Archive for The Way We Were

What’s the name of the game?

If you remember ABBA from the Seventies and Eighties, you probably also remember that while they weren’t the least bit ugly, their mama, or somebody, dressed them funny. Turns out that this was a matter of cold calculation:

Swedish supergroup Abba have revealed they had good reason to wear such garish stage costumes — because it saved a little money, money, money on their tax bill.

The band, whose spangly flares, catsuits and platform heels were considered naff even in the 1970s, exploited a Swedish law which meant clothes were tax deductible if their owners could prove they were not used for daily wear.

Gotta love those capitalist Swedes.

(Via Fark.)

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No higher accolade exists

No more need be said, at least by the likes of me.

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Backhanded truth

Penmanship was never my strong suit until my middle teens, when I assume that the onrush of hormones that screwed up everything else somehow induced me to change my scrawl to a sweet flowing script. (My original Social Security card, issued in the 1960s, contains a signature worthy of Sister Catherine.) Today, well, not so much.

Still, that doesn’t constitute anything like an argument for the abandonment of actual handwriting:

If you can’t read cursive, someone could hand you page 12 of the owner’s manual of a ’94 Toyota Camry and tell you that it’s Article Three of the Constitution, and if you can’t read the original to compare, you’d just need to take their word for it that the Supreme Court has a 3 year/36,000 mile powertrain warranty.

And as we all know, there are entire cities — Washington, D.C. comes quickly to mind — of people who are manifestly incapable of reading the Constitution. I doubt many of them are driving ’94 Camrys, though.

Addendum: Learning it once is hard enough; learning it twice is torturous.

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Beyond triplicate

A good threesome is hard to beat. Think Kukla, Fran and Ollie; Dewey, Cheetham and Howe; Manny, Moe and Jack. It was a shock to the system to discover that there was originally a fourth Pep Boy. But that’s nothing compared to this:

You’re familiar with the elves, Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Their onomatopoetic names match the very cereal they’ve repped since the ’30s — Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. In the years after that, the trio has withstood the influx of cartoon competitors like the Trix Rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun, the Cookie Crisp thieves, Cap’n Crunch and many more. Lost in the shuffle, however, was a fourth Rice Krispies elf named Pow! His short life is a time-capsule of an era when everyone was dreaming big.

Say, kids, what era was that?

From 1948 through the mid ’50s, the brothers sponsored the popular children’s program The Howdy Doody Show. But in early 1950, Kellogg’s marketers snuck in a fourth friend, Pow. The company said in an email to Smithsonian.com, “[Pow] appeared in two TV commercials. The spaceman character was meant to exude the ‘power of whole grain rice.’ He was never considered an official character.”

And why don’t you hear about that fourth Pep Boy? Perhaps because he cashed out of the company early — or maybe because his name was also Moe.

(Thanks, M. A. Larson!)

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Rewind thirty years

And just imagine what life would be like if it hadn’t happened this way:

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Sony Corp. v. Universal Studios decision, also known as the Betamax case, which paved the way for such innovations as your beloved DVR.

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that Sony could continue to sell its Betamax videocassette recorder, overruling the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judgement that held Sony liable for consumers’ copyright infringement.

The lawsuit, which began in California District Court in 1976, charged that because Sony manufactured a device that could be used for copyright infringement the company was liable for infringement committed by consumers of Betamax.

Justice John Paul Stevens’ majority opinion in the case deemed home videotaping legal in the United States. The ruling also bore an important principle that has been used time and time again in lawsuits — if a product has a substantial, legitimate use it can be sold, even if some consumers use it illegitimately.

Two things happened within five years of this decision:

  • Sony began building VHS VCRs under license from JVC (1988);
  • Sony became a content provider on its own, taking over Columbia Pictures (1989).

And if that court ruling had gone the other way? Sony might have had to sue itself.

