Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The holidays have snuck up on me…

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

…and I didn’t really have a chance to prepare.

So happy Bastille Day, everyone. I don’t actually recommend storming a prison, but if you do, please observe all safety precautions. (And don’t launch fireworks off of your head, or other body parts.)

The All-Star game kind of snuck up on me, too. But honestly, this year, I don’t give a flying flip at a rolling doughnut. There’s really no spectacularly bad team to root against. Heck, both the Astros and the Cubs are over .500.

The Beams of New College, Oxford.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

You know this story, right? At least you do if you’re weird like me and used to read Whole Earth Review (I think they used to sell this on a poster) or if you’ve read How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built (a book I tremendously admire).

If you don’t know the story, the canonical version (minus Brand’s “That’s the way to run a culture”) is here. I always thought that was a nice story.

Turns out that story isn’t exactly 100% true. And the true version of the story is arguably even better, if you’re looking for tips on how to run a culture.

(I think I got this from TJIC on the Twitter.)

Quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore (#3 in a series).

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from Half-Price recently.

It wasn’t just that I was trying to save money for my trip, though that was part of it. (And I hope to have the report up in the next few days.) It was also that I kept going and not coming out with anything I wanted. The few things I did find that I wanted were somewhat overpriced in my opinion.

So I bided my time. Mom wanted to go last week to sell some books at the South Half-Price, so we went. And the drought broke: I picked up a stack of African hunting books (Peter Capstick’s Africa: A Return To The Long Grass, Robert Ruark’s Africa, and the Capstick library edition of Kill or Be Killed: The Rambling Reminiscences of an Amateur Hunter) for reasonable money.

(I miss Capstick. And yes, this does mean you will probably hear me ramble some more about Ruark. But not in this post.)

Emboldened by my recent success, I bopped over to the central Half-Price this afternoon. It isn’t a bad way to kill some time in an air-conditioned environment. And the latest entry in this series fell into my hands…

===

Back when I was taking “Modern Revolutions” at St. Ed’s (and if you’re out there somewhere, Dr. Sanchez, I hope you’re having a wonderful life), I noticed that Kermit Roosevelt Jr. seemed to pop up in a lot of places in the Middle East during the 1950s. I believe I made the observation in class that someone really needed to write a good biography of Kim, especially now that a lot of older material has been declassified.

I actually got that wish late in 2013 (though the book was a Christmas 2014 present from my beloved and indulgent sister) with the publication of Hugh Wilford’s excellent book, America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. It isn’t exactly a biography of Kim, but it does contain a lot of biographical material about Kim, his cousin Archie, and Miles Copeland Jr. (another interesting guy, but I’ll come back to him).

I wasn’t really aware, until I read Wilford’s book, that Archie was almost as deeply involved with the CIA and the Middle East as Kim was. So when I saw this on the shelf at Half-Price today, I pulled it down for a closer look.

archie_cover

It isn’t a great copy: Lawrence would probably turn his nose up at it, as the dust jacket has a few small tears and some shelf wear. I wouldn’t call it much better than “Good”, and you can get copies on Amazon in “Very Good” condition for $2.50 or so (plus shipping). I paid $10 plus tax for this one; I do believe it is a first printing from 1988, two years before Archie died. Maybe I am a sucker, but it has one thing going for it that the other copies don’t:

lucky_signature

“For Douglas Brinkley–
With great admiration, a book I think you will enjoy – by someone I wish you could have met-
Fondly-
Lucky Roosevelt
Aug. 1997″

Lucky Roosevelt was Archie’s wife, to whom the book is dedicated.

It may not be much to other people, but it pushes a couple of my buttons. And I leave you with the quote of the day:

I have always found yogurt an excellent preventative against bacterial dysentery.

Now I’d like to find a copy of Kim’s book, Countercoup, at a reasonable price. And maybe copies of Copeland’s books, though Wilford states that they have something of a passing resemblance to the truth.

Random notes: May 18, 2014.

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Lawrence has been on the Waco biker gang shootout like a fat man on a Chinese buffet. I’d encourage you to go here and here for coverage. (I was out and about with friends pretty much all day yesterday, which is why I’m running behind.)

A few random thoughts:

  • Before yesterday, I couldn’t have named five biker gangs; my knowledge pretty much stopped with the Hells Angels, Bandidos, and Mongols (the latter because of their trademark battle). Not that I’m proud of my ignorance or anything, just saying.
  • A lot of yesterday’s stories included some variation on “Twin Peaks corporate office was unavailable for comment”. Of course; it was a Sunday. But I figure there’s got to be a 24/7 emergency number for franchise owners to call…

    “Thank you for calling the Twin Peaks hotline. If you have an emergency, press 1.”

