Archive for The Way We Were

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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Jeepening the memory

Murilee Martin at The Truth About Cars currently does the Junkyard Find series, presenