The Hunger Games

I truly hate to say it, but here is what I posted on March 23, 2012.

“Hunger, that’s why this post is late.  I was curious about all the hype, so I read it, The Hunger Games.  Whoa, I mean, Whoa Up There!  Don’t we have ENOUGH freaking VIOLENCE goin’ on around here?  For instance, on page 151, the Heroin (like a fix for our violence cravings) says something to the effect, “I looked back and they were all hacking one another to pieces”.  Kids that is.  Speaking of kids.  Rue, a 12 year old girl, later in the book kind of nonchalantly says, “I killed 3 today already”.  Meaning other kids.  For me, THERE ARE NO ENDS THAT JUSTIFY THESE MEAN AND DEGRADING  MEANS.   I am more sad than angry, more disappointed than disgusted, and more weary of our propensity for violence and the glorifying of same than can be written in prose.  I feel prose has been cursed somewhat by the author of this drivel.  So I shall write a poem.  To celebrate the much anticipated screen release of, Tah Dah!!  The Hunger Maims.  I write what I feel folks, and I feel strongly about this.  No offense.  But I find it offensive.  Some say there is some kind of redemption later in the series.  First, I must purchase hip-boots, to wade through the blood.”

No connection of course, that the father of the young alleged perp in the recent California rampage was a director for The Hunger Games.  Alleged, yes, but we shall see.  In the meanwhile, this fact remains:  We are addicted to violence.  And the young, the compromised, soak it up…and give it back.  We ARE NOT immune to what we read, hear and see everyday, plastered, shouted, flashed, forwarded, copied, saved, dispersed everywhere, all the time.

 

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The Flag, The Family, The Light

John “Paul” McNeil, passed on July 4, 2013.  Among the cherished memories, is something he would often say, “God first, family second, job third.”  Not idle words, for he lived his life by them.

The flag he served was our nation‘s flag, as a Marine officer of 27 years, in three wars, retiring a full Colonel.  We heard many “war stories” over the years.  Yet many of them were not of battles and conflict, but of the healing that took place after war‘s end.  One that stands out is when he was on tour in Japan in the early 1960’s.  At this time, not long after the close of WWII, the US still had many military bases in Japan.  We were actively helping the Japanese form their own Self Defense Force, so they could become our allies, and defend themselves.  Dad was one of the key liaison US officers assigned to assist the Japanese military.  As an honor to him at the end of his tour, the Japanese military invited him on a retreat to a remote and exclusive inn in the mountains.  He was the only American on that retreat.  He found out later, he was the first American invited to that inn since the end of the war.  He was strong in war, and in peace.

   As a family man, Dad was the head of the household.  Yet he partnered with my mom Virginia, in an equal and mutually respected relationship.  He was, as is Biblically directed, the spiritual head of the household.  She ran the domestic ship.  They made the big decisions together.  They raised their two sons together.  They had no girls, but loved my daughter Erin as the daughter they never had.  This brave Marine, who was in combat many times, would clean up the kitchen after his wife prepared the meals.  When Dad was told he would be assured of making General if he did a second tour in Viet Nam, he deferred to his wife who said, “I have followed you for 27 years, through several wars and almost 20 moves.  I don’t want to lose you now”.  He honored her request, and retired.  He was married to his beloved Virginia for 60 years, until she passed a few years ago.
  The Light of God guided him, as did the Light within his wife.  Mom was raised a Seventh Day Adventist, and her father was a minister in that faith.  Dad loved my mother’s faith and the biblical knowledge she gained in her upbringing.  They always attended Church through their life together, and served in many ministry capacities.  Though a strong soldier, Dad was a humble child of  God.  His granddaughter Erin has his Bible now, which she says is a bit hard to read for all his underlining of passages, and notes he made!  His favorite passage: “And I will pray the Father, that he may send you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.”  John 14:16.  The Comforter was with Paul, I am sure, when he passed.  Praise God.
  A simple, heartful incident occurred on my way to visit him in Hospice, the night before he passed.  My brother Mark asked me to get a US flag to place by Dad for July 4th.  I had been to one store, no flags, so was heading to Waly-World, stopping for gas at a quick mart.  They might have flags, I thought.  No flags, but for one, a decoration over one of the isles.  It was getting late, I wanted to get to Dad soon.  I grabbed that flag and went to the counter.  “How much is this flag?”  The young African-American teen said with a knowing smile, “That flag is not for sale”, obviously having seen me.  I answered, “Please, my Dad is in Hospice, he may not have long.  He was in the Marines in three wars, and I want to get a flag to him for the Fourth.”  She did not hesitate, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You take that flag.  No one will miss it.  Your dad deserves it”.  I thanked her heartfully, and wish now I had asked her name.  I was almost in tears as I walked out the door of that store.  What a gift, for me, and my father.  What a gift for our country.  For though I was white, and she was black, the only colors that mattered in that moment were our nation’s colors.
  My father took his oath when he became a Marine officer to defend the Constitution of the United States.  Not the President, not the disgusting politicians, not the largely corrupt Congress.  We have many problems confronting our nation, racial issues included.  Dad’s oath was to defend a document with ideals equal to and even larger than race and religious path.  Yet issues of  mis-trust of our government are growing, as we stray further and further from the Constitution.  This honorable and brave Marine, was heartbroken over this.  Some have even said the Constitution is a worn-out old document.  He believed, as do his two sons, that document was divinely inspired.  Paul McNeil put his life on the line many times to defend the Constitution, and honor it.  I believe Colonel Paul McNeil, through the will and Grace of God, died on Independence Day to make a statement.  I believe each of us would serve our selves and our nation well to consider what statement we will make.
J Paul McNeil
ps-  Erin has my family album as I post this.  I will put some more pictures of the Colonel up soon.  Take a look at the one of him and Virginia on a prior post here, “Distant Heart, Memorial Day”
pps- A friend has reminded me that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4 as well.  My father is in good company.
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Semper Fi

