Posts Tagged With: Central Powers

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. July 4, 2011


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8th Century: Ivar the Boneless, a Danish leader began his conquest and colonization of England.

Remember not every conqueror requires a name that strikes fear in the enemy some succeed by having their opponents die laughing.


As long as I am in Italy, I thought I would skip the charts I have normally posted here demonstrating, over and over again, the dire straights the US (and the world) has found itself in and write something about the country in which presently I am idling away my time,

Since I have not kept up on Italian current events, I thought I would venture into some history of the area around the farm on which I temporarily reside, the Veneto and Friuli area of Northeastern Italy. Specifically the battles of WW I that brought this area into the then Kingdom of Italy

Following the disastrous defeat and collapse of the Italian Army at Caporetto a year before that I mentioned in the previous “Today’s Factoid” the supreme commander of the Italian military forces was cashiered and a new general staff put in place.

Battle of the Piave River

Battle of the Piave River (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Italian army was reconstituted with troops and officers from other parts of Italy and rushed north to the River Piave, a few miles from Venice, to form a defensive line about 140 kilometers west of Caporetto. The Piave was a river on a semi-arid outwash plain and drained the Dolomites, and the foothills to the Alps. Rejecting advice that the Italian forces retreat even further south, the new Italian general in charge, named Armando Diaz, believed that the Austro-Hungarian troops were exhausted from their rapid advance from Caporetto. Their supply lines he reasoned were stretched so thin that along with the effects of the Allied blockade of Germany’s ports, they effectively limited the supply of men and material to the army of the Central Powers in the quantity necessary for a prolonged campaign. In addition, the Piave River bed was generally a wide stoney generally empty expanse providing clear sight lines and with the river bisecting it, it seemed to him a relatively strong position to defend.

The war on the Western front (essentially France and Belgium) for the past few years had degenerated into a contest between the homicidal maniacs on the Allied side (France, Britain and recently the US) and their counterparts from the Central Powers (Primarily Germany) to see how many of their troops they could slaughter by pitting flesh against machine guns in a futile attempt to gain a few yard of militarily worthless ground, a strategy a grammar school child could soon recognize as silly. While both Britain, France and Germany were gradually exhausting themselves by the horrendous loss of manpower and material, the interjection by the US of the almost unlimited supply of cannon fodder and war material, although not actually altering the war on the ground, prompted the German High Command, which in general was smarter than their counterparts among the allies, to realize that they will exhaust their men and material sooner than their opponents.

Map of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, in which...

Map of the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, in which the Italian Army decisively defeated the Austro-Hungarian invader. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The southern flank of the war was fought basically by Italy on behalf of the Allies and the Austro-Hungarian Empire on behalf of the Central Powers. It was somewhat more mobile, but no less wasteful of men and material and if it were at all possible conducted by general staffs even more homicidal and less competent that their Western and Germanic allies. (To be continued…)




Having introduced ourselves to this family of strangers and having completed a pleasant tour of the farm we settled down to dinner with SWAC assisting in the cooking. Our hosts make their own wine from their vineyards and manufacture their own pressed meats such as pancetta, sopressa and salami. While the region is noted by gourmets for its cheeses (Parmigiano) the local variety of which is even more piccante, pressed meats (prosciutto) and wines, its basic cuisine is much less distinguished than that further south or west, consisting mostly of overcooked meats, bland pasta and beans.

We slept that night in various rooms vacated for our use. The next morning Nikki left to return to Milan. That evening SWAC cooked a portion of the meal. The following day, I guess tiring of domestic activities SWAC skipped lunch for an exercise session at the local health club, then meeting a male patron of the club, she also excused herself from joining us at dinner preferring to spend that time with her new friend rather than at the farm. The next day she departed for Milan and then on to Thailand leaving Hayden and I in the company of these strangers, albeit pleasant and enjoyable ones. She promised to return by the end of the month or so.

We enrolled Hayden in a local sport camp run by Vittorio’s sister and her husband, italy’s judo team coach. Every morning I drop him off at the camp and then spend the remainder of the morning sitting in a café in Tamai searching for stray wi-fi signals, drinking coffee and sipping prosecco.

One evening Vittorio invited me out for a night on the town and to accompany him to the rehearsal of one of his ensembles.