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With six you get ponies

A wondrous artifact over at Pergelator: the instrument panel from a 1929 Hudson Super Six. I got to wondering why a ’29 specifically, and it turned out that this was Hudson’s biggest year ever, third in US sales, behind Ford and Chevy but a smidgen ahead of your choice of Chrysler brands. (Chrysler, in 1928, had introduced Plymouth and DeSoto and bought Dodge; there persists a story that DeSoto was created specifically to use as a club against Dodge, should they refuse Chrysler’s overtures.)

The Super Six was Hudson’s top-selling model back then, and though Hudson, in a fit of corporate apostasy, went to eight-cylinder cars in 1930, the postwar line reintroduced the Super Six, which became their best seller for the next several years, largely because the old straight-eight cost about 10 percent more and delivered only seven more horsepower. By 1951, Hudson was winning races with a 308-cubic-inch six, which in civilian form kicked out 145 hp, more than the old eight, and which the company offered with some serious go-fast parts: the “Twin-H Power package” had dual induction and twin carburetors, offering 160-170 hp, and the factory-racer version (dubbed 7-X) was good for 210. The old eight-holer faded into oblivion. Unfortunately, so did Hudson, which was merged with Nash in 1954 to form American Motors; both brands were killed off after the 1957 model year in favor of Rambler, previously a Nash sub-brand, which was selling better than either.

There is, incredibly, one active Hudson dealer remaining: Miller Motors in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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Zapruder than ever

The guy I feel bad for is William Henry Harrison, who caught a cold three weeks after his inauguration; he wound up with pneumonia, which killed him on the 31st day of his term. Everyone, of course, explained that it was because he gave the most godawful long inaugural address on a raw March day without benefit of overcoat. But that’s what everyone does: coughs up an opinion.

This week, we’re getting all manner of JFK-related, um, nostalgia, and frankly we should knock it the hell off, or at least back off from the crushing volume of drama:

Once again, we’re told that it was the worst, the most terrible thing that ever happened to a U. S. President, in all of history —

And that, as H. L. Mencken might’ve said, is utter buncombe. While no President — or any other law-abiding citizen — deserves to be shot down, especially as long as there’s an independent press and the process of impeachment available, it’s an amazing coincidence that the only one they’ve got on film and tape is somehow the very worst.

The press isn’t as independent as it used to be, or for that matter as it thinks itself to be, but that’s not what’s at issue:

Consider Lincoln, who was assassinated in the actual (defective) course of an actual conspiracy, for which eight people were eventually convicted and four were hanged. Consider James A. Garfield, suffering though eleven weeks of increasingly dire infection before dying in agony, or William McKinley, lingering for days before succumbing to gangrene. If there’s a scale of terribleness, someone else is going to have to rank these untimely deaths — but not on the basis of which one offers the most compelling video.

Yeah, but this society has declared itself proudly ahistorical: unpleasant details are left out of the textbooks, and we’re awash in wannabe revisionists with political axes to grind. I can think of no better way to honor Mr Kennedy’s memory — or, for that matter, mine, once the time comes — than to hang the lot of them.

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Pavlova and friend

I don’t do exuberance very well anymore, unlike this delightful youngster:

Child dancing in front of painting of Anna Pavlova

And I miss that.

Sir John Lavery did several portraits of Anna Pavlova; this 1910 canvas hangs in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Florida has another.

Pavlova herself once said:

When a small child, I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away.

But oh, for those moments when it’s there!

(Via Boned Jello.)

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Not yet faded away

There are fewer of us every year: the oldest pass on to a different plane of existence entirely, and not so many of the youngest are putting in their time anymore.

I used to wish for the day when we’d no longer be needed. But this wish was in vain: the delusions of our current batch of policy wonks and rank amateurs notwithstanding, it takes ordnance to do what ordinances cannot. So now I wish for the day when we can complete a proper mission and then go home, the way God and General Patton intended. Is that so much to ask?

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Restoration and then some

We’ve talked before about the Ship of Theseus, rebuilt plank by plank by the Athenians, until it eventually contained no original parts; it was Hobbes who asked that if the old planks were gathered together and assembled, would that not be the Ship of Theseus?