My 93 year old father is in Hospice.  He has been there about a week, longer than the family expected.  But as I said to my brother Mark tonight, not surprising, really.  For he is a fighter, still.  Never defeated in varsity wrestling at the U of Md.  Almost 30 years in the USMC, retiring a full colonel, combat vet of WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam.  So he continues to fight his last battle.  I visited him earlier today, and at one point said to him, now semi-conscious, “Semper Fi, Colonel!”  The door to his room was open, and from across the hall, I heard a faint but distinctive answer, “Semper Fi!”  I got up, and looked across the hall.  There was, as the saying goes, a mountain of a man, about my age, but looked like he could have been an NFL tackle.  Still basically fit, striding toward me with his hand out, saying, “Is your father a Marine?”  He didn’t say “was”, for once a Marine, always a Marine.  And he had his Viet Nam service cap on.  I shook his hand, and said, “Yes.  Paul McNeil, Colonel, United States Marine Corps.  And you?”  “Just call me Woody…and I was not even close to being a Colonel.”  I replied, “That doesn’t really matter Woody, you are a Marine.  And I can see you are still proud of it.”  Yes, I am”, he replied.  “Thank your father for his service for me.”  I will, Woody, and thank you for yours”.  We talked a bit more, and I learned he was there visiting his uncle.  We talked about the Corps, and I at some point said something about the Marines being part of the Department of the Navy.  And he smiled and said, “Yeah, you know what department”.  I had never served, but I am enough of a Marine’s son to know the answer to that one.  “Yes, the Men’s Department”.  Woody and I laughed, and hugged, and went back to the rooms of our loved one.  No offense to those who served in the Navy.  But, Semper Fi!”

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Distant Heart, Memorial Day

Distant Heart II

Mom and Dad Umd IIINote: I posted this a month ago, and am reposting for Memorial Day.  I also just found this sweet picture of my Mom and Dad from 1942, on his graduation from UMd.  They had just married.  He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, but joined the Marines soon thereafter.

My father served in the US Marines for almost 30 years, in combat in WW II, Korea, and Vietman.  He retired a full Colonel.  I heard his stories many times.  But it wasn’t until my daughter Erin was videotaping him for the family when he was in his mid-80′s (soon after my mother passed away), that I began to fully understood how much he and so many others of his generation gave.  I had known that he was in the Pacific in WWII for a long time, but only when he spoke for the camera, did I realize if was for 2 1/2 years.  With one 2 week furlough.  He used that furlough to meet my mother Virginia in San Francisco.  Then back to the Pacific, and the eventual surrender of Japan.  Mom wrote him everyday.  I had heard that story.  I thought perhaps it was an exaggeration.  But as he looked into the camera, I could almost see him opening those letters.  It was true.  Every day.  Even if only a sentence.  “I love you”.  ”I miss you”.  Sometimes she wrote pages.  Far out in the Pacific, the troops got mail late, very late, and in big batches.  Dad would open them, dozens at a time.  And he would read the words sent from Mom’s Distant Heart to his.  Their distant love, which stood the test of time and war, inspired this song.

I tried to imagine in the song, what it was like for Dad.  He was in his early 20′s, newly married, and very distant from the Pocono mountains of PA where he grew up.  The conflict of being young and very much in love, and at the same time in very brutal war.  The certainty of my mother’s love when he received those precious letters.

I should write a song specifically about those letters. I would give anything to find one of them.  Though I know, they still live in this old soldier’s heart.  This post, and the song below, are for my parents Distant Hearts from long ago.  To all who gave their lives.  To all who served then, who serve now, and are distant from the ones they love.

