Archive for The Way We Were

Only the beginning

Uploaded on 23 April 2005, ten years and one day ago, this was apparently the very first YouTube video:

Although the description has changed a couple of times since the original upload.

The chap who posted this particular video, Jawed Karim, is one of three actual co-founders of YouTube; when Google bought YouTube in 2006, Karim was paid approximately $64 million in Google stock. By now, he could buy elephants.

(Via Consumerist.)

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We are always doomed

And we will continue to be doomed for the foreseeable future, if the pattern holds:

My school (Kinkaid in Houston) took speech and debate very seriously and had a robust debate program even in middle school. In 1975-1976 the national debate topic was this:

    Resolved: That the development and allocation of scarce world resources should be controlled by an international organization

The short answer to this proposition should realistically have been: “you have got to be f*cking kidding me.” But such were the times that this was considered a serious proposal worth debating for the entire year. In fact, in doing research, it was dead-easy to build up suitcases of quotations of doom to support the affirmative; it was far, far harder finding anyone who would argue that a) the world was not going to run out of everything in a few decades and b) that markets were an appropriate vehicle for managing resources. I could fill up an hour reading different sources predicting that oil would have run out by 1990 or 2000 at the latest.

And now, of course, we’re awash in the stuff, with storage at Cushing at 78 percent of capacity. We will, of course, run out in 2030, or 2130, or 2525, if man is still alive.

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Sudden start

Percy Sledge was working as a hospital orderly in the middle 1960s, and spent his evenings singing in front of a band called the Esquires, but not these Esquires. Three of them — Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright, and Sledge himself — came up with a doleful tune called “When a Man Loves a Woman,” which they took to local DJ and record producer Quin Ivy. A demo was cut, with Sledge but without either Wright or Lewis, which Muscle Shoals impresario Rick Hall liked enough to send upstream to the bigwigs at Atlantic Records. Reportedly, Jerry Wexler thought the horns were off key, but would be happy to hear a revision, which the guys duly cut — and which ended up in the vault, because somehow the original tape was the one issued as Atlantic 2326 in March of 1966.

So Percy Sledge was off and running, and he continued to chart as late as 1974: “I’ll Be Your Everything” made Top 15 on Billboard’s R&B chart and registered briefly on the pop chart. Still, it was that one song that made him famous, and it never left the scene, even materializing at #2 on the British pop chart — in 1987. Sledge never stopped performing; he cut a gospel album in 2013, and I’d bet he was booked for some concert appearances later this year, which, alas, won’t be happening.

And this is my favorite Percy Sledge number, live a few years ago at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, written by Muscle Shoals stalwarts Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. It’s every bit as good as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and played so seldom on the radio that it always jumps out at you.

Oh, the spiffy Philadelphia girl group known as Sister Sledge? Real name, but no relation.

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Turn off the bubble machine

This wacky track just came up on the shuffle the other day (Capitol F-3815), and now that Stan Freberg has passed from the scene, and everyone is going to mention “St. George and the Dragonet” or “Green Chri$tma$” or the obligatory “Elderly Man River,” I figured I’d go for the sheer farce of “Wun’erful, Wun’erful,” the sad story of an accordion-playing bandleader. Since this was recorded on both sides of a 45-rpm record, there are no visuals; however, the chap who YouTubed this gave us a look at, well, an accordion-playing bandleader:

And even when he was trying to make a serious point, Freberg knew funny. I refer you to “The Old Payola Roll Blues,” in which we discovered that (1) he was no fan of that rock and/or roll stuff and (2) we really didn’t mind.

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Hey, nineteen

This here Web site is old enough to vote, though it’s not old enough to drink. Whether this makes any difference or not, I’m not entirely sure.

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Air waived

You might recognize this as a page from TV Guide, circa 1970:

TV Guide 1 April 1970

Now: which edition of TV Guide? The person who posted this on Facebook was from Philadelphia, but these channels don’t match up with Philly then or with Philly now. I resolved to find out without actually having to ask the guy.

The key, it turns out, is that NBC affiliate on channel 79. And while there were a few stations on 79, generally translators, only one fits with the rest of the scheme:

WVIT 30 Hartford once operated W79AI, a repeater in Torrington, Connecticut which is now abandoned.