I was not, you may be certain, expecting an example of this dilemma in my lifetime. As the phrase goes, imagine my surprise. Dave Kinney, who covers the major auto auctions for Automobile, tells the story of a single — maybe — Jaguar D-type in the December issue:

In the world of classic racing cars, engines, rear ends, transmissions, and other parts often got changed out. After the race cars were done with their careers, no one cared what happened when two or three major components — all claiming the same serial number — were separated. That’s what happened when this D-type’s ice-racing career in Finland ended. Two cars held a claim to the same serial number, which hurt the value of both vehicles because originality was in question.

In other news, they (used to, anyway) race Jaguars on the ice in Finland.

The solution was simple yet fiendishly complex:

“It seems difficult to rectify the situation,” wrote one D-Type collector to another in 1995, “unless some benevolent person should decide to purchase both cars, exchange the front subframes and the legal documents, resulting in only one single car claiming to be XKD 530.”

That’s essentially what happened. In 1998, a collector acquired one of the cars. In 2002, he acquired the other. Then he had both cars meticulously disassembled, and all the various parts and pieces identified and catalogued, and assigned to the correct chassis. In 2003, this amazing reconstruction was completed when the original, fully restored monocoque was lowered onto the original chassis frame; the bolt holes were a precise match.

The newly-rebuilt original brought $3.9 million.

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A true rock and roll heart

The Velvet Underground didn’t sell an enormous number of records; but, as the saying goes, everyone who heard them started a band.

This isn’t quite true — I haven’t quite worn out White Light/White Heat yet, and I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a stage — but I knew, even then, that I was always going to pay attention to Lou Reed, even when I couldn’t tell what the heck he was doing at any given moment; the man was simply Out There, and “There” sometimes wasn’t even on the map.

Still, Reed live on stage was something to behold, sometimes a man on fire, sometimes a man on Quaaludes, but always interesting. For an example of the former, see his 1974 (actually recorded the week before Christmas 1973) live set at the Academy of Music (on the Rock N Roll Animal LP), in which “Sweet Jane” turns into an outright anthem.

And what amazed me is that no matter what he did — Metal Machine Music, directing a video for a Susan Boyle (!) cover of “Perfect Day,” singing backup on a Metric single — he never managed to make himself appear irrelevant.

Reed walked to the quiet side yesterday at seventy-one; you may be sure that rock and roll heaven has no idea what to make of him, but they’ll adjust. We always did.

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A fitting tribute

Yesterday morning Norm Geras died, and I struggled to say something appropriate about the man, a fixture in the blogosphere for a decade, and one of the last of a dying breed: the Thoughtful Partisan.

An example of that thoughtfulness: his legendary normblog profile, which he sent to select members of blogdom at all points on the political continuum. The instructions contained the following:

Please NB that you should not answer all 50 questions, but (as requested on the document itself) just 30 of them — enabling you to select those questions most congenial to you and leave out any that aren’t.

The wisdom of this practice really didn’t dawn on me until I’d submitted my answers, when I realized that this was how Norm knew what you really valued above all else.

I mention this here (1) to correct my previous article, which claimed that there were 48 items in the questionnaire, and (2) to point you to normfest, a celebration of normblogging and a tribute to the man who made it a word of its own.

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A difference made

We’ve all seen these before: a list of 100 books. But this one is different:

Now, in all my experience of such book lists, this one has a unique feature. Which is that I’ve read all the books on it. Yup, every single one — 100%. That’s because I compiled the list from … the books I’ve read (choosing titles, as well, that I liked enough that I’m happy to recommend them). Why should I let other people make lists to browbeat me with? If I make the list myself, I get to have read everything on it. Enough bullying is what I say. You, too, can make your own list and rebel against the tyranny of the book-dictators. I suggest you do it.

That paragraph speaks volumes about blogospheric mainstay Norm Geras, who passed away this morning at 70. A recognized expert on Marx, he’d written a dozen books on political theory and practice, and was a signatory to the 2006 Euston Manifesto.

In the online community, however, he may be best remembered for the normblog profile, in which he sent four dozen or so questions to leading bloggers and asked them to answer any thirty of their choice. (The definition of “leading” is occasionally flexible.)