The Colonel is now 93, in a nursing home.  Erin and I just visited him this Memorial Day.  We had a big chocolate cupcake for him, with a Marine flag on it (he still loves chocolate…and Marine flags).  I showed him the picture above that I had found, and he smiled, his eyes lighting up.  I can imagine him and Mom swing dancing….maybe he did too.  We called some family, and friends, including some Marines (though from a younger generation) who still keep up with Dad.  It is true, they are The Few, The Proud.  And as they say, Semper Fi !

Hear (and download) the song, here:  http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/

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Distant Heart

Mom and Dad Umd IIINote: I posted this a month ago, and am reposting for Memorial Day.  I also just found this sweet picture of my Mom and Dad from 1942, on his graduation from UMd.  They had just married.  He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, but joined the Marines soon thereafter.

   My father served in the US Marines for almost 30 years.  I heard his stories many times.  But it wasn’t until my daughter Erin was videotaping him for the family when he was in his mid-80′s, that I began to fully understood how much he and so many others of his generation gave.  I had known that he was in the Pacific in WWII for a long time, but only when he spoke for the camera, did I realize if was for 2 1/2 years.  With one 2 week furlough.  He used that furlough to meet my mother in San Francisco.  Then back to the Pacific, and the eventual surrender of Japan.  Mom wrote him everyday.  I had heard that story.  I thought perhaps it was an exaggeration.  But as he looked into the camera, I could almost see him opening those letters.  It was true.  Every day.  Even if only a sentence.  “I love you”.  “I miss you”.  Sometimes she wrote pages.  Far out in the Pacific, the troops got mail late, very late, and in big batches.  Dad would open them, dozens at a time.  And he would read the words sent from Mom’s Distant Heart to his.  Their distant love, which stood the test of time and war, inspired this song.

  Dad is in a nursing home now at age 93, mending a broken hip.  Mom passed away a few years ago.  And on his nightstand is a picture of them from the 40′s, he in his Marine uniform, she in that great 40′s style.  They were quite the handsome couple, and I can imagine them dancing to one of those great old swing bands.  So when I got home from visiting the Colonel today, I had to put this story and song up, to honor him and his classy lady.

ps- I should write a song specifically about those letters.  But this one is about my parents Distant Hearts from long ago.  And to all who serve now, and are distant from the ones they love.

pps- no matter how you feel about war, if you feel, you have a heart.  And hearts, hearts full of love, can heal even the wounds of war.  And perhaps some wondrous day, our hearts will find a way to make war no more.

Hear the song about distant love, here:  http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/

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Together

Sanville Elem. 1969-70 JP

“Hi, are you the John Paul McNeil that taught at Sanville Elementary  in the ’70′s?”  That was the message on FB I got not too long ago from Betty , one of my former students, now a mother, and grandmother.  A few more of those “kids” and I got Together for a reunion, Betty bringing some of her musical family.  I wrote a song to go along with the video, and a story Betty told about bringing a flower in for a science project in that class from long ago.  Simpler times, with no fears about guns and tragedy.  I hope and pray we find kinder and more loving times again, Together.

Together

Betty brought a flower in
cause that’s what we were studyin’
but I could tell her little heart was turnin’.
So I made sure that Betty knew
and each one of them kids before we were through
that every flower would be respectfully undone for learnin’.

Chorus 1: Betty said she trusted me
all those kids were so darned sweet
I didn’t notice the changes in the weather.
Though storms kept comin’ up
the kids and I had a lovin’ cup
and everyday we’d drink it up
Together, Together

The girls and Betty were into growin’ up
the guys like Ricky and Wayne into frogs and stuff
but all of them loved it when Id bring in my old six string.
We’d sing those songs in harmony
It was an elementary symphony
And I can still feel the pleasure it would bring.

Chorus 2: But changes came and I was bound
-for a job down in the town
-something I thought somehow would be better.
But better is as better does
-and it aint always so because
-when you leave what you really love
-you’re not Together.

The years can like a freight train roll
-before you know it the tracks seem long and cold
-and that train can’t climb the hills like it used to.
But love is such a funny thing
-makes the journey lighter and the heart to sing
-and that old train can climb most anything if you choose to.

Chorus 3: Suddenly it seems so clear, with all of us gathered here
There’s nothing that could really be much better.
Flowers that we knew before, seem brighter as we sing once more
The song that we were lookin’ for, Together…..Together…. © jpmcneil

Hear the song, here: http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/

See it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGOy5Q9fO-g

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My Hallelujah

Easter Flowers CrossThe day before Easter Sunday, I was cleaning the house, and found a small wooden cross I made when I was a kid, in Methodist Youth Fellowship.  I had a live music gathering that evening (called a “jam”), and we had a grand time.  Up to and even past midnight.  Easter Sunday dawned…..early.  I had set the cross in a conspicuous place, feeling like I might want to do something special with it.  After my first cup of coffee (maybe it was the second), I took the cross and walked outside.  I headed to my favorite church, the woods, God’s Garden.  The little cross felt like it would be at home with the spring flowers.  It was.  And to add to the special, I resurrected (good one!) a spiritual song, My Hallelujah, which was originally just me playing guitar and singing, and added some harmony parts.  The Song of the Week.  For the Master.  Who mastered giving, and forgiving.