We traveled to Sacile and stopped first at Lucia’s bar where I met an American named Brian, originally from South Dakota, married to a Korean woman and living in Sacile. He worked as a chemistry teacher in the school at the local US air force base. While we conversed, Vittorio and Lucia’s boyfriend, who I was informed was a local architect and who always wore a dark suit, white shirt unbuttoned at the top and at the sleeves, a three days growth of a dark beard and stringy hair, argued over how best to free up the bar’s security gate that had jumped its tracks.

Later, after the gate was repaired and Lucia closed up her place, Vittorio, Brian and I strolled to another café operated by an extremely short stocky woman in a jeans jacket. One of the regular patrons of the bar was a man suffering from the same disfiguring disease as the “Elephant Boy.” He had a deep melodious voice and upbeat manner. I still found it difficult to look at him without staring. He also had a bitching, pimped out gigantic silver and chrome motor scooter that appeared larger than a Harley and probably producing more horsepower .

After drinking a few more glasses of wine, we accompanied Brian home to his condo building. It had originally been a centuries old villa on to which was grafted seamlessly a modern extension. He showed us the building’s modern garage equipped with elevators upon which to stack the cars and then gleefully demonstrated its use.

Vittorio and I then went to the rehearsal Hall where Vittorio’s ensemble practiced. The town, small as it is, had a building dedicated exclusively to music.

Vittorio’s group was called the Sacile Symphonia.

Actually, it consisted of about eight saxophone players one of whom also played the alto and bass sax, and two tuba players one of whom doubled on the trombone. It also had a trio of trumpet players, the oldest of which, a man who appeared to be in his mid eighties, was the soloist. A somewhat overweight young woman played the drums and other percussion instruments with gusto. Sometimes she would get carried away on a riff driving the rest of the ensemble into silence until she finished and sheepishly apologized. An elderly man with white hair and dressed in a dark suit and tie looking more like a professor than a musician played the flute. Next to him sat a very thin middle-aged woman whose role I could not determine as she appeared to play no instrument what so ever. Rounding out the players was a young man strumming on an electric guitar.

The conductor, appropriately alternatively dictatorial and put upon, managed the session with vigor.

They played a lively version of Glen Miller’s “In the Mood,” a couple of American show tunes and several marches before calling it a night.

After practice Vittorio and I returned to the farm. (To be continued…)




My sincerest apologies to my devoted readers who wait anxiously for the latest installment of the trials and tribulations of Vince and Isabella that alas once again I must ask their forbearance in another delay. Unfortunately, my garrulous investment in other sections of this post, I fear will leave the reader too exhausted to wade through another red herring.


I think here I should interrupt my usual narrative and share with you (well to be honest, impose upon you) my recent musings about traveling.

My approach to traveling is somewhat like my approach to life; it is not arriving at your destination that is important but what happened along the way.

For example, assume that I depart from San Francisco intending to travel to, say Rome to visit the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel. If that is what I efficiently did and returned home equally efficiently, I for one would be unsatisfied indeed.

If on the other hand I were to depart on that same voyage and along the way be diverted by circumstances outside of my control or through my stupidity and thereby facing perhaps danger, or passion, beauty or tedium and return home without ever getting to see Michelangelo’s frescos (the chapel would probably be closed anyway, for repairs or for some obscure holiday), I would consider my trip a success.

I guess, one could consider it something like Buddhism, but from somewhat the opposite viewpoint. Where Buddhism urges one to withdraw from the unreality of perception, Pookieism suggests you revel in it.

When I look back into my own life, anytime I single-mindedly pursued a goal and overcame many obstacles to achieve it, I almost always came away dissatisfied, became depressed and soon decided to spend my time doing something else. On the other hand whenever I was diverted from my path, or failed in achieving my goal or found myself hopelessly lost, I often was overjoyed. Why, because there was so much experience, so much pathos and so much joy. And, oh the stories…

Yes, of course there were things that to this day I wish never happened and if I could, I would want not to have occurred, but they did and the exquisite, if odious, memories of the experience accompanies me like tattoos on the skins of generation Xers.

For those males of a certain age, some of you may recall that time when you were a kid and in you imagination played the announcer of your life. “The great slugger stands at the plate. Here comes the pitch. He swings. He misses….” Or, “Here is the world famous runner running through the woods. Will he break the record? Oh no! He trips. He falls. Will he be able to get up, finish the race and break the record? Stay tuned.”