James Joyner remembers this aspect of Norm Geras:

The vagaries of life have lately decreased both my blogging and my reading of blogs, and so I missed Norm’s announcement this past May that the prostate cancer that he’d first been diagnosed with in 2003 was spreading and taking a toll. He was characteristically stoic about the matter, which he posted about only by way of apology for an anticipated decline in posting.

The book list quoted above, incidentally, was his last post, which came out on the 9th of October.

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Both sides of the news

I get enough traffic on this page to persuade me that there is lingering interest in that brief period (1964-1980) when there were competing newspapers in this town.

And to prove it:

OKCTalk has been working with the Atkinson Heritage Center and Rose State College to publish their entire library of old Oklahoma Journal newspapers. The center and college are the repository of these archives.

So far, they’ve digitized six days a week (no Sundays yet) starting with the first of October ’64, which was Volume 1, Number 41. The PDFs are not, of course, as clean as the Oklahoman’s current Print Replica, which is a model for the way these things should be done, but then nobody in 1964 was thinking that far ahead.

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Neither shalt thou haze

Leipzig University issued this rule just in time for the fall semester, 1495:

Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.

Senator John Blutarsky was not available for comment.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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What would I do with this?

Big Dick toy machine gun

Little Folks was published from 1897 to 1923 by Samuel Edson Cassino; it was edited by his daughter Marguerite Cassino Osborne. This ad is from the December 1918 issue — not that anyone had any reason to be thinking about guns in December 1918, of course.

(See also Arnold Zwicky’s commentary.)

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Meanwhile at the Student Union

Robert Stacy McCain picks up this year’s numbers from the Princeton Review:

Auburn University has the most conservative student body of any college in the nation, according to the Princeton Review’s annual rankings, released [Aug. 5]. In contrast, Bennington College in Vermont is the nation’s most liberal school, according to the study.

Rounding out the top ten most conservative schools for 2013 is Texas A&M, Grove City College, Hillsdale College, College of the Ozarks, University of Dallas, Thomas Aquinas College, the United States Military Academy (West Point), Hampden-Sydney College, and the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis).

The most liberal student bodies, according to Princeton Review, are Sarah Lawrence College (NY), Warren Wilson College, Bard College, Marlboro College, New College of Florida, Macalester College, College of the Atlantic, Vassar College, and Skidmore College.

Interestingly — at least to me (your mileage may vary) — two of those schools, one from each list, tried to recruit me while I was a high-school student in South Carolina. (Hint: Sarah Lawrence wasn’t one of them.)

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Commemorating evil

Tulsa, says Michael Bates, is planning to rename Brady Street and the associated Brady District to something else starting with a B — why not “Bates”? — because of Tate Brady’s involvement with, among other things, the Ku Klux Klan. Certainly no one wants to honor those dumb Klux, but Bates says that the measure doesn’t go far enough to clean up the city map:

Rather than handle these renamings piecemeal, with the potential of a new renaming (and a four-hour long public hearing) at every week’s City Council meeting, the City Council should appoint a diverse commission of historically minded citizens to research the histories of all names under the control of the City of Tulsa and its boards and commissions.

This commission — perhaps to be called the Commission for the Sanitation of Politically Incorrect Names (C-SPIN) — would report back with a comprehensive recommendation to rename certain streets, an estimate of the cost to rename, and a revenue proposal (sales tax or general obligation bond issue) for funding the recommended renamings, including city expenses like street signage and grants to affected businesses and residents to cover signage, business cards, letterhead, and other street renaming expenses.

The commission would have to consider whether a person’s misdeeds rises to the level of deserving the removal of his or her name from a public place. They might wish to set criteria that would be applied consistently to decide thumbs up or down.

A commission like this would strike fear into the hearts of Oklahoma City historians, who have for years been sitting on stories like that one time Harvey Everest kicked a cat, or that Delos Walker actually sat on the school board, and we all know about school boards, don’t we?

