TO SUMMARIZE A YEAR’S OUTPUT
(….don’t look at me…. a lot’s been happening….so I just went with the flow!)

So much has happened over this past year it’s been very difficult to keep up with things. So I’ve produced more commentary about it all than my combined output of the past three years! Not certain if all that quantity has had enough “quality” to warrant such a volume of output, so I’ll leave it to the readers of it to decide.

But I have gotten a couple of questions from some acquaintances who are readers of my stuff. The gist of those questions being – how do you manage to write about serious things, yet, do it with tongue-in-cheek so not to sound like some kind of know-it-all pundit? Those are good questions. The short answer is….I haven’t a clue… I just do it.

Still, we might narrow it down to a couple of things. First, since I have no claim to expertise on anything, I think in terms of ….CHAMPAGNE….when I write. That’s right…. champagne…. because, while it’s really a very serious wine, all those tiny bubbles in it, make it….fun… cheeky…. and all that. So that’s how I approach most subjects I comment upon. They are all rather serious, but if I presented only serious analysis and commentary about them most folks would just say…. what makes this guy think he’s an expert on any of these subjects? So, as appropriate, I insert “tiny bubbles” of wry humor, or sly satire, about them, to make such comments more entertaining, and, the more serious parts of them…. much easier to swallow. Well, that’s my shtick….so I’m sticking with it.

As to form and structure, I just try to present my thoughts and ideas as if I were discussing them with very intelligent friends. So the grammar, syntax, and some of the colloquialisms are given in a conversational style, all the while doing my best not to spell cat…with a K. But I must confess the real answer may be due to one very powerful past influence.

It’s been a good fifty years or so since I was under its direct impact, but even after all that time its influence still lingers on with me. It came from an extremely tall, lanky gentleman, with close cropped iron-grey hair, and matching bushy eyebrows, named Charles C. Hart. A three-star general, a corps commander, to whom I was assigned, by my G3 boss, as his personal liaison officer to his three-star counterpart commanding an allied French corps, all because of my bi-lingual capacity. Which meant I had to write a lot of papers flowing between them…. in two languages….while he, pounded like hell on a dumbass lieutenant for three years to teach him how to write a proper report or subject memo.

A near fanatic about the Army’s –Staff Officer’s Guide – and its guidelines and structures for what was called the –Five Paragraph Field Order – the old boy was adamant that if one couldn’t present a subject within that five paragraph structure, and on not more than a page and a half, it wasn’t worth looking at…. much less reading. It was very simple….state the problem or issue, give some background on how it came to be, present some ideas for handling it, then wrap it all up with specific recommendations. Period! General Hart was an absolute martinet about that, and most of his corps staff (especially we who occupied his G3 stable) learned it the hard way.

Under such “tutoring” I quickly managed to become good enough not to have my reports flung back in my lap very often, and, reached a level of acceptable quality so that the old boy rarely had to do any blue pencil vivisections on them. Over time, he rarely found fault with what I presented (much to the disgust of other staffers who still continued to face his fierce blue pencil annotations and acid comments).

One day, shortly before being due for rotation back to the States, I was summoned by the Chief of Staff, and brusquely ordered to report to the General on the double. Not certain of the cause for such a summons, I was naturally a bit nervous, so I entered his office, came to a smart attention in front of his desk, while wondering what sort of screw up I might have committed.

As I stood there expecting a firing squad to pop out of the woodwork at any moment, the old boy rose like a king cobra from his seat up to his full height, came around his enormous desk, and said – “At ease –Captain- or I’ll end up pinning these damned tracks sideways on you. Congratulations! “ Although he rarely smiled, his stony face seemed less stony at that moment, and his icy blue laser-like eyes had a –gotcha- twinkle in them as he watched me trying to recover from this unexpected event. So…I gave him a smart salute, and thanked him. We shook hands, and he stalked back behind his desk saying:”that’s all…. dismissed.”

With a smart about face I headed for the door. Just as I reached it, however, I heard him growl out ” –and….Captain….now that I’ve taught you how to write a halfway decent report…. do me a favor….from now on try not to write them in English….as it’s spoken in goddam French! “– Looking back over my shoulder I saw he was actually grinning and chuckling to himself, shaking his head, as he waved me on out the door. The sly old sonofabitch had a sense of humor after all! Well, that old boy was a tough and hard task master, but it’s thanks to him I can even pretend to know how to write, even if it still reads a lot like English as it is spoken in goddam French!

So thanks, General Hart, you may be long gone by now….but here’s a Happy New Year’s toast and salute to you memory…. I couldn’t have done it without your iron-nosed but patient pounding on that former dumb-bass Lieutenant.

CENTURION