And sure enough, 30 and 79 are carrying the same programs. So this is around Hartford, probably Springfield, and very likely Boston. The other NBC stations: WBZ-TV 4 Boston (now a CBS station); WATR-TV 20 Waterbury (now WCCT-TV, the CW); WWLP 22 Springfield; WRLP 32 Greenfield (now defunct).

I very likely would not have known any of this had I not been sojourning in central Massachusetts in the 1970s at the behest of Uncle Sam.

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One less guitar

Billed at one point as “The Many Guitars of Jørgen Ingmann,” likely in reference to his fondness for Les Paul-ish overdubbing, the man born Jørgen Ingmann Pedersen in Denmark in 1925 had an enormous US hit in 1961 with Jerry Lordan’s “Apache,” first recorded by Bert Weedon, later turned into a worldwide smash by the Shadows — except here in the States, where Capitol Records’ relationship with then-parent EMI was decidedly rocky, giving rival Atlantic a chance to score with Ingmann’s cover.

In 1963, Ingmann and then-wife Grethe won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Dansevise” (“Dance Ballad”). In the States, his one-hit wonder status continued until his death on the 21st of March.

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The corner of Hampton and Falmouth

Google Maps screenshot of southern BrooklynIn 2003, I found out this rather startling piece of news:

I knew that Michael Brown’s unrequited love was a real person — a real person named Renee, no less — but it never occurred to me that he was also thinking of a real sign that points one way.

It’s at the intersection of Falmouth Street and Hampton Avenue in Brooklyn.

Petite Powerhouse and pop princess Dawn Eden, now far better known as an advocate for Catholicism and chastity, was happy to pass on that bit of information, and I couldn’t possibly have resisted posting it here, inasmuch as Brown’s song for the Left Banke, “Walk Away Renee,” even now pouring into your head, ranks up there with the most indelible musical memories of my adolescent years, possibly even for reasons unrelated to its subject matter. I once called Michael Brown the “spiritual heir to both Johann Sebastian Bach and Brian Wilson,” and I wasn’t kidding.

So anything that happens to this man matters to me, especially his untimely passing:

Brown was sixteen when Renee walked away with his heart, and I’m pretty certain that she could still have laid claim to a piece of it when he was sixty-five. I’ve been there, and by “there” I don’t mean Brooklyn.

Addendum: A proper sendoff from Brown’s hometown paper.

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Meanwhile at the front

WW2 Tweets from 1943 is just like it sounds: history, 140 characters at a time. An example from last week, offset 72 years:

By the 10th of March, the Allies were well on their way to seizing the Mareth Line, and what with Germany having suffered heavy casualties, Rommel had departed Africa:

The Axis retreated to the Wadi Akarit, but were eventually routed.

(Seen by GLHancock before I got to it.)

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Ten years of virals

Almost two hundred clips of viral(ish) videos are squoze down into this 200-second (or so) testimonial to the weirdly compelling nature of YouTube, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year:

I haven’t decided whether I’m impressed or depressed by the number of scenes I recognized.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Pave and repave

Anyone who’s ever seen a Western knows that horses’ hooves make this clippity-clop sound, a phenomenon that’s not at all confined to the West:

The bustling streets of Philadelphia circa the 1830s were a noisy place. Chief among the cacophony was the sound of horse’s hooves loudly clopping across the cobblestones, and a solution had to be devised. Thus the local businessmen teamed up with the city government and together they came up with the idea of paving the streets with sound-absorbing wooden blocks instead of resonating cobbles.

A flash of brilliance! But the scheme wasn’t perfect, and this was its number-one disadvantage:

The blocks quickly began to soak up every bit of liquid that fell on them from rain to copious amounts of horse urine. In addition to expanding and warping into a bumpy mess, the roads became unbearably smelly (especially in the summer) as the pee-soaked blocks rotted and crumbled.

Only one wooden-blocked block remains in Philly: the 200 block of South Camac Street, and the new blocks have been treated to give them some liquid resistance.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Springtime, if you will

Some time in early 2016, the first German edition of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf since the end of World War II will be hitting bookstores and libraries, and to no one’s surprise, some people have a problem with that:

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community in Munich, said she had not vigorously opposed it when the project first surfaced. But her position, she said, hardened after hearing from outraged Holocaust survivors.

