Thursday, January 22, 2009

“Paris at midnight and tangerine dreams”

A while ago, I took my mother to her Dr.’s office. Her Dr.’s specialty is Geriatrics and he works at a clinic for senior citizens. As we were sitting in the waiting room, I looked through the magazines. There wasn’t much of a selection, so I just picked one up and looked through it. It was a magazine geared towards seniors. It had a lot of advertisement for products that seniors use like hearing aids, denture cleaners and such. As I was going through the pages, I noticed the title of a story. It was something like “Paris at midnight and tangerine dreams”. I thought it was a catchy title. With a title like that I thought the story would have to be about some romance. I decided to read it while waiting. The writer was a WWII veteran. He, actually, was a good writer. As I started to read, I felt motivated to continue. Artfully, he described how he ended up in the Navy and how he first got on the ship that sailed from San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean and how close they got to Japan. This was after Pearl Harper. He talked about a specific night 3 days after they set sail. All along I was thinking about the title of the story and what was going to happen in Paris at midnight and how we were going to get to that part of the story. As I continued to read, I started to laugh. I had finally reached the climax of the story, and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. The writer finally explained that he was an assistant cook in the Navy and the night that American pilots were dropping firebombs on Tokyo, Japan, he worked a 12 hour shift in the kitchen making over 5000 doughnuts for the pilots while listening to a record that had two songs on it. One was “Paris at midnight” and the other one was “tangerine dreams”. He went on to explain how happy the pilots were to eat the doughnuts after coming back all tired from dropping firebombs. It was his most memorable and exciting experience of his service during the war.

As I read the story, I felt a number of different emotions and had a number of different thoughts. First, I laughed because the story didn’t live up to its catchy title and wasn’t as interesting as I thought it was going to be. It was, After all, about making doughnuts. My second thought was about the naivety of the writer. The writer appeared to be unaware of what really was happening that night in Japan. His narrative was extremely limited and self-centered. He described the whole experience as one would describe a vacation. If the reader didn’t know the history of what had actually taken place that night in 1945, he or she would not find out by reading the story either. The third thought that came to my mind was the callousness of the writer and the pilots. He described how happy the pilots were to come back and eat the doughnuts and laugh and joke, and how excited he and everybody else who worked in the kitchen were. They all seemed oblivious of what mission they were a part of.

On March 10th 1945, American B-29s dropped firebombs on Tokyo and as the result 100,000 people were burned alive. Prior to bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the order of the infamous American General, Curtis LeMay, 67 Japanese cities were firebombed and one million lives were lost.

There is a very interesting documentary that came out in 2004 called the “Fog of War”. In it Robert McNamara, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air force during WWII and years later served as US Secretary of Defense, talks about the severity of the actions taken against Japan at that time. One million lives were lost and 67 cities were destroyed before the atomic bombs were dropped. He indicates that if the allies had not won the war, the US officials could have been put on trial for crimes against humanity. He raises a number of questions and concludes, “Proportionality should be a guideline in war”.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A great song

This song by Jason Mraz called "I'm Yours" is one of my favorite songs of 2008. Listen to it and let me know what you think. It is so sweet.

There are many versions of it performed by different people, I like the version below.