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Columbidae trip

Something else I didn’t know about this town:

In 1973, the American Pigeon Museum and Library was established. Twenty years later, they purchased 10 acres in Oklahoma City and just last month moved into a brand new building that will open to the public early next year.

It’s located just south of NE 63rd Street and west of Bryant Avenue, and it has an extensive collection of pigeon equipment clocks, bands, trophies and paintings. It also has a lot great military photographs and Army pigeon corps equipment from both world wars including message holders like the one Cher Ami carried through whizzing bullets and battlefields of lore.

Despite her name, Cher Ami was a hen, and this is the message she was bearing:

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay dispatched a frantic message by way of their last surviving homing pigeon, ‘Cher Ami':

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.

When the pigeon miraculously arrived at the division headquarters 25 miles away he had been shot in the leg, breast and eye, and thanks to his efforts 194 members of the battalion were subsequently rescued. Cher Ami died from his injuries six months later, but not before being awarded the croix de guerre for heroic service.

This is, in other words, not the bird that crapped on your car ninety seconds after you washed it.

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A modicum of restraint

Suzette bought a discontinued food processor — a Cuisinart from last decade — because it had large, pushable buttons, which she trusts, instead of some slippery touch pad, which she most certainly does not.

The illustration she provided shows the stark contrast between the two machines, and also includes a piece of earlier equipment: a GE food processor with “little ass buttons.” It reminded me of my thirty-year-old Osterizer, in the beigest possible beige, which also has little-ass buttons, as distinguished from little ass-buttons. And in fact, I left her a comment to that effect, which WordPress.com refused to accept; evidently it pushed their ass buttons.

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Bling around the collar

The unrelenting bad news from Detroit is enough to make you, or at least me, look for happier stories, and when I finally found one, it was a press release from General Motors. Still, it’s something on the positive side of the ledger: the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet “Bowtie” logo, which has been traced back at least as far as the fall of 1913.

Washington Post ad for Chevrolet, October 1913

What hasn’t been traced, exactly, is where the design came from in the first place. Billy Durant and his wife told different stories about its origin, and in 1990 the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America started their own search. Still, the Bowtie has just about everything you’d want in a logo: the shape is distinctive and doesn’t require either special coloration or even actual type. (Take that, Ford!) Only the Mercedes three-pointed star — the Benz wreath seems to have been purged lately — comes close.

Tangential addendum: While checking out the Mercedes reference, I landed on Wikipedia’s page for “Mercedes Benz,” the song in which Janis Joplin begs the Lord to buy her one, inasmuch as her friends all drive Porsches. The article is illustrated with a picture of a car driven by Joplin: a Porsche.

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Purely theoretical

That’s the answer. One possible question: “How’s your love life?”

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Meanwhile in the rest of the world

The Fourth of July is pretty much the American holiday, and rather a lot of American history is tied to it. (Who would have thought that both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would cash in their chips on the same day, exactly 50 years after 1776?) However, the date has had its share of non-American events as well:

362 BC: Battle of Mantinea, Thebes vs. Sparta. Officially, Thebes won; however, they lost their leader Epaminondas, and with both sides hurting, the Macedonians, led by Phillip II, wound up conquering the place.

414: Pulcheria, teenage daughter of Arcadius, emperor of the eastern Roman Empire until his death in 408, declared herself regent over younger brother Theodosius II, heir to the throne, and ruled as de facto Empress thereafter, kid brother being sort of a wuss.

1054: Chinese astronomers observe a supernova; the remnants thereof are now known as the Crab Nebula.

1456: Sultan Mehmed II lays siege to Nándorfehérvár in the Hungarian Empire. John Hunyadi successfully repelled the Ottomans, culminating with a fierce counterattack in when Mehmed was wounded. (The site is now the Serbian city of Belgrade.)

1569: Establishment of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1791 the Commonwealth adopted a Constitution, the first in Europe and the second anywhere, following the United States in 1789. The Constitution did not, however, prevent Poland from being partitioned out of existence in 1795.