“This book is most evil; it is the worst anti-Semitic pamphlet and a guidebook for the Holocaust,” she said. “It is a Pandora’s box that, once opened again, cannot be closed.”

Mein Kampf was never actually banned in postwar Germany, though the copyright for the book ended up in the hands of the state of Bavaria, which never granted permission for reprints. (Prewar copies still exist, but they are generally kept out of sight.) And under German law, that copyright expires on the first of January after the author has been dead 70 years. (Hitler himself expired on 30 April 1945.)

The book’s reissue, to the chagrin of critics, is effectively being financed by German taxpayers, who fund the historical society that is producing and publishing the new edition. Rather than a how-to guidebook for the aspiring fascist, the new reprint, the group said this month, will instead be a vital academic tool, a 2,000-page volume packed with more criticisms and analysis than the original text.

I suppose there will be a Downfall parody video showing what happens when Hitler finds out Mein Kampf is going to be back in print. He wouldn’t be pleased, I’m sure; after becoming Reichskanzler, he distanced himself from the book:

[Hitler] dismissed it as “fantasies behind bars” that were little more than a series of articles for the Völkischer Beobachter and later told Hans Frank that “If I had had any idea in 1924 that I would have become Reich chancellor, I never would have written the book.”

Based on my own copy of an English translation, which runs just over 1,000 pages, I have to assume that this is indeed a hell of a lot of criticism and/or analysis.

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Whither empire?

The Romans, history tells us, basically pissed away an entire empire. Warren Meyer suggests the result of a theoretical urinalysis:

I have a theory about the Romans that is probably shared by nobody. The Romans were strong and powerful and vital when they were creating a variety of citizenship types to accommodate multiple peoples who entered the empire in multiple ways. In particular I think of civitas sine suffragio or citizenship without the vote. But this was just one of many variations. By the first century AD (or CE per the modern academic trend), a lot of people of a lot of cultures and races and over a wide geography called themselves Romans.

By the end of the empire, the “reforms” of Diocletian and Constantine purged all flexibility from both governance and the economy (in sum, their laws amounted to the Directive 10-289 of the ancient world). By the time the Empire started falling apart, they had lost all ability to integrate new peoples or innovate with citizenship models. What was eventually called the Barbarian invasions began decades earlier as the attempted barbarian migrations. The barbarians wanted to just settle peacefully. And Rome desperately needed them — their system was falling apart as their farms and countryside was depopulated from a combination of government policy and demographic collapses (e.g. plagues). Rome desperately needed new people to settle their farms and form the new backbone of the army and the barbarians desperately wanted to settle and had a lot of military skill, but they couldn’t make it work.

I’m not so sure Attila, for one, was interested in settling peacefully; then again, in most statistics of the era, he was pretty much an outlier.

For now, I’m waiting to see which of our ostensible leaders abdicates in favor of a barbarian warlord — and whether said leader was pushing for the word “barbarian” to be forcibly struck from the language.

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We never owned her

What a life Lesley Gore had: a #1 hit while she was still in secondary school, production by the peerless Quincy Jones, a guest slot on the Batman TV series, an actual album for Motown, and finally true love.

“It’s My Party” was the big hit, but this was her anthem:

The fact that the song was written by a couple of guys — John Madara and David White, also composers of such tumultuous tunes as “442 Glenwood Avenue” by the Pixies Three — didn’t matter in the least; nor did the blatant patriarchy-ness of Lesley’s followup, “That’s the Way Boys Are,” by two different guys (Mark Barkan and Ben Raleigh).

Lesley’s official coming-out was about ten years ago, but before that there was Grace of My Heart, a grievously undernoticed Brill Building saga from 1996, written and directed by Allison Anders, to which Gore contributed a lyric. “My Secret Love,” sung by Miss Lily Banquette, then of Combustible Edison, is as blatant as anything in the k. d. lang songbook, and it even sounds like Gore.

I reviewed “Ever Since,” her most recent album, in 2005. I never imagined it would be her last.