Hear the song, here:

http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/

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Song of the Week – Old Newport Waltz

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The robins are telling me it’s Spring.  I believe them.  Birds do not lie.

They asked me to post a song I wrote years ago, about spring in the Virginia mountains.

It was sweet.  Newport, a tiny old mountain town outside of Blacksburg, VA.  Me and some other young

hippies kinda took it over.  Nobody minded.  It was a good thing.

              Old Newport Waltz

Over the ridges, before all the bridges

the mountains heard only the sound

of wind in the forest, the time was before us

as peaceful as snow on the ground

And I cant help wondering, wondering how

we could get back to then, from now

Chorus:

Sing, sing, with the mountains in Springtime

Sing like it’s nobody’s fault

Sing, sing, with the deep rollin’ river

the Old, Old, Newport Waltz                      ©jpmcneil

there’s another verse….will see if anybody is interested….hear the song, here:

http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/

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Mer

What if you could sing a song in ????????????????????????????????????????a foreign tongue, unknown to you? Impossible!  It thought so too, until it happened.  A few years ago, I “felt” a song coming in.  This usually happens when I sit with my guitar, and chords start flowing in from “nowhere” (meaning “everywhere”).  I had learned enough over the years (I am trainable to some degree), to open up the recording gear, just in case.  Well, the chords felt good and rich and interesting.  And then these foreign words came out.  And kept coming.  I turned on the vocal mic, and caught them.  I played them back, with the guitar part behind them.  Amazing.  It sounded like some ancient language, somehow familiar to me.  A little like Gaelic, from the little I had heard of it.  It did not matter on some level, it simply sounded real and complete, even though I could not understand it in that literal understanding part of my brain.  But music births from a different part of the brain, the part that accesses the heart as well, and I believe encompasses the whole brain.

I redid the acoustic guitar part, keeping the original vocal, and added an ethereal electric guitar, bass, and synth drums.  And another harmony vocal.  Somehow I knew what to sing with the original part.  Here it is.

Someone who knew a bit about ancient languages said it was somewhat like Gaelic.  I said, “Maybe Olde Gaelic?”, half joking.  They just smiled and said, “I don’t know, I wasn’t around then”.  This mystery of music is like la Mer, an ocean I immerse myself in, where time and body become like the blood of my Soul, flowing into an endless and ancient Sea.

The song is here, waiting, like la Mer:

http://johnpaulmcneil.bandcamp.com/track/mer-fo

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Eve, Come Home

Amber TreeIt is International Women’s Day, in this International Women’s Month.  So here is a poem dedicated to the Woman of us All.  And the song, “Come Home”, which inspired this poem (and the song is its own poem).  A lot of inspiration going on.  Confused?  Just read where you can read, and clic where you can clic, and all will be well.  A good thing.  This picture of Amber from the music video “Come Home” is kind of Eve like.  A good thing.

** A link to the music video is below.  That song is this week’s Original Song of the Week.  Music videos count.  Cause I said so.  But first, the new poem.

“Eve, Come Home”

I thought I knew Eve, long ago

looking up, mouth to her breast

Her eyes looked like Heaven

her skin felt like Earth

I thought I was Home

Yet I have learned,

and the woman with the eyes of Heaven

has learned

Our true Home waits, and calls

lost, and buried

under oozing asphalt, rolled and rolled

upon, over incessant miles and kilos

On and on, and over, and over

Over long ago, long before

my mouth found her daughter’s milk

Eve lost us, for we lost Her

And long the painful, prideful story

of that loss

History, His-story

You think History made us full, and rich?

We are empty as is my mouth

no milk, no Home

no Eve

not here, not now

only shadows, hints of Her

lovely glimpses

Lonely and lost, She is

aching, full of the milk of Heaven

trickling from Her, along with

eon long tears

For She cannot bear to be

without us

to feel our hungry mouths

sweetly pulling Life and Love

from Her

When we know Her eyes

as the Windows of Heaven

feel her skin as Heaven’s Touch

and dance to her pulse as The Heart of Heaven

We can at last take Eve’s holy hand

in ours, and

Come Home

© jpmcneil

*pic is video still of Amber Marlowe, from my music video “Come Home”, on YouTube, here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ9mGXaBg-Y

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