1918: Sultan Mehmed VI ascends to office by being girded with the Sword of Osman; the Ottoman Empire would be dissolved under the terms of the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, and the sultanate subsequently abolished.

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Striver’s license

The Bodacious Beaters series by Phil Coconis hits both Phil and me close to home this time around:

This time the subject is the very first car I ever owned — and it was one of these: a 1966 Chevy II Super Sport with 283 cubic inches of Bowtie Smallblock under the hood, and the venerable two-speed aluminum Powerglide under the SS console shifter!

Now step down a level or two and you have the very first car I ever owned: that selfsame Chevy II without the Super Sport credentials or the console shifter, but with the Powerglide, shifted from the column, and with Chevy’s boat anchor 230 straight six.

Still, this much we had in common:

Yes, it wasn’t particularly quick or fast — that Powerglide definitely not helping the cause in either department — and it didn’t handle anything like a sporting-type of car — although the lame “mono leaf” rear springs did provide a rather “jouncy” and otherwise unbalanced ride — but I just contented myself to crank up the in-dash stereo and cruise it.

Which I did, once I’d added a proper stereo — though I eventually mounted it on the hump where the shifter wasn’t, leaving the factory AM in place, and cut a hole for a second speaker. And the interior of the II, in Nova trim, wasn’t too unpleasant, although the seats were slicker than owl snot and the dash was liberally festooned with things to puncture you if something hit you head-on.

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Decoration Day

Spring 1868. General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a support organization founded by veterans for veterans, issues the following as General Order No. 11:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

This wasn’t the first Memorial Day, technically; the townspeople of Waterloo, New York had inaugurated just such an observance two years earlier. But General Logan’s call to honor fallen soldiers resounded nationally, and five thousand turned out at Arlington National Cemetery on the thirtieth of May, placing flowers and placards and gifts on the resting places of twenty thousand.

Two years later, General Logan spoke at Arlington, and this is part of what he said:

This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims… Let us, then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us…

I come from a family with strong ties to the military. Both my parents were sailors, and my father had served in the Army before joining the Navy. A brother served in the Navy; a sister took on the duties of a soldier’s wife. But it took me rather a long time to understand the “noble dead”; I knew nothing of death except that it was a scary prospect, and I didn’t see nobility as being part of the package.

The first inkling of what it meant came during Basic Combat Training in 1972. I was eighteen, grossly immature, and generally scared spitless. The guys with the funny hats who dragged us out of bed at 0500, well, they were just an obstacle, to be endured and then to be forgotten.

Except that they knew things. They weren’t scholars issuing position papers from ivory towers; they were men who had Been There, who had faced real enemies, and who had come back to show us pathetic slobs how to face real enemies ourselves. There were things you did, and there were things you did not do, if you expected to come back yourself. And since we were all green as hell and totally lacking in life experience, what we wanted more than anything else was to be able to come back.

So we learned. We fired (just as important, we cleaned) our weapons, we studied simple tactics, we got used to sleeping with the rocks and the ticks, we got to the point where we weren’t as embarrassingly bad as we had been a couple of months earlier. And the NCOs, who up to then had never been satisfied with our performance, pronounced themselves satisfied: we were going to be all right.

Most of us did come back. But some did not, and we found ourselves grieving for them and for their families, because we knew that it could just have easily have been us. Their sacrifice was received and found worthy. Noble, even.

I thought about this during the dedication of the World War II Memorial this week, especially when that old soldier Bob Dole explained why it was happening:

What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war. Rather, it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys and that inspired Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet, for ideals that make life itself worth living.

I hope, as I slide into old-soldier status myself, that I’ve done my best to live up to those ideals.

(Originally posted 30 May 2004.)

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A time of disharmony

And possibly even, dare I suggest, small-d discord:

Physically brave to the point of recklessness, this leader has courage beyond any doubt. But sometimes, this hero, revered by many, makes poor decisions, largely because of the belief that the best solution to any problem is a direct, frontal attack.

Yes, I’m taking about Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. But I’m also referring to Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood.

You might be surprised how well Civil War generals match up with ponies — especially The Great and Powerful George B. McClellan. (Okay, maybe he wasn’t that much of a surprise.)