    “Thank you. If your restaurant is on fire, press 1. If your restaurant is flooding, press 2. If there is a shootout between rival biker gangs going on, press 3. If someone is committing an act of regicide, press 4.”

    You have selected regicide. If you know the name of the king or queen being murdered, press one.

  • Speaking of Twin Peaks corporate, Lawrence quotes: “Twin Peaks corporate “is ‘seriously considering revoking’ the Waco location’s franchise agreement.” Gee, you don’t say. (As I was writing this post, the Statesman reported that the franchise has, indeed, been yanked.)
  • “”We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today.” Shocked, shocked we are to find out that biker gangs used our restaurant as a meeting place. (I know it is early and I’m relying on news media coverage, but it seems pretty well established at this point that this was a biker hangout, and that the management knew it.)
  • Not only did they shoot up Twin Peaks, they walked the check at Denny’s and were rude to the Hooters girls. “They come in here all the time. I’ll keep waiting on them because that is my job. But this whole thing is just so crazy. And it’s also disrespectful, because of lot of those girls at Twin Peaks used to work here.”
  • Seriously, I feel bad for the Twin Peaks and Don Carlos staff, who are probably going to lose at least several days of pay (if not their jobs) over this. Twin Peaks had their liquor license yanked temporarily, though the reports I’ve read say they can reopen as a restaurant “as soon as police allow it to be opened”.

Obit watch: Garo Yepremian, legendary Miami Dolphins kicker.

A while back, I linked to a NYT story about the Clif Bar people ending their sponsorships of certain athletes because of their discomfort with the risk involved. One of those athletes, Dean Potter, was quoted in the article.

Dean Potter was killed in a BASE jumping accident over the weekend.

Penn Jillette on the closing of the Riveria. The Riveria was actually the first place I ever stayed in Vegas.

Finally, and on a lighter note, the NYT ran an interview with Don Rickles. The news peg is that the complete “CPO Sharkey” is being released on DVD Tuesday. I had actually completely forgotten the existence of “CPO Sharkey” (though I’m sure I watched it) until the paper of record reminded me. Man, it is hard getting old.

Edited to add: Well. Well well well. Well.

The Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco will be permanently closed as a result of Sunday’s deadly shooting.

Quel fromage! I wonder what they’re going to replace it with. Maybe a Bikinis? Or perhaps a Bombshells? Wait, wait, I know: perhaps someplace good? Or at least not degrading to women?

Ironic or not?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

“Ironic or not?” is a game I used to play with one of my cow orkers at Four Letter Computer Corporation.

During the Great Bobblehead Scandal of 2012, I bought a John Wilkes Booth bobblehead.

I had it on my desk at work until this morning, when I accidentally knocked it onto the floor and…

booth

Yes, Booth broke his ankles. Much like the actual John Wilkes Booth did when he got his foot tangled in the bunting while leaping out of the presidential box at Ford’s Theater.

(Or maybe he broke his leg. Or maybe he didn’t break anything at all in the leap, but his horse injured him later. I’m a little dubious about that story; the evidence for that seems to be “he didn’t run like he had a broken leg”. Well, maybe, but given that he’d just killed the president and was fleeing the scene, adrenaline may have done a great job of hiding a broken leg.)

What really kind of totes my goat is that Booth fell maybe three feet (if that) onto a carpeted office floor. Note to self: don’t buy stuff from “The Bobblehead LLC”.

Ironic or not? Before you answer…

Robert Conquest, call your office, please.

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Traditionally, Ukrainian historians have characterized the famine as a genocide, the direct result of Stalin’s forced collectivization and the Soviet government’s requisitioning of grain for export abroad, leaving Ukraine short — and its borders sealed shut. Since Ukraine gained independence, that is what its students have been taught.

But that is not what students in southeastern Ukraine are learning this year. Instead, under orders from the newly installed separatist governments, they are getting the sanitized Russian version, in which the famine was an unavoidable tragedy that befell the entire Soviet Union.

(Harvest of Sorrow from Amazon.)

Random notes: April 22, 2015.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

You know, I’m a little tired of this geocentric crud. Why just “Earth Day”? Why not a day for each of the other eight planets as well? I’d try to organize “Pluto Day” on March 13th, but that’s too close to Pi Day. Maybe Neptune Day on September 23rd?

Edited to add: Mike the Musicologist responds.