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Bheer

When I was a bit younger and no less inclined to spout off, albeit at slower speeds — 300 bps sounds horrible, looks worse — I dealt with the concept of bheer, which was beer with a time value: it was actually present and therefore consumable. (“Beer here,” they explained.) Three decades or so later, while I’ve dealt with craft brews brewed by crafty individuals in places almost all over the map, I’ve still paid only one visit to an old-fashioned macrobrewer, and that was in 1972. You’re familiar with them, I’m sure:

In St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch was never Anheuser-Busch; it was always The Brewery. The Brewery was the reason why the Cardinals still play here. The previous ownership was all set to sell the team to a group which would have moved the Birds to Dallas until The Brewery bought the team, finally convincing owner Bill Veeck that his St. Louis Browns were doomed in this town.

When I played church softball, we took turns bringing the beer. And the only beer that we were allowed bring was AB; nothing else. Granted, none of us were beer konna-sewers back then. Post church-softball beer had one purpose, only one and taste didn’t figure in.

I had turned 18 in 1971, so I was legal in those days. And I figured, hell, if I’m in St. Louis, I might as well drop in on the monolith on Pestalozzi Street. In my capacity as a serviceman on a day pass, I thought this was a swell idea, and so did my traveling companions of the moment.

We were offered Actual Samples; I did not admit that I could not easily distinguish between Bud and Michelob. Then again, I was one of the few teenagers who hadn’t been sneaking drinks all those years. (I paid for that inexperience over the next couple of years, finding tables over my head after desperate attempts to drink someone under them.) And they handed out actual samples of beechwood, with which Bud was famously aged. (More surface area for the yeast, apparently.)

It’s probably not so special today, though:

AB beer really wasn’t that good.

The only difference between Bud Light and club soda is alcohol; if you drink enough of the former, you can get drunk. And when InBev bought AB, The Brewery became just another Big, Multinational Corporation.

Still, that’s a lot of damned beer, even if none of it, for the moment, qualifies as bheer. And as for the St. Louis Browns, you know them today as the, um, Baltimore Orioles.

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The spirit of 76 octane

Bill Quick saw this before I did, and asked: “Remember when filling stations actually filled your tank for you?”

Gas station in Lincoln 1933

For a few days in my adolescence, to help out a friend, I played pump jockey. I wasn’t especially good at it, though I was dead reliable at checking tire pressures.

And yes, E10 was around in those days. (Under that “10% Blend” verbiage: “Development Means Cornbelt Prosperity.”) It never really caught on, and purveyors of the stuff eventually sought antitrust action against Ethyl, manufacturer of another, far nastier, gasoline additive.

Interestingly, this photo was taken in Lincoln, Nebraska in April 1933, eight months before the end of Prohibition. I have to wonder how much of that ethanol was diverted before it got to the gas station.

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That one moment in the sun

Then again, we’re talking Yuma, Arizona, which gets a lot of sun. Curtis Lee was born in Yuma in 1939; in the middle 1960s he joined his father’s construction business, took it over entirely in 1969, and ran it well into the 21st century. Cancer got him this last week at the age of 75.

Why are we talking about an Arizona homebuilder? Because of this:

This was Lee’s third single for Ray Peterson’s Dunes label. Lee wrote the song with Tommy Boyce, before Boyce and Bobby Hart were a name-brand songwriting duo; Phil Spector (!) produced. In the background were the Halos, a doo-wop group from the Bronx who sang on another famed Spector production, Gene Pitney’s stirring “Every Breath I Take.”

Spector also produced the follow-up, “Under the Moon of Love,” another Boyce/Lee collaboration, which just missed the Top 40. (And the B-side, “Beverly Jean,” is a gem.) Further recordings went nowhere, and Lee went back home to Yuma to, yes, build houses.

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Made with the shade

I’m old enough to remember when Crayola had a crayon called “flesh”; about 1962 it dawned on them that hey, not all flesh is the same color, and they wound up renaming it “peach.”

This particular insight was still catching on in the middle to late 1970s, when a small Chicago company decided to get into the pantyhose business:

Sugar & Spice hosiery ad 1978

This ran at least twice in Ebony, though the real test, I suppose, would have been getting it into something like Ladies’ Home Journal. Then again, LHJ, facing the usual magazine woes, has cut back from monthly to quarterly publication; Ebony continues to put out 12 issues a year.

Madijo survived, so far as I can tell, into the middle 1980s, but by then the major mills had figured out that they needed new shades.

