Monday, December 21, 2015

Doing the laundry in the middle of the night. Watching an excellent old movie from the 1960's.

Although it's coming up on midnight, I am doing the laundry.  In winter, I run the laundry at night because the dryer puts some heat and some moisture back into the air. I run the washing machine because it periodically runs some water through the lines and the pressure tank. There's also the fact that the ferrets are both asleep just now.  Doing laundry with ferrets around is time consuming. They like nothing better than to sneak into a basket of dirty laundry and lay very still. It would be easy to dump them in and accidentally drown them in the washing machine. I still put every piece in one at a time, even though I have located them and I know they are not in the basket.

I watched a  good old movie recently.  Cast a Giant Shadow is about Israel's War of Independence.  Specifically, it's about a Colonel in the U.S. Army who went over to help the Israelis in that war.   This wasn't uncommon. A lot of the nascent Israeli Air Force was piloted by foreigners, Jewish and gentile.  The only tanks they had at the start were British tanks either abandoned when the Brits pulled out of Palestine, or stolen from them as they did so. The drivers were British deserters, most of whom had Israeli girl friends and little or nothing to look forward to once they got back to Britain.

Israel had to form a government and fight off attack at the same time. This caused problems on the military front. Israel had the Palmach, centered around the kibbutz system. Good fighters, mostly young, good at low level tactics but hopeless at executing anything much above company level. The Israelis had the Haganah, a much more "regular" force, officered in many cases by men who had served in the British Army in World War II.  There was a formation in the British Army that participated in the Italian campaign   entitled "The Jewish Brigade."

Then, more harm than help, there were the Irgun and the Stern Gang. These guys were frankly terrorist in nature and deed, and a massive thorn in the side of Ben-Gurion and the legitimate government. Among other accomplishments they massacred the inhabitants of the Arab Village at Deir Yassin, and they assassinated the U.N. envoy tasked with partitioning the area, Count Folke Bernadotte. Eventually David Ben- Gurion and the Haganah "suppressed" them. Google "Atelana affair", that's a hell of a story. (*Ben-Gurion is the Israeli equivalent of George Washington.)

Cast a Giant Shadow has a great cast.  Yul Bryner, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Angie Dickenson,  and a lot of other people the older viewer will recognize.

The movie was a big budget production, and the technical advisers went to a lot of trouble to make the details accurate. You'll see the Lee Enfield Mk.111, the Sten gun, the Czech produced Mauser k98, the German MG 34 and MG42, and a lot of other World War II favorites that the Israelis scrapped up from here and there. How they did so is such an interesting story that several books have been written on that subject alone. For firearms enthusiasts it's a good flick if only for that reason!

The script was written based on good history.  It's a drama, but it's historically accurate, especially the scenes from the Battle of Latrun.  Young men got off the immigrant ships, were given rifles, and sent right into the fight in the same clothes they wore on the ship. Many of them had never handled a rifle before, and after the fight numbers were found dead with the safety catches still in the "on" position on their rifles. They were never shown how to take the catch off.

If you like the movie and want to know more, Check the books Oh, Jerusalem and Genesis 1948,

It's also interesting to see what went on in Washington D.C. over whether or not to recognize Israel.  President Truman was generally in favor. The State Department was not. The Pentagon supported recognition.  The Pentagon and the State Department loathed each other (as they do today), but the final decision in the end was the President's.

The Secretary of State made a gentleman's agreement to support the British position, which called for a U.N. mandated partition of the region, and a halt on Jewish Immigration.

Truman knew the aristocrats at the State Department looked down on him. He came from humble beginnings and was only President because Roosevelt died and he was V.P. when it happened. He knew the State Department called him "Haberdasher Harry" because he had run a clothing store in Missouri before going into politics.

At the last minute, Truman over ruled the State Department and the U.S. recognized the State of Israel. As Wellington said of Waterloo "it has been a damned nice thing! The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life."

The pivotal characterh in the movie , played by Kirk Douglas, was a U.S. Army colonel named Micky Marcus.

Spoiler Alert:  Don't read this if you don't want to know how the movie ends, but it's interesting in and of itself.

On the last night before a U.N. truce went into effect, Marcus left an Israeli camp, and walked out into an orange grove in the dark. He didn't speak Hebrew. Coming back into camp, he didn't answer  when a sentry challenged him, and was fatally shot.

But there's more to the story.  Ben- Gurion had been working feverishly to develop a united military command. Officers in the Haganah and the Palmach wouldn't take orders from each other, and the Irgun and Sternists were complete loose cannons as ready to kill a Jew as anybody else if it suited them, answerable to no one.

Ben -Gurion wanted to combine the Palmach and the Haganah, but the Palmach was vehemently opposed. Before Latrun, Ben- Gurion appointed Marcus overall field commander, a move that infuriated the Palmach commanders on the scene.

So back to the orange grove.

The official version was that Marcus was killed by accident, by a sentry armed with a Mauser 98K, chambered for 8 mm Mauser.  Ben -Gurion smelled a rat, and sent a doctor down to do an autopsy. The Dr. found that Marcus was killed by 9mm Luger bullets, probably fired from a Sten gun. Coincidentally, the Sten was a weapon much favored by the Palmach.

The whole thing was covered up, because Ben -Gurion judged the time wasn't right to precipitate a fight with the Palmach. But he bore it in mind and did not forget.

Even if you don't know a lot of Israeli military history, it's a really interesting movie. There's very little "B.S." added for dramatic effect.  About the only example I can think of is fixing Marcus up with a beautiful Israeli mistress. That's pretty much whole cloth as he was known to be a family man and not a skirt chaser. But it adds flair, I suppose.

In the clip below, there are some scenes where you'll probably think "nah, that would never happen." But it did.  Remember the Israelis had to make do with whatever came to hand, and they really did do things like throwing pipe bombs and seltzer water bottles out of piper cubs early in the war.

In the whole movie, there's only one scene that's clearly wrong. It shows U.S. Paratroopers jumping on D Day carrying their weapons in their hands. That was lame, but scenes shot in Israel are accurate.

When you look at the scene where the Egyptians attack a kibbutz, remember that the Arabs received vast amounts of American equipment from the English before 1947.  When you see the really incredibly stupid tactical use of the Egyptian Infantry, that's how it actually was. We aren't talking about Western troops here, and the Arab officers, with the exception of the Jordanians (who were mentored by British officers through the first part of the war) were truly terrible.

The Israelis made mistakes, too. They were new to building a country and new to organized warfare. They left the women and kids in Kibbutz settlements early in the war. The plan was to make fortresses out of the individual settlements,  and leaving the women and kids was expected to stiffen the morale of the defenders. After a few Kibbutz were overun, they stopped doing that in a hurry. You can guess why.

It's a good movie, and showing right now on Turner Classics.  It's also on the internet in 10 parts. I am going to order a DVD for my little favorite film library here on the mountain.


  1. Hey Harry,


    Interesting. I will have to look up some of those movies.

    I saw an interesting movie last night online called "He Never Died" it was about a middle aged guy who hates all people and is really, really rude to everyone and to make a long story short this misanthropic middle aged guy has a run in with the mafia.
    I will give away one scene. The main charactor's landlady comes by to ask for the rent. He opens the door and realizes its for the rent. He then closes the door on the landlady's face walks over and gets cash to pay the rent. Then he opens the door and gives the rent money to his landlady who is about 80 years old.
    A few seconds later his neighbor who is a Mexican gang member is yelling and saying vulgar things to the old lady and telling her that he's not paying the rent.
    The Mexican is yelling, and yelling and disturbing the main character from taking a nap.
    After a short time, after the landlady leaves. The main charator gets up out of bed. Opens his front door walks out and knocks on the mexicans door. The Mexican opens the door and starts to cuss out the main charator. The main charator punches the Mexican knocking him out and drags him back into the Mexicans apartment where he murders the Mexican.
    Later it shows the Mexican in a large garbage bag being dumped into a dumpster by the main character not because the Mexican was harassing the old lady landlord but because he disturbed the main charactors nap.

    I really had to laugh at that dark humor....

    That movie was one of those off beat independent films. It could had been written a little better and been edited a little better too but it was creative as hell.

    1. I don't believe I've seen that one, CC. It sounds like an Independent film alright. I'll have to watch for it on FX or TBS, they get some good action movies sometimes.

  2. Hey Harry,


    I just watched the video above with the tank battle and the small aircraft.
    If I was in that small spotter aircraft I would have dived down to the deck and got low and slow (real low and slow)

    Maybe the heavy and fast fighter plane would have overshot the spotter plane traveling at just above stalling speed?