Well, I still do that. “Here is the aging hero walking along the side of the road recalling past loves, triumphs and failures. Out of the corner of his eye he spies a small yellow flower, stops and contemplates its beauty for a moment and then walks on, crosses the street, the freshly painted striping glowing so whitely in the sun it hurts his eyes. Suddenly he remembers he forgot to buy that bottle of milk. Should he return to the store or proceed on toward home? He stands there at the edge of the road, like the brave Ulysses on the beach contemplating whether to return home to the aging but loyal Penelope or spend another night in the arms of the beautiful Calypso?”

Speaking of Ulysses, Homer’s account is not quite how it happened.

One night the short, bandy-legged, scraggly bearded young man named Ulysses, who lived in a subdivision on a small island in the Adriatic, left the home on a cull-de-sac he shared with his wife, young son, various hangers-on, and a pack of dogs, telling everyone he was going to the store to buy a carton of milk, or an amphora of wine or new sandals or whatever. Now twenty years later he stood on the corner of the block down from his old home, broke, hungry and older. He contemplated the excuses he would tell his wife for his long absence. He concocted stories about ships and strange wars, jealous gods, wooden horses, one-eyed monsters and to cover up the long periods of time he spent living with a succession of comely young women, he fell back on the tried and true excuse of philandering husbands of the time, bewitchment.

On the other hand, the also aging but still zaftig and supposedly loyal Penelope wanted no part of the smelly midget bastard’s return. She had happily spent the past 20 years screwing the Mexican pool boy and every young stud in town. The assholes return would only mean she would have to give up the good life and return to working on that Goddamn loom. Besides, she needed an excuse of her own to explain why for the last 20 years the same old piece of cloth hung on that machine with no further work done on it since he left. She told all her boyfriends that she would choose one of them to settle down with when she finished weaving the cloth. They were so stupefied with the thought of getting into her toga whenever she lifted her skirt for them they forgot all about the status of that rotting rag.

She believed however that she would need something better to convince the crafty asshole of her unbelievable 20 years of fidelity. She decided to elaborate on the story and planned to tell her returning husband, if unfortunately he should ever return, that she weaved at the loom all day and every night she tore out what she had done during the day. If the simple and unbelievable story had worked on her lovers why wouldn’t this expanded version work on that scheming lying bastard Ulysses?

Nevertheless, she still was surprised when the testosterone poisoned dwarf suddenly and unexpectedly showed up at her door and started killing all of her boyfriends and the Mexican pool boy as well.

Sadly, Penelope was forced back to working all day at the Goddamn loom and at night diddling herself while the drunken scumbag lay snoring among his dogs after buggering some prepubescent boy-chick.

As Holden Caulfield would say, “Crummy.”


If you cannot answer a man’s argument, all it not lost; you can still call him vile names.
~Elbert Hubbard

One of the most important rules for living a good life.


Sacile Symphonia in rehearsal

Lucia with a mysterious young man.

Categories: July 2011 through September 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. July 2, 2011


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1917 October 24:The battle of Caporetto begins in which the

General Count Luigi Cadorna, Italian Chief of ...

General Count Luigi Cadorna, Italian Chief of Staff, visiting British batteries Español: General Conde Luigi Cadorna, Jefe del Estado Mayor italiano, visitando las baterías británicas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Central Powers (the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany) administers a divisive defeat to the Italian Army (a member of the Allied forces, Britain, France and the US).

The Italian commander Marshal Luigi Cadorna prepared for the battle by sacking 217 generals, 255 colonels and 355 battalion commanders. He also believed that soldiers fought better out of fear than out of commitment resulting in his troops intense hatred of him. He assembled his forces in a defensive line with no mobile reserves. As a result when the Central Powers launched the world’s first blitzkrieg there were no forces to move into action at the point of the breakthrough. Finally, he firmly believed that the place for a general was far enough behind the lines to be safely out of danger and mobile enough to be able to retreat faster than the rest of his army.

Map of the Italian Front, Battle of Caporetto.

Map of the Italian Front, Battle of Caporetto. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a result the Italian army dissolved, losing over 300,000 men. Marshall Luigi was fired instead of shot, which only proves how much better it is to be a member of the ruling class than say a trooper who Marshall Luigi would have had shot for faltering in an advance into the throat of machine-gun fire. As a result over 250,000 Italian troops immediately surrendered as soon as the enemy blitzkrieg broke through their lines.

Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Farewell to Arms,” immortalized the battle.