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Witchy woman

Bits from Massachusetts history:

In 1868, one Amos A. Lawrence founded the Ipswich Hosiery Mill beside the river; by the end of the century, it was the largest such mill in the nation.

In 1878, the last of the Salem witchcraft trials was held after an Ipswich woman made accusations of “mesmerism.”

Combine these two facts, say “Ipswich” three times out loud, and this 1927 advertisement begins to make sense:

Ipswich hosiery ad

The company hadn’t long to live at that point, but their broom-wielding flapper was kinda cute in a weird sort of way.

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Long after the starting gun

On this date in 1889, the so-called “Unassigned Lands” in what is now central Oklahoma were opened to white settlement, the celebrated Oklahoma Land Run. The Native tribes, you may be sure, aren’t quite so enthusiastic about celebrating.

Just where were these Lands?

The first popular usage of the term “Unassigned Lands” started in 1879 when mixed-blood Cherokee Elias C. Boudinot published an article in the Chicago Times describing lands in the central part of the Indian Territory that could, and in his opinion, should be settled by white people. The boundaries of his so-called “Unassigned Lands” had been established externally through a series of treaties with Indian tribes. The border on the north was the Cherokee Outlet, created by treaty in 1828. To the south was the Chickasaw Nation, established in 1837. To the west was the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation, established in 1867. And to the east were the reservations of the Potawatomi (1867), Shawnee (1867), Sac and Fox (1867), Pawnee (1881), and Iowa (1883). Altogether, the Unassigned Lands covered 1,887,796.47 acres, or approximately 2,950 square miles.

This description overlooks claims by the Creek and Seminole nations to the area, which were dealt with in the time-honored fashion. From Born Grown: An Oklahoma City History by Roy P. Stewart (Oklahoma City: Fidelity Bank, N.A., 1974), the terms of the deal:

In January 1889, negotiations were held to recover interests of those two tribes … Relinquishment gave those tribes $2,280,000 and $1,912,000 respectively. Thus the two tribes received a bit more than $2 an acre for land for which the United States paid France four cents an acre.

I note purely in passing that the site of Halvor Steanson’s farm, on a sliver of which the palatial estate at Surlywood is located, would now go for $100,000 an acre, were there any acres to sell.

The winners, of course, get to write the history books. Still, the idea of holding Land Run reenactments in the local schools smacks of Rubbing It In, and for several years now, members of various tribes have tried to get those events banned, or at least toned down. (Audio regarding a current effort [41 minutes].) Certainly the Land Run as an actual historic event needs to be covered in the curriculum; however, I can’t work up any enthusiasm for the reenactments, which boil down to “You guys won, and you guys lost.”

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Merch to be moved

Lileks is vending something called Tiny Lies, and this is what that something is all about:

Tiny Lies contains 150 + small ads from the back of old magazines and newspapers, annotated and commented upon with varying degrees of strained amusement. That’s right: less than a penny a page!

Provided you pay. If you don’t, there’s nothing I can do about that. This is an experiment, really.

Easily worth the equivalent of Daffy Duck’s quarterstaff. Hey, if it worked for Radiohead

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Cruelest Month update

If April had Ides, they’d be today, and the 15th of April has not been the happiest of days in world history, quite apart from the fact that if you’re in the States, your income-tax return is probably due today. For example:

1865: Death of Abraham Lincoln.

1912: Sinking of RMS Titanic.

1927: Beginning of the Great Mississippi Flood.

1936: Arabs in Palestine revolt.

1989: Tiananmen Square protests begin.

2013: Whatever it was that happened in Boston today.

Perhaps a happier moment, from 1930: the birth of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, fourth president of Iceland, and the world’s first democratically elected (as distinguished from, say, the accession of Eva Perón) female head of state.

President Vigdis of Iceland

Vigdís was elected to her first term in 1980, and served until 1996. In this 2011 picture, there’s a lovely serenity to her, no doubt attributable to having governed a literal volcano of a country for sixteen years.

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