And if you’ve never seen a Parklane Hosiery store, neither have I. The last one apparently was in the Mall of Memphis, which died in 2003.

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Not so awfully slick

So this shows up on Facebook:

Johnson's Dance Wax

It’s been decades since I even thought about this stuff: the packaging here suggests late 1950s or early 1960s. And, well, you have to figure that if it’s wax, S. C. Johnson & Son would be selling at some point. The current product line doesn’t seem to include dance wax, which was probably rendered superfluous by urethane coatings, though they do still sell the long-established Glo-Coat floor wax, which, so far as I can tell, is not suitable as a dessert topping.

Once in a while some sort of dance wax shows up for sale:

The store had several large cans of Golden Star Powdered Dancing Wax (“For all Dancing Floors … Sprinkle the wax lightly over the floor before the dance and the feet of the dancers will do the rest. Do not use too much.”). No UPC on the can, no zip, the given address “North Kansas City 16, Mo.” Golden Star Polish, the manufacturer of Golden Star Powdered Dancing Wax, still exists, kicking out mops and mop frames. To dance with. I have no idea how old this can is, or when dance wax took off as a packaged product. I found a 1907 dance wax can for sale on eBay. More recently, I eyeballed some swing kids on a web-based “BBS” mewling about people using dance wax and the ensuing ass-landings/litigation. It doesn’t taste that great, either.

For what it’s worth, Golden Star eventually moved across the state line into Kansas.

If you really, truly must have dance wax today, you can get it from Triple Crown, an Omaha-based manufacturer of shuffleboard supplies. (Which makes sense, right?)

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Jimmy the Kid

How little was Jimmy Dickens? Officially, four foot eleven. He didn’t adopt the adjective, though, until he’d signed with Columbia in 1948 — he was then twenty-eight — and joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Pop audiences were scarcely aware of Dickens until 1965, when songwriter Neal Merritt, having seen too many segments of Carnac the Magnificent, penned a silly ditty called “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” Dickens waxed it for Columbia, watched it go to #1 on the country chart and #15 pop, and was still singing it in 2008.

The next Dickens hit followed the old rule: just like the last one, but different. “When the Ship Hit the Sand” had the same tempo, the same style, and probably the same Grady Martin guitar work. The title might have been a trifle risqué for the period: “Ship” hove to at #27, and never cracked the Hot 100.

When Hank Locklin (1918-2009) died, Dickens became the oldest living member of the Opry. He was still inclined to poke fun at the rest of the world. From the Country Music Awards in 2009:

By this time, the little guy had shrunk to four foot nine. And he made a pretty good Justin Bieber, too. You can’t get away with stuff like this unless you have a big, big heart, the kind that will carry you all the way to age 94.

Addendum: The oldest surviving member of the Opry now appears to be Jean Shepard, who was invited to join the Opry in 1955; she turned 81 in November.

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Fourteen and unmad

That was me in 1967, when Donovan unleashed “Mellow Yellow.” Apart from the fact that the record can’t be had (legally, anyway) in stereo, its main distinction has to do with bananas:

Somehow, either in the lyrics or just scuttlebutt, word got around that you were supposed to bake the skins. So I did.

The results were, shall we say, less than enthralling:

So I baked it and then I scraped some of the baked part off and then I ate it. Awful, really awful. And waited for the buzz to begin. And waited and waited. And waited some more. And I was a senior in college at the time. And really dumb.

Of course, if I had a dollar for everything dumb ever done by college seniors, I could probably endow a couple of universities. Still, one of the defining characteristics of Homo sapiens is that individual members of the species sometimes aren’t too damn sapient.

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The Christmas truce

Brief once-over:

The “Christmas truce” is a term used to describe a series of unofficial cessations of hostilities that occurred along the Western Front during Christmas 1914. World War One had been raging for several months but German and Allied soldiers stepped out of their trenches, shook hands and agreed a truce so the dead could be buried. The soldiers also used that truce to chat with one another and, some claim, even play a football match. Unofficial truces between opposing forces occurred at other times during World War One but never on the scale of that first Christmas truce.

You’d think an event such as this would be widely celebrated in media a hundred years later. So where’s the celebration?