Tamai is a tiny but apparently prosperous village nestled among the cornfields about six kilometers or so from Sacile. I was told that its name is derived from the sheds that populated the area at a time when the land thereabout was useful for little more than grazing cattle. The sheds were used to drive the cattle into to feed and from which the resulting dung was collected to be processed into fertilizer. Thus Tamai could be translated as “Town of the Cow Sheds” or I guess even “Cow Shit Village.”

Anyway we arrived at the “Farm.” It consisted of about 10 acres of which about two-thirds was planted in the cash crop for the area, corn. The main house, the various farm buildings and sheds, a chicken coop and extensive garden in which the family grew all their fruit and vegetable needs and some of their aesthetic needs in the form of a large variety of flowers occupied the remainder of the property.

I was introduced to the family that lived on the farm and learned that SWAC actually had never stayed with them before but had learned of their existence from one of our employees at our bar in Thailand whose mother had married our host. SWAC previously had visited them briefly while spending a few weeks with a wealthy italian boyfriend in nearby Sacile. This I assumed she believed qualified her to impose upon them for shelter and sustenance for the better part of a month. I also learned that she did not know their names and referred to the Thai woman and her italian husband only as Mama and Papa. I later learned their actual names were Anita and Vittorio.

Living in the house in addition to the aforementioned Anita and Vittorio were and older man and woman referred to as Nono and Nona. I still do not know if they were Vittorio’s parents or aunt and uncle.

Nono is 87 years old and extremely vigorous putting in full days working on the farm. He speaks with the gravelly voice of Brando’s Godfather and seems to see humor in everything. For example he laughed uproariously when I struck my head on a branch I was trying to duck under. During the Second World War he served in the Italian Army under German command on the eastern front in Russia. With the collapse of the Italian Fascist Regime in 1943, he along with most of the Italian soldiers fighting on that front were arrested by the Nazi’s. He spent the remainder of the war in various labor camps in Poland until liberated by the Americans before they were ordered to vacate the land in favor of the Russian Army.

Nono is also one of those fortunate creatures who always manages to look well dressed no matter what he wears. Where most of us tend generally to look a bit like an unmade bed, Nono, even in his work clothes consisting of a straw had, a Thai floral shirt, culottes and sandals, always looks like he just stepped out of a gentleman’s magazine (if there were a gentleman’s magazine for men over 70). When I used to be able to afford Brioni, Kiton or bespoke suits, Church or Ferragamo shoes and various designer shirts, ties and the like, I still managed to look like a basket full of soiled laundry.

Nona on the other-hand looks very much the farmers wife with her sack dress. She spends much of her day working in the garden primarily tending the tomatoes that are ripening nicely.

Both Nono and Nona when they are not working the grounds or gathered with the rest of the family for meals, spend their time occupied, pencil in hand, unraveling problems in various puzzle books.

Living also at the house is a 70-year-old or so women who is Vittorio’s aunt. Although she does not exhibit any of the physical deformities of those retarded from birth, nevertheless she seems to have terminated intellectual growth when she was about six. I do not know if it was genetic or caused by injury or disease. She is also a third stage diabetic and requires two shots of insulin every day as well as constant monitoring of her blood sugar levels. At dinner time, while the family is gathered around the table and before starting to eat, instead of saying grace, we watch Vittorio administer her evening insulin shot.

She always has lived with the family and their relationship is characterized by a lot of shouting (I assure you from experience, a common trait among italian families. We tend to be a loud race) as the family members try to get her to do those things, such as exercise (on an Exercycle on the porch), drink lots of water and avoiding fried foods necessary to keep her diabetes under control.

She tends to shriek rather than talk and Hayden who is a bit of a mimic has learned to copy her shriek and they seem to spend several more of less happy hours together during the day screeching at one another.

SWAC has told Hayden that the aunt is “not 100%,” so he now refers to her as the “100% lady” as he, like me, does not know her actual name.

Anita has two daughters from a prior liaison, one who used to work at Ava, married an American man and moved to Rochester NY. They subsequently divorced but she continued to live in Rochester, why, I have no idea. Her other daughter is married to a Thai man and has two children. They live in Italy nearby to the farm and visit almost every day. Anita also has a twenty something year old daughter with Vittorio. She looks more italian than a full-blooded italian with her unfeigned indolent sensuousness and permanent pout.

