze,
And round the barren common strays,
Hard exercise, and harder fare,
Soon make my dame grow lank and spare;
Her body light, she tries her wings,
And scorns the ground, and upward springs;
While all the parish, as she flies,
Hear sounds harmonious from the skies.

Such is the poet fresh in pay,
The third night's profits of his play;
His morning draughts till noon can swill,
Among his brethren of the quill:
With good roast beef his belly full,
Grown lazy, foggy, fat, and dull,
Deep sunk in plenty and delight,
What poet e'er could take his flight?
Or, stuff'd with phlegm up to the throat,
What poet e'er could sing a note?
Nor Pegasus could bear the load
Along the high celestial road;
The steed, oppress'd, would break his girth,
To raise the lumber from the earth.
But view him in another scene,
When all his drink is Hippocrene,
His money spent, his patrons fail,
His credit out for cheese and ale;
His two-years coat so smooth and bare,
Through every thread it lets in air;
With hungry meals his body pined,
His guts and belly full of wind;
And, like a jockey for a race,
His flesh brought down to flying case:
Now his exalted spirit loathes
Encumbrances of food and clothes;
And up he rises like a vapour,
Supported high on wings of paper.
He singing flies, and flying sings,
While from below all Grub-Street rings.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nashville Indie Writer Wins Top Award

Nashville, TN. October 3, 2015. There's poetry in Music City. Writer Dan Jewell’s collection of poems, A Nashville Woman and Other Sorrows, received the highest award given in the love/romance poetry category of the international 2015 Readers Favorite competition. This year’s contest was the largest ever with thousands of entries ranging from indie authors to NYT bestsellers and authors.

Jewell’s poems tell the story of a Nashville songwriter whose life spirals downward after he loses the woman he loves. The collection also includes poems and songs about rejection, writer’s block, pickup trucks, Taylor Swift, cowboys, and the struggles of the dreamers who come to Nashville seeking fame and fortune. Readers Favorite Reviewer Lorelai Rivers gives the book a five star rating and says, “These poems ring true, as though author Dan Jewell has first-hand experience of the hope and heartbreak of being a working or non-working, musician/songwriter.”

Jewell says that some of the poems and songs were written over thirty-five years ago. “I was born in Nashville, so songwriting was in the very air I breathed every day. It was only natural that I would try my hand at it. My wife and I cut a demo of some of my songs once in the old Woodland Studio, a legendary place where artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Shania Twain once recorded.”

But, like most of the other dreamers in Nashville, Jewell says his songs went nowhere. “This collection of poems is about those women and men as much as anything, the ones who come here and struggle but keep at it, and the others who don’t make it in music but end up making a life for themselves instead. We know more than we want to know about all the ones who make it big. It’s the others I write for.”

Music fans, aspiring songwriters and performers, and anyone whose dreams didn’t quite materialize will enjoy this provocative book. More information about the book and the author can be found on the website Nashville Woman & Other Sorrows is available as an eBook on Kindle and Nook, and in paperback (68 pages) on