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Roll Out the Barrels. Here Comes the Polka!

Before disco was hot ([Click Here]), before the shame of Lambada, the forbidden dance ([Click Here]), before the Andrew Sisters made World War 2 fun ([Click Here]), there was the polka. ([Don't click here!]) Half-stepping into our hearts, the polka comes from Bohemia which is the modern day Czech Republic. It has come to the United States with the new wave of European immigrants, and it has really caught fire. The word polka means "half-step" and probably refers to the lively way that people dance to the music. The tunes are usually bright and happy and tolerable. Polka music must be tolerable because it will remain a major force in American music into the television era and even the Grammy Awards will keep a place open for the polka until 2009 when they will finally drop it as an awards category. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I grew up with the Lawrence Welk Show on TV. He had a lot of energy and an incomprehensible accent which he probably received from his Ukrainian parents. (Ukrainians. It's always the Ukrainians.) He managed to parlay his love for the polka into a major television variety show. Every show featured a polka. People loved it. In fact, the official dance of Wisconsin is the Beer Barrel Polka. Most people know it as "Roll Out the Barrels". ([Click here.]) It is still played during the 7th inning stretch at Milwaukee Brewers games. If you watched the movie Groundhog Day you heard the Pennsylvania Polka being played over and over and over again. "Strike up the music the band has begun." ([Click here.]) Unfortunately, with the passing of years the polka has lost its punch and like fruit cake, it has become a punchline to jokes. But I like fruit cake. I admit it. And I like to hear the occasional polka, but I won't dance to it. You can't make me dance.

Escape from Kabul

Did I say escape? I meant MASSACRE. A few years ago British forces took Kabul without a fight, but for the sake of diplomacy, they established their camp outside of Kabul rather than within the Kabul fortress. Unhappy Afghans began a guerrilla war. To control the guerrillas, the British pay off the various tribes in Kyber Pass and around Kabul, but the bribes are eventually cut off and complaints are ignored. Then the British commander is replaced by "the most incompetent soldier who ever became general". The Afghans rise in open revolt. Attempts to negotiate a bloodless retreat ends with the murder of the British negotiators under a flag of truce. After dithering, the commander of British forces agrees to terms for safe passage of British families. (If you look up "fool" in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Sir William Elphinstone there.) The wounded are left behind because the Afghanis have PROMISED to take care of them. Before the British are out of sight, the wounded are "taken care of". (See your dictionary again.) 16,000 men, women and children are out in the open, without escort and SLOWLY making their way toward India. A week later, Assistant Surgeon William Brydon rides into Jalalabad on a wounded horse. When asked where the army is, he replies "I am the army." [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Over the following weeks a few Indian support troops straggled in, but that was it. Elphinstone had made mistakes a 3-year-old wouldn't make and continued to make mistakes all along the way. If I came upon his grave today I would be tempted to piss on his headstone if it had one. (His grave is unmarked for a good reason.) A second British force was sent in and it leveled Kabul. They rescued about 2,000 people held prisoner or in slavery including 21 children and 12 women. Lady Florentia Sale, the wife of General "Fighting Bob" Sale, was found alive. The lesson I draw from this terrible tragedy is, if I am paying for a man's loyalty, I am required to watch my back and not fall behind on the payments. That is not ideal, but if a commercial deal is the best I can do, it behooves me to hold up my end of the deal. [11]

In Other News

  • Ether is first used for surgical anesthesia. What did they use before? Carbon dioxide. The Japanese had something, but the formula was lost in a fire. So... bite down on a bullet and hang on for dear life. [12] [13] [9]
  • William James is born. He will make the philosophy of Pragmatism popular and become America's first psychologist. [9]
  • Ambrose Bierce is born. He will be the author of "The Devil's Dictionary", the source of many clever quotes on the Internet. Acquaintance, n. "A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to."

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1842, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Lambada - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “The dance became internationally popular in the 1980s, especially in Latin America and Caribbean countries. It has adopted aspects of dances such as forró, salsa, merengue, maxixe and the carimbó.”
  2. Lambada - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “Also known as the forbidden dance, from the time that Brazil was a Portuguese colony, Carimbó was a common dance in the northern part of the country. Carimbó was a loose and very sensual dance which involved many spins by the female dancer, who typically wore a rounded skirt. The music was mainly to the beat of drums made of trunks of wood, thinned by fire.”
  3. The Andrews Sisters - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. YouTube (1941). Retrieved on 4 August 2016.
  4. Lawrence Welk – Deceased Category – Inducted 1994. IPA Polkas (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “Every show featured a polka either performed by Lawrence himself or another member of the show. He never forgot his heritage and the music he grew up with and loved.”
  5. Lawrence Welk Pennsylvania Polka. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016.
  6. Donna Summer- Hot Stuff. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016.
  7. Jennifer Lopez Ft. Pitbull - Live On The Floor American Idol HD. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016.
  8. Polka in the United States - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “A fast style in 2/4 time, and often associated with the pre–World War II era, polka remains a dynamic 'niche' music in America.”
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 408-409. 
  10. 1842 retreat from Kabul - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Robert Sale - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “By this time the army had settled down to the quiet life of cantonments, and Lady Sale and her daughter came to Kabul. But the policy of the Indian government in stopping the subsidy to the frontier tribes roused them into hostility, and Sale's brigade received orders to clear the line of communication to Peshawar. After severe fighting Sale entered Jalalabad on 12 November 1841. Ten days previously he had received news of the murder of Sir Alexander Burnes, along with orders to return with all speed to Kabul. These orders he, for various reasons, decided to ignore; suppressing his personal desire to return to protect his wife and family, he gave orders to push on, and on occupying Jalalabad at once set about making the old and half-ruined fortress fit to stand a siege.”
  12. Crawford Long - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “Crawford Williamson Long (November 1, 1815 – June 16, 1878) was an American surgeon and pharmacist best known for his first use of inhaled sulfuric ether as an anesthetic.”
  13. History of general anesthesia - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 4 August 2016. “On 13 October 1804, Hanaoka performed a partial mastectomy for breast cancer on a 60-year-old woman named Kan Aiya, using tsūsensan as a general anesthetic. This is generally regarded today as the first reliable documentation of an operation to be performed under general anesthesia.”

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