Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Historical note, of questionable suitability for use in schools.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Today is the anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde’s death.

I would otherwise have missed it, were it not for this (Warning! Slideshow!) article in the HouChron (Warning! Slideshow!).

While the photos are worthwhile, I’m kind of annoyed by the captions: some them, and the article, refer to the ambush taking place today, while other captions refer to it taking place May 24th. Wikipedia (I know, I know) backs up the May 23rd date, as does Jeff Guinn (from what I’m able to tell).

There’s one photo in particular that I like in that slideshow: the one of Alcorn, Hinton, Gault, and Hamer (number 19).

And I was hoping that I could visit the shooting site when I’m in Louisiana in a few weeks, but I sat down and did the math: sadly, it’s over three hours each way from Baton Rouge to Gibsland, and that’s just not going to work this trip.

(I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Go Down Together still gets an unqualified endorsement from me.)

Obit watch: May 23, 2016.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

The WP has a nice tribute to Nick Menza, former drummer of Megadeth, who died Saturday.

In 2007, he nearly lost his arm in a power saw accident. He required reconstructive surgery, and metal plates were inserted in his arm, according to Blabbermouth. Six years later, he auctioned off the bloodstained circular saw blade, which was placed in museum-quality glass with an x-ray of his mutilated arm, Loudwire reported.

You know, I bet we could get DNA off of that saw blade…

Also among the dead: Bill Herz, the last surviving crew member of Orson Welles’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast.

Obit watch: May 12, 2016.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Jok Church, creator of the “You Can With Beakman & Jax” comic and the “Beakman’s World” television show.

I know a lot of people who loved “Beakman’s World” and anybody who teaches science to children is doing the lords work, as far as I’m concerned. Thing I didn’t know: Church was also Christo’s webmaster.

Mark Lane, noted JFK assassination conspiracy theorist.

Obit watch: May 10, 2016.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

I’ve been meaning to note this for the past few days.

Last Friday, the NYT ran an obituary for Donald W. Duncan. Mr. Duncan was a former member of the Special Forces in Vietnam: he became disillusioned after his return to the United States, and became a fairly prominent anti-war activist:

In an America torn by protests against the war in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Duncan was often in the news, although not as prominently as the pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock, the Roman Catholic priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan or the actress Jane Fonda, who was photographed laughing and applauding on an antiaircraft gun in Hanoi. (Daniel Berrigan died on April 30.)
But in 1966, well before the Tet offensive and the My Lai massacre stirred national discontent, Mr. Duncan was one of the first returning veterans to portray the war as a moral quagmire that had little to do with fighting the spread of Communism, as American leaders were portraying it.
Sergeant Duncan, who went to war convinced it was an anti-Communist crusade, ended his Special Forces duty a changed man. A 10-year veteran, he rejected an offer of an officer’s commission and left the Army. Back home, he became a fierce critic of the war, writing articles and a memoir and speaking at rallies across the country with the singer Joan Baez, the writer Norman Mailer and the comedian Dick Gregory.

But that’s not why I wanted to note Mr. Duncan’s passing. Remember I said the NYT ran the obit last Friday?

Mr. Duncan passed away on March 25, 2009. Yes, seven years ago. I can’t think of a longer gap between a death and an obit in the paper of record. Randall Dale Adams was about nine months, and I think he was the previous record holder.

Also, and more recent: William Schallert. There’s a photo and caption in that obit that make me smile: you’ll know it when you see it.

Obit watch: March 7, 2016.

Monday, March 7th, 2016

I know I keep using this excuse, but it really was a busy weekend. I spent a large chunk of Saturday babysitting children, away from a computer I could use. I may write some later on about how I spent my Sunday, but not right now; also, I wanted to let the Nancy Reagan obits sit for a day.

NYTimes. LAT. WP. Lawrence.

Catching up from the weekend and for the historical record: Pat Conroy. NYT. WP. A/V Club. Charleston Post and Courier.

I’ve read very little of Conroy’s work: The Prince of Tides in particular always struck me as being chick lit. But somewhere recently (and I wish I could remember where) I read part of his followup to The Great Santini, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son…and I was actually kind of hooked. Maybe I need to give his work a second look.

And I have to confess: I’m a sucker for crap like this. (See also this, which I picked up at Half-Price over the weekend, even though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.)

The past is another country.

Friday, March 4th, 2016

They did things differently there.

The San Francisco Chronicle used to give out firearms as subscription premiums.

I am well pleased with the gun, as it is all that is represented to be. I did not expect to get a $100 gun for $13.50.

You could also get a Colt rifle plus a one-year subscription to the paper for $14.50. (“$15 of 1887 dollars would be worth: $362.50 in 2015.”)

Peter Hartlaub for the win:

We were like Leland Yee, but with more follow-through.

(Hattip: Jimbo.)

Notes on historical notes.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

We’re coming up on at least two significant anniversaries this year.

One of those is the 100th birthday of John D. MacDonald on July 24th. I plan to write more about this closer to the event. In the meantime, here are a couple of links I like:

From the “National Post”: “Sunbelt Baroque: How John D. MacDonald invented a subgenre that’s no longer his own”.

(Well, of course it’s no longer his own. He died almost 30 years ago.)

Stephen King’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune essay about MacDonald. I think Big Steve and I first encountered John D. at about the same age. This may explain some things.

(I really wish the Herald-Tribune would make it easier to find these columns. It looks like this link will bring them up, along with some unrelated stuff.)

And the other significant anniversary? June 25th will mark the 110th anniversary of the murder of Stanford White by Harry Kendall Thaw. That’s something I want to write more about as well, but it needs research. I’d appreciate book recommendations, if folks have them.

(You know, you would think you could find this on the Internet, but I’ve had no luck: what was the weapon Thaw used? The only description I’ve been able to find is that it was a “pistol”.)


Obit watch: February 23, 2016.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

NYT obit for Eric Brown, legendary British pilot.

I linked to Borepatch’s post about him yesterday, but thought I would include the NYT obit just for the historical record.

Obit watch: February 6, 2016.

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

I thought I’d do this one separately, since it didn’t fit in tone with the previous entry:

Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut and the sixth man to walk on the moon.


Obit watch: January 13, 2016.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

William Del Monte passed away on Monday at the age of 109.

Mr. Del Monte was the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Obit watch: January 8, 2016.

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I’m still kind of hoping for an obituary from a more mainstream news source, but Florence King, writer and National Review columnist, has died. Tributes from Tam and Lawrence.

This was a little surprising:

I’m not going to say she was as influential on my writing as P.J.: I came to her relatively late in life. But she was a damn funny writer (even if I can’t quote some of my favorite lines here), and the world is a lesser place for her passing. Frankly, we could do a lot worse than a monarchy. Especially one run by Florence King.

Pat Harrington Jr. A/V Club.

Interesting career. He started out on “The Jack Paar Show” (or “The Steve Allen Show”, depending on which obit you read).

His film credits include “The Wheeler Dealers” (1963) and “Move Over, Darling” (1963), both starring James Garner; “The President’s Analyst” (1967), starring James Coburn; and “Easy Come, Easy Go” (1967), starring Elvis Presley.

Of course, he was most famous as Schneider on “One Day at a Time”.

Ashraf Pahlavi, sister of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

According to an internal secret history of the C.I.A., she also played a crucial role in the British- and American-inspired military coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and restored her brother to the throne.

Really? I wonder where the NYT got access to this “internal secret history”.

You know what the problem with fiction is?

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

A few nights ago, I had an excellent dinner with a bunch of my friends.

Recent events resulted in the dinner conversation going off on a tangent about Quaaludes and “roofies”, which prompted me to look up Wikipedia’s entry on Quaaludes.

…the massive cache of powder and tabletted methaqualone produced under the aegis of the apartheid-era South African government’s Project Coast in a segment thereof directed by Dr Wouter Basson (whose “Brownies” are capsules of pure MDMA in doses of up to 135 mg), who at one point was held by police in Croatia carrying $40m in Vatican bearer bonds when attempting to purchase 500 kilos of methaqualone.

I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing as “Vatican bearer bonds”.

Dr. Wouter Basson is a cardiologist who somehow managed to become head of the South African government’s chemical and biological warfare projects (the “Project Coast” mentioned above).

The entire drug cache disappeared into the underground in the final days of the National Party’s tenure in office. The total methaqualone cache may have approached a metric ton.

A metric ton of Quaaludes. Jordan Belfort, call your office, please.

Fiction has to be believable. You can’t put something like a government produced cache containing a metric ton of quaaludes, or a guy walking around with $40 million in bearer bonds from the Vatican, into a novel and expect people to believe you.