Vittorio is a wonderful 50 something farm boy, generally quiet and gentle. He always lived within a few miles of the farm, served as a Marine in the italian army, plays the Tuba in several local ensembles, all in all one of earths good guy’s. He retired last year from whatever work he was doing to supplement his farm income and loves to tell everyone, “I work to live, not live to work.”

It addition to the people and chickens the farm supports a tribe of feral cats and two dogs, actually more insects than dog. I truly believe I have discovered a new species indigenous to the farm, Canis Insectai. Luckily, like mules they are unable to breed otherwise they may be discovered by celebrities as fashionably grotesque pets and flood the world with them causing the human race to die out from revulsion.

One of the insect-dogs has patches of something that looks like a cross between used toilet paper and rusty wire that passes for hair or fur while the other has several teeth missing so that his tongue hangs grotesquely out of the side of its face. I, who am an inveterate dog petter, never missing the opportunity to scratch behind the ears or under the chin of just about any dog I come across even at times the Soi dogs of Bangkok, have not touched these creatures for fear it is catching. (to be continued…)




Vince looked up from examining the piece of note paper in the transparent evidence envelope the sheriff had placed on the desk in front of him, stared into Megs milky blue crazed eyes and said, “I haven’t the slightest Idea why she wrote this. I only know that yesterday she asked me to meet with her sometime today.” He realized too late that he had violated one of the rules every attorney learns by the time he finishes law school, never volunteer information unless you already know how it will benefit you.

“Well,” said the well endowed Sheriff smiling slightly, “perhaps you can educate me on what this meeting was to be about.”

“Uhh… I have no idea. She did not say.”

“Come now Mr. Biondi,” she said sounding more and more like a parity of a bad television crime show detective, “you must have some idea. Could it have been something about the recent death of her husband or perhaps something you and he were up to?”

Vince now felt himself getting angry at this muscle-bound Barbie Doll and was about to say something thoughtless in response when to his surprise he heard Ray’s voice asking a question.

“Sheriff” he inquired, “would you mind if I took a photograph of this note?”

Megs turned her head towards him and stared as though he had somehow just crawled through the transom. “Why,” she growled?

“I thought maybe we could save the County some money and have the handwriting analyzed. It seems pretty unusual all shaky ant the like. If we find it was not written by her that could change the focus of your investigation.” He stared back at her a broad innocent smile on his face.

After a few moments her stoney face softened, a slight smile appeared on her face. “Thank you, I think that may be a good idea.”

Ray took a small,l but to Vince a complex, looking digital camera from a large pocket in his camouflaged cargo pants and a six inch ruler. The ruler he carefully placed along side the note then snapped a series of photo’s, returned the camera and the ruler to his pocket, leaned back and smiled again at Megs. “Thank you.”

Megs smiled as though she had just received a birthday present.

Once again Vince found himself wondering at his own reactions. On the one hand he was relieved that Megs attention had swung from him to Ray. On the other hand he was nonplussed that Ray seemed to handle the situation better that he did. Finally, he was a bit jealous of Ray’s obvious effect on women.

“Well, Mr. Biondi,” she said, “I guess we will just wait to resume our conversation until your kind associate produces his report.”

As they walked down the steps outside the sheriff’s office. Ray noticed a tall thin man in a tee-shirt and jeans taking their picture. He quickly ran across the street toward the man, took the camera from his pocket and began snapping photographs of the man who in turn shot photographs at him, until the skinny photographer retreated to a late-model silver Lexus and drove off.

Ray returned to the stupefied Vince.

“I find that usually scares them off for a while,” he said.

a. Eponymous laws:

Hanlon’s razor — A corollary of Finagle’s law, and a play on Occam’s razor, normally taking the form, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” As with Finagle, possibly not strictly eponymous. Alternately, “Do not invoke conspiracy as an explanation when ignorance and incompetence will suffice, since conspiracy implies intelligence.”

(Don’t let Fox News hear about this.)

b. Testosterone Chronicles:

Researchers found that, “young male” CEOs — younger than 45 — “are more likely than older men or women to both initiate and kill M&A deals.” And they concluded that it was testosterone that caused that behavior.

Testosterone decreases in men as they age, which is another interesting fact in itself.

c. Department of abasement, apology and correction:

Cow Shit Village” can never be considered and appropriate translation for Tamai. I was just having some fun.



Hayden, the 100% lady and Nono and Nona working on their puzzles.

The insect-dogs:

Categories: July 2011 through September 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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