    Changing the subject for a second. That mean old lady that calls the police on everyone in the neighborhood, remember her. Well we had another run in with her today.
    Its a long story and I will write about it tomorrow or on Tuesday.

    1. My advice is to creep over in the dead of night, climb in through a window, and suffocate her with a pillow.

      Your strategy for escaping a fighter in a light aircraft is excellent. You have to get away from the bad guys on the ground first though, or the Golden BB rule goes into effect. A .303 coming up through your seat could have some extreme ramifications for your family planning.

  3. My washing machine lives in the shed and now it's too cold for this new one, which is not fancy, but I guess, fancy enough to be difficult. I would hate for a ferret to get laundered. I once laundered a mouse by mistake. You bet, I screamed when I grabbed the washed, very clean, and very dead mouse while emptying the washing machine. It's really fun to watch movies on a cold winter's evening, isn't it?

    1. Inger, since the winter can be really severe here we are set up for cold weather operations. We don't really generate a lot of dirty laundry so I don't run it often. Last night I was washing all the ferrets bedding. They are fanatical about being clean.

      The biggest killer of ferrets in a home is the reclining chair. All of mine in the house are secured with decking screws so I don't absentmindedly rock back and kill one of mine.

      I really like old movies, especially on cold winter nights, when all that has to be accomplished is done and I can just relax.

  4. Oh that would freak me out about the ferrets trying to get in the wash. No wonder you are cautious!

    1. Lisa, they are very curious animals. In many respects they are like naughty children, and you have to anticipate every possible move they could make and guard against tragedy all the time.

  5. That's pretty scary that your ferrets like to do that. I guess I knew that they like to dive into piles of things, but never thought about doing laundry, and that being a problem. I'd do exactly what you are doing, pick each item up to put in the washer.

    I've been watching old Alfred Hitchcock movies. My mom's cousin that past had a bunch of movies in her house. I grabbed them. "The Birds" was one of them. I never saw that one. I didn't realize that Jessica Tandy was one of the leads. My mom freaked out that we watched it at bedtime with the boys. They were not scared one bit! Mica enjoyed it, and is interested to see Psycho, but I don't know about that one. It's freaky and rated R. Anyhow I got him a children's book that is all about Alfred Hitchcock.

    1. Ferrets get themselves into trouble. They are very inquisitive and they are way too intelligent for their own good. They are very sneaky. They constantly try to get out of the house, which would be fatal because they can't survive on their own. Some jerk dumped off two ferrets, one of whom had cancer, in a big park up in a Midwest city. A ferret person saw them, tried to catch them but they ran into the Bush. That persons ferret club turned out the ferret people from area clubs. More than 300 people searched the park, squeaky toys blasting, and on the afternoon of the third day the ferrets ran up to one of the searchers, a young boy. They both went to a rescue for medical care and then were adopted by families, so they found the ferret pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the proverbial "forever home."

  6. Wow, what a huge all star cast some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Now try to get Palestine loving Hollywood to do that today.

    1. You are exactly right. There are no movie stars of of that stature anymore. But I expect Hollywood to announce any day now that they are planning a laudatory epic about the PLO starring Michael Moore as Yassir Arafat.

  7. I don't know anything about these movies, but they do sound very informative! I've never thought about ferrets hiding in laundry, but that would be scary!

    1. It's a very entertaining and educational movie with a cast the likes of which won't be seen again, Becca.

      Ferrets were ambush predators in the wild. They love to leap out at you and surprise you. However, they have a quirk. They sleep very deeply, as if in a trance. You can pick up a sleeping ferret, and literally"pour" him from hand to hand. They won't wake up. So if one were in a laundry basket you might never know it.

  8. Harry, this post is like a Christmas present for me, thank you, Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Hey, Yael. I like "Cast a Giant Shadow" and "Exodus" very much. They're good books, good movies, and educational as well as entertaining.

      Of course, I like Israelis and I don't like Muslims very much, as a result of events today and my own experiences in Lebanon 1982-1983. I admire the Jordanians, they seem to be the only Arab country that has their act together, even if it's tough for them politically.

      I hope your holidays were nice, though as you say once the holidays are over, the aftermath can bring you down a bit.

      My kids are coming home for a week, and I am really looking forward to that very much. My wife and I pretty much live for the kids.