Which it is, and it came out in 1967, almost half a century ago. The writers — producing team Hugo & Luigi, and lyricist George David Weiss, also known for ginning up an English lyric to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” at the behest of H&L — made this fit into the existing Snoopy vs. the Red Baron template with the greatest of ease. Billboard scorned it, as it did all Christmas songs in those days, but it made the Top Ten in rival Cashbox.

That said, there are some commemorations, though inevitably this one drew my attention:

In 2014 Gavin Marriott, a New Zealand member of The International Military Music Society and The Passchendaele Society, came up with an idea of commemorating the centenary of the historical origins of this song. It was promoted to play or sing “Snoopy’s Christmas” before Christmas dinner in people’s homes in honour of an event which could have changed the world. A reading has been suggested for people in conjunction with the playing of this song. As an alternative he suggested people could sing “Silent Night” … “This song reminds us before our Christmas feast, that a century ago today, soldiers, as depicted in this song, lay down their arms in Flanders Belgium for a truce, in the spirit of the Christmas we now all enjoy today. If allowed to continue, this truce could have meant 100,000 New Zealanders not going to war and there may not be 18,000 of those not returning. This song reminds us of the sacrifice of those that did go, so we can enjoy this song, this day a century on and our Christmas feast.”

“Snoopy’s Christmas” was even more popular in New Zealand than in the States, charting several times in the 1980s and again in 2013. It does, however, have its detractors.

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Early assimilation device

Never had any problems resisting them, though:

Mid-century Borg bathroom scale

This is actually pretty famous, as bathroom scales go:

In 1952, this Model 1500 Flight bathroom scale was designed by Don DeFano, Richard Latham and Franz Wagner of Raymond Loewy Associates. It was introduced by the Borg-Erickson Company in 1953 at $15.00, and was later selected by Fortune magazine as one of the top 500 designs of all time.

Well, no wonder. Raymond Loewy, more or less the Godfather of American Industrial Design, definitely knew how to pick ’em.

Still, you couldn’t sell one of these today if it only went up to 250 (actually 259) pounds.

(From Visual News via Miss Cellania.)

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Oh, what a night

Late December, back in ’53,
What a very special time for me,
As I remember — what the hell?

Hoover vacuum ad from 1953

Sixty-odd years later, Susan and Tom are still not speaking to one another. The Hoover, meantime, sucks as much as it always did. (I have one such machine, admittedly not that old; it’s still functional as its 40th birthday approaches.) Not that anyone born in the last 25 years is going to believe that humble household appliances were once considered dynamite Christmas fare.

(From Pop Sugar via Miss Cellania.)

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Eaker than thou

The City of Durant has been requesting proposals for runway improvements at Durant Regional Airport-Eaker Field, south of town. What they want is an overlay on the existing 17/35 runway, to improve its surface, and to extend it beyond its current 5,001 feet. Nothing is planned for the secondary runway, 3000 feet, oriented 12/30. Proposals are due in tomorrow.

Historical note: Ira Clarence Eaker, who attended what was then Southeastern State Teachers College in Durant, was commissioned in December 1917, and 24 years later got his first star and a job organizing the VIII Bomber Command in England, later the Eighth Air Force. As commander of the Eighth, he delivered an address to the British garrison, including this pithy sentence: “We won’t do much talking until we’ve done more fighting. After we’ve gone, we hope you’ll be glad we came.” The character of Major General Pat Pritchard in the 1949 film Twelve O’Clock High is based largely on General Eaker. He died in 1987, aged 91.

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Instructions to the victor

If we ever actually win another war — and believe me, there exist people who would burst into tears if we did — we should not repeat an earlier mistake:

The Odious Wilson stuck his oar in the peace process and mucked things up, as was his wont, and the eventual Treaty of Versailles has mostly gone down in history as an example of how not to treat a defeated foe. Either plow the ground with salt and sell the population into bondage, or give them a magnanimous hand up, but don’t leave a beaten enemy to nurse grudges while inflicting gratuitous and punitive punishments on them.

On the whole, our handling of the second World War, which fell mostly on the “magnanimous hand up” side of the spectrum, was much better than what we did after the first.