It’s not Earth as in the planet. It’s earth as in dirt. Or the element.

We need Fire Day, Wind and Waters Days.

Or maybe just an Earth, Wind and Fire Day. But then people would call for a Kool & The Gang Day. Imagine the furor when Average White Band Day is celebrated.

As I told Mike, I’m not sure I can get into Earth, Wind, and Fire Day. But Parliament Funkadelic Day? I’m there.

Serdar Argic, call your office, please.

Stolen bourbon. And anabolic steroids. That seems like an odd mix.

Happy Patriot’s Day!

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Enjoy your day off, folks in Massachusetts and Maine. (Hi, Weer’d!)

In other news, it seems that I am now 50 years old. I’m trying to make some time to work on a longer post about childhood memories, nostalgia, and the gun I bought in Tulsa, but things are so busy (gun show this past weekend, followed by dinner, followed by more kicking around on Sunday, etc.) that I’m not sure when that’s going to go up. I’m hoping that I’ll have more time this week to blog in general, but that post is going to require some photography…

Obit watch: March 31, 2015.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Robert L. Hite passed away on Sunday.

Lt. Col. Hite was one of Doolittle’s Raiders. He was captured by the Japanese after his plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out over China.

Mr. Hite was imprisoned for 40 months, 38 of them in solitary confinement. His weight had dropped to 76 pounds from 180 when the war ended.

Obit watch: March 27, 2015.

Friday, March 27th, 2015

This has been covered elsewhere, but I did want to highlight the NYT coverage of Richard III’s reburial.

After three days of viewing by thousands who lined up for hours to file past the bier in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, Richard’s skeletal remains, in a coffin of golden English oak with an incised Yorkist rose and an inscription giving the sparest details of his life — “Richard III, 1452-1485” — were removed overnight from beneath a black cloth pall stitched with colorful images from his tumultuous times.

I wish I could have been there.

To those seething at the spectacle of a notoriously violent monarch being rehabilitated by the church, the cardinal cautioned that power in Richard’s time was “invariably won or maintained on the battlefield and only by ruthless determination, strong alliances and a willingness to employ the use of force, at times with astonishing brutality.”

Giggle. Snort.

For more than 500 years, he has been popularly cast as one of the most odious villains of English history — the “poisonous, bunch-back’d toad” of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” reviled as a child killer for his role, as Shakespeare and generations of historians have depicted it, as the prime mover in the smothering murders of the two young brothers known as the Princes in the Tower.

Since the 1700s, there has been a minority voice among writers and historians that has cast Richard as the victim of a conspiracy by the Tudors, whose dynasty was founded on Henry Tudor’s victory. Among these protagonists, Shakespeare is seen as having won favor at court as a spin doctor for the Tudor cause, especially for Queen Elizabeth I, who, this version contends, wanted Richard’s reputation blackened to strengthen the Tudors’ own shaky legitimacy.

I’m just going to leave these links here.

The Richard III Society.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

Also: nice tribute by the NYT to the author, John Burns.

Obit watch: February 19, 2015.

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Dr. John P. Craven, a hugely important figure in Navy history.

From 1959 to 1969, as chief scientist of the Special Projects Office, Dr. Craven led the Navy’s drive to expand its presence into the crushing depths of the sea. Among other things, he turned submarines into spy machines that could reach down miles to inspect and retrieve lost enemy matériel, including nuclear arms.

Dr. Craven shows up frequently in the many recently published histories of the US Navy during the Cold War. His own book, The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea is well worth reading.

Oliver Sacks is dying. I don’t want to write this obituary now; I plan to wait until I have to.

Obit watch: special Hellcats Over the Pacific edition.

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Alex Vraciu passed away on January 29th, though his death does not seem to have been widely reported until this weekend.

Mr. Vraciu shot down 19 Japanese planes in eight months, and destroyed another 21 planes on the ground.

Mr. Vraciu (which rhymes with cashew) accomplished his most spectacular feat in the South Pacific when he shot down six dive bombers within eight minutes in what became known as the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” in the Philippine Sea. He called it “a once-in-a-lifetime fighter pilot’s dream.”

More:

Mr. Vraciu achieved his pace-setting six kills under harrowing conditions on June 19, 1944, as Japanese planes attacked a task force of American carriers and battleships. His plane’s folding wings were mistakenly unlocked, and a malfunctioning engine was spewing oil on his windshield and preventing him from climbing above 20,000 feet. Still, he downed the dive bombers firing only 360 of the 2,400 bullets in his arsenal.