gulliver's travels and other writings by harper honey com Pic of Old Text by

James F. O’Neil

2111 Ash Street

Des Plaines


So this is written on the first page of my “textbook” for my 18th Century Literature course in my undergraduate English major program (1962-1964, BA ’64).

I have too many books. Reaching this conclusion (again, as I have noted before), I have been giving away my books to the library. But many, like this volume, have too much writing in them, too many annotated passages in them for the library to accept them. Too much marginalia, too many underlinings and highlightings (mostly in pencil and red ballpoint ink, the latter soaking through the pages; pencil works best).

Thus I have been sorting (again, again) and culling: those books no longer usable (silverfished or book-wormed) or useful have found their lives with me cut short: into the recycle bins. That’s that.

recycle bin arborday foundationCredit: Arbor Day Foundation

The Swift book had a long life with me. By the first page alone, its life and use has time-dates: 11/29/62; 1-15-66 (graduate school, MA ’66); 3-21-68; 9-3-68; 11-18-70; 11-10-71 (dates I taught from the text for undergraduate courses in Minnesota); then a hiatus while I did school administration. The book was again opened 12-11-80 when I was teaching 12th grade English classes in Florida: many memories there, for sure, as my students reacted to the modest proposal, for cooking fattened Irish babies! Next, 11-94, 11-95, 12-2-97, the years I taught British Literature I at a Florida community college. The end.

That was the last time I had need for the text, for I moved on to teach other subjects until retirement in 2003.

The book has sat, has been boxed-unboxed-re-shelved, gathering dust on its pages, as do other unused books that reside in bookcases.  “Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some to be chewed and digested.” [Francis Bacon]

Even though downsizing, I had to keep one page, to remind me of what I learned, of what I remember. I look upon this page (now glued intomy current journal) and see written in pencil, in addition to all the dates of my book’s life, the essence of what I needed to take with me from Gulliver’s Travels:

1. Explain the main point of each voyage, the theme of each book.
2. Explain through the work how “man fails to use his reason.”
3. Discuss the Utopian society in each book. Explain “dystopia.”

Under this handwriting (in cursive, of course with me), I find some other notes of mine: science fiction; Vonnegut. H. G. Wells. Bradbury. Bellamy. Verne. Butler.

the-time-machineNice Cover for The Time Machine

How important Jonathan Swift was. How important the other authors were. Are?

The text is gone. Its residue remains with me: flying machines, time travel (like one of my favorites, The Time Traveler’s Wife?), horses and apes (like Planet of the Apes?), ice-nine, giant octopuses; Erewhon (the novel/place AND the cereal), Dandelion Wine, and Fahrenheit 451 (and now, Fahrenheit 9/11?).

Enough. Enough memories and connections for now. Enough “teaching” and reminders of what was learned or retained from school.

I understand.

So the text was carefully placed into the recycle bin, a text that brought back (brings back?) so many memories of a time. . . .

And so it goes.

But, I have Gulliver’s Travels in my Kindle…

© James F. O’Neil   2015



“The P-51 Mustang is arguably the world’s most famous fighter of all time.” —

The 1987 movie Empire of the Sun contains a scene with the very young Christian Bale shouting “Cadillac of the Skies!” as a flight of P-51 Mustangs comes shattering the quiet over the prisoner of war camp. A dramatic scene, to say the least, as part of the film’s story.

empire of the sun 1987EMPIRE OF THE SUN POSTER 1987

Well, the Mustangs are not Cadillacs, but are “actually” Rolls Royces…. (Well, a Packard-Merlin copy of the Rolls Royce engine. There. That’s for history.)

A Merlin Engine Aptly namedRolls Royce Merlin Engine: Tangmere, UK 

In 2004, I began to be a Collector of Mustangs. Not literally. I had entered a second childhood/youth-hood, complete with books, Internet writings and pictures, and lists and statistics about the plane, the P-51. No baseball cards this time; no “Red Menace” cards I collected in the 1950s; no SSI (Shoulder Sleeve Insignia) of various USAAF and US Army forces and divisions as I had done for my Boys Scout merit badge days; no comic books, model kits, nor coins for sorting and collecting.  

My collecting days, beginning with those desires to have a collection of something “way back then,” were never as involved with or as enthusiastic over any item as has been my interest in this particular airplane. I cannot explain it either. It just happened that way.

Originally, when I started this airplane “addiction,” or passion, for whatever the inexplicable reason, I had not any particular make or model in mind. I knew I wanted to read about and find information on The Flying Tigers for sure.