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After a hot morning mess

Nineteen seventy-three. I’m wearing khakis because while I thought I looked better in fatigues, which isn’t saying much, the crusty warrant officer (then again, aren’t all warrant officers crusty?) who ran our shop insisted, and I wasn’t one to bend rules — at least, not his rules. Our little subcommand had lots of duty stations worldwide, some of them desirable, some of them less so. There was one post, though, that nobody ever seemed to want, and given the fact that transfer orders for enlisted personnel had to get past my desk, rather a lot of individuals who outranked me — I was a lowly Specialist Four at the time — seemed willing to do me favors to get them out of that assignment if at all possible. I never promised anything, and I never tried to collect on any of those markers, but sure enough, disposition forms materialized, signed by the correct officers, changing their destinations to some preferred location.

This could not possibly last forever, and of course it didn’t. Eventually they decided to fill one particular billet with me. It was a short tour — 12 months — and it came with a stripe. I shrugged. “I’m twenty years old,” I said, “and I’ve never been east of Boston or west of Amarillo. Maybe I should quit bitching.”

And so I was packed off to the Middle East, which was quieter than it is today and much quieter than some Southeast Asian locations at the time. It was, first and foremost, a duty station, so duty came first; but I did manage to spend some free time wandering about this crazed place without working up too much of a sweat. (Really. Typical middle-of-summer high temperature: 80°F. What was I worried about?) Of course, things can and do happen without notice, and as the phrase goes, everyone’s secondary MOS is Eleven Bravo.

That post has long since been closed, its need for it having largely evaporated and its host country having grown restive, even surly, over the years. Still, a lot of us passed through its gates over the years, and some of us are still around, even though we’re no longer wearing fatigues. Or khakis.

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First-class ticket to ride

There was a time, apparently, when it was considered appropriate to dress to the nines to visit an amusement park, and that time was in the middle to late 1950s:

Advertisement for Berkshire Carnival Colors

I wonder if they actually shot them right-side-up and then flipped the photo.

By the spring of 1959, Carnival Colors had expanded to Orange Pop and Merry-Go-Round Yellow; the Steeplechase Green apparently fell by the wayside.

In 1955, Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates and Hathaway Mills had merged. Seven years later, this happened:

In 1962, Warren Buffett began buying stock in Berkshire Hathaway after noticing a pattern in the price direction of its stock whenever the company closed a mill. Eventually, Buffett acknowledged that the textile business was waning and the company’s financial situation was not going to improve. In 1964, [BH chairman Seabury] Stanton made an oral tender offer of $11 1/2 per share for the company to buy back Buffett’s shares. Buffett agreed to the deal. A few weeks later, Warren Buffett received the tender offer in writing, but the tender offer was for only $11 3⁄8. Buffett later admitted that this lower, undercutting offer made him angry. Instead of selling at the slightly lower price, Buffett decided to buy more of the stock to take control of the company and fire Stanton.

By the spring of 1965, Buffett owned all of Berkshire Hathaway, and in 1967 he started buying, um, other things.

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800 years ago today

Something I found while looking for something else:

The Siege of Sinope in 1214 was a successful siege and capture of Sinope by the Seljuq Turks under their Sultan, Kaykaus I (r. 1211–1220). Sinope was an important port city on the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey, at the time held by the Empire of Trebizond, one of the Byzantine Greek successor states formed after the Fourth Crusade. The siege is described in some detail by the near-contemporary Seljuq chronicler Ibn Bibi. The Trapezuntine emperor Alexios I (r. 1204–1222) led an army to raise it, but was defeated and captured, and the city surrendered on 1 November.

I knew that Sinope — today’s Sinop, a nifty little town of 35,000 on the Black Sea, occupies that same space — had changed hands several times over the years, though I hadn’t paid much attention to the details, and the last time I dug around for anything was when I was actually there, forty years ago.

What opened my eyes, though, was the demonym for persons from Trebizond: “Trapezuntine.” I felt briefly abashed for not knowing this. (It’s from the Latin “Trapezus,” which I am told was adapted from ancient Greek.) The Trapezuntine empire expired in 1461 at the hands of Mehmed II of the Ottomans; the surviving city of Trabzon, a place I had a chance to visit but didn’t, was its capital.

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Approved for Room 101

Although presumably you’d need the optional Sharp Pain attachment (sold separately):

Self-hypnosis equipment by Schneider

Rumor has it this was actually more effective than watching VH1.

(Via Mostly Forbidden Zone.)

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