Flying TigersFlying Tiger Insignia

When I was in sixth grade, I became a babysitter for a neighbor down the street in Chicago. The husband and wife heard I was a reliable kid with a paper route. They had a small boy who needed an occasional sitter. I was asked over “for an interview” and hired. It was a great weekend job, putting a little guy to bed on a Saturday night–though my early Sunday morning paper route had to be taken into account.

While sitting in the quiet during those times, I read the classics about medieval knights and adventure stories and Hardy Boys books (like The Tower Treasure or While the Clocked Ticked. Those books written in 1927 seem so old now; but in the early 50s, they were “current,” less than 25 years old. By comparison, the first Harry Potter novel was written in 1997….)

And that was that–almost. I was babysitting for an original World War II Flying Tiger.

John Farrell, boyington,croftFlying Tiger John Farrell

I heard few of his stories, but did see his jacket and pictures, medals and insignia. It was the inception, I am convinced, of my innermost love of things flyable, of WWII stories, Flying Tigers, Seabees, Iwo Jima and John Wayne, and more and more and more.

Then… “Grow up!” Well, not quite like that. But there was high school (and reading stories about pilots), and college (and reading about pilots and WWII, or William Shire’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, instead of studying my philosophy assignments). And so on…and on….

2004. Indeed. I never gave up on any of the topics or stories that intervened from then until what started in 2004. I had an opportunity to re-channel, and started collecting.

Plastic, diecast, sizes, pilots, fighter groups–too much to collect without a Plan. I made a Divine Plan for Collecting Airplanes. Many times, the plan changed, kept changing–until I could focus, and that I did.

I always did “like” the “Cadillac of the Skies.” (Even the Flying Tigers gave up their shark-mouthed P-40s and transitioned to flying P-51 Mustangs.) I began my “serious” love affair, as much as I could, with this special, well-known fighter plane.

P-51 LVR License Plate croppedP-51 LVR Florida Plate 

There you have it. I have not ridden in one; I have been up close and personal, however–and have known and visited with WWII pilots and even have some autographs and books signed (typical “love-affair,” groupie-fan activities).

Punchy Powell MustangCapt. Robert Powell 

I have been to air shows on a limited basis, and to the right museums housing beautiful examples.

Ina the Macon Belle at Fantasy of Flight in FloridIna the Macon Belle at Fantasy of Flight: Florida

In addition to an in-cockpit flight film I have that puts me in the seat, I have been thrilled by a few movies for Mustang Lovers: Red Tails, The Tuskegee Airmen, Saving Private Ryan, Hart’s War, and, of course, Empire of the Sun. In the latter, Steven Spielberg used restored P-51s to portray the era accurately. Most effective.

Collecting can be fun, yet dangerous if time and money are taken from family duties and obligations, or from a person’s “normal” behavior. I have tried to be balanced and ordered in what I do: How many books can one have about a topic? Or models? Or…well, however many are needed. And there’s the rub. Want vs Need. I remember from King Lear: “Reason not the need.” I’ve tried that one too many times.

I think I am doing all right, learning from my childhood ways–and errors. But mostly my memories of past hobbies and collections are all good. My comic book collection was lost in a flooded basement. Coin collecting became too expensive for me as prices of metals rose. I still am animated when I see a beautiful new FOREVER stamp. But not enough to fill a postage album anymore. Downsizing living space has made my model collection very selective. I do not want a collection I cannot see, or touch. I am funny that way.

So that is how I came to this place in time and space, having a collection, loving to collect, and having a favorite special object from the past that continues to give me pleasure, physical and intellectual. I love the P-51 Mustang!

© James F. O’Neil 2014

Mustang LoverMustang Lover: Fort Myers, FL, Aviation Day, 2007


“Oh, say, can you see…”

Yes, I admit, I am always on the “look” out for things “beautiful.”

“Beauty is only skin deep.” “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

Yes, as I was often told, and taught in school, me with acne-filled pores.

“Beauty,” says Thomas Aquinas, is “That which seen pleases.”  I had a more difficult time with this one saying, both in philosophy class and in my art history classes. [Aquinas…is still being interpreted.]

How do I know what beauty is? Will it be like pornography, as the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined that: “I know it when I see it” [Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964]? (Can pornography–whatever it is–be beautiful?) Therefore, seeing, looking then is pleasing.

Ah, the beauty of it all. Oh, that ‘57 Chevy, candy-apple red hardtop, so pleasing, so beautiful!

“One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” As in, “That was a beautiful garage sale.” Or, in American Pickers: “That Texaco sign is just in beautiful condition.”


And what about a beautiful Scotch? “Single-malt, 15-year-old: just beautiful. Look at that color!” However, what about the taste? No dispute, is there, with taste/tastes?

“Mmm, mmm good. Mmm, mmm good. Campbell’s soups are mmm, mmm good.” Andy Warhol could attest to that!


What do you like? Any favorites? Is it/are they “beautiful”? The kids? The small of a woman’s back (in Kevin Costner’s litany in Bull Durham)? The Mona Lisa?

But about Venus de Milo, the original, which I saw in the Louvre, not the #2 pencil, not Salvador Dali’s huge “magnificent” symbolic painting, but the original: How can it/she be “beautiful”? No arms. Measurements just not “right” [34”-31.2”-40.8”], or . . . . “Look at those hips!” Some beauty. Out of proportion. Proportion is that essential quality of beauty, says those aestheticians (those who decide what is aesthetic or “beautiful”–or “art”–and there is Thomas Aquinas, again).


And something beautiful is also supposed to be good because of integrity, wholeness. It’s “bad” (even sometimes originally translated as “evil”), from any little defect. (I have always mused over “flawed” and “flawless” diamonds, even those “beautiful” three-carat, “cloudy” ones!) [Our engagement ring, 51 years ago, was a AAA, 0.39-carat, about the only affordable “way back then.” But how beautiful!]

Aesthetics: too philosophical for me.

And so, what could be beautiful?

Could be a song or musical piece (“Moon River” or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony); could be a color or something colorful (burnt sienna or a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico); could be a building (certainly nothing “Gaudi”!), like Hagia Sophia; could be a “babbling brook”; could be a Girl with a Pearl Earring, the book, the painting, the movie (how beautiful is that?!); could be that ice-cold RC Cola washing down a Moon Pie (Yum! Right beautiful!); could be all those older couples holding hands, older sisters, younger brothers; could be an emotionally charged and tear-evoking episode of Grey’s Anatomy, or a scene from Shakespeare in Love or Romeo and Juliet; could be a Serta, or Sealy Posturepedic for a beautiful night’s sleep.

Could be.

Oh, I can’t get enough. Looking for the pleasures to be found in The Beautiful.

“O Beautiful, for spacious skies…amber waves of grain…mountain majesties….”

Can you see? See? Do you see what I see? Can you find the beauty? Are you looking?

Remember: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’”–that is all…ye need to know.” –John Keats

© JAMES F. O’NEIL   4 JULY 2014

sunset over cape coralSUNSET


By: James F. O’Neil

Many years ago, I had written a piece about the uses of food in the movies: “What Is Dirty Harry’s Favorite Food?”  [Florida English Journal 24.2 (1988)]

What fun I had doing that piece.  It was “popular writing,” not too academic.  Going through my published writings recently, looking for something, I re-read my food-in-the-movies essay.  I was curious about what recent critics might be making of the food theme.  So I did an Internet search for more examples than I had in the past.  Lists now abound with favorite movie-scenes-with-food, or best food films.  YouTube is also with us, allowing us to see eatings and food fights, feasts and gatherings.

I have seen many more food movies in the past twenty years.  I cannot even give an accounting.  Yet my short list always includes Chocolat and Tortilla Soup.  I am pleased, for sure, that Tampopo and Like Water for Chocolate still remain among some “Best Ten Food Movies”–of all time.

I will always be able to watch Splash, with that Tom Hanks guy and Darryl Hannah–and the lobster-eating scene.  Contrast that with lobster eating in Flashdance.  Film classics both.  Can we ever forget that annual turkey in Christmas Vacation?

And others?  The Big Chill, with food used as a device, over a period of days of mourning, to gather people, friends brought together, allowing them to talk.  Fried Green Tomatoes: I have always liked Bar-B-Q….  Poor Popeye, the detective, in The French Connection, freezing, stakes out the French restaurant while the “bad guys,” warm inside, enjoy a sumptuous repast.

And what about all that cooking by Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Julie & Julia?

I have my favorites: Mrs. Doubtfire, Pretty Woman, the Last M*A*S*H Supper, The Hours,The Hunger (1983), and Ratatouille.  Many others deserve a mention of my past likes; but Kramer vs. Kramer is still #1.  Food is essential to the action of the film: food “works” in this movie, having the main characters and food interact, father-son interaction.  The eating scenes represent movement from chaos to harmony.  Yes, food can do that.

And remember what Dirty Harry eats and what he thinks of ketchup?  No?

“Nobody, I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog.”  (Sudden Impact, 1983)

© James F. O’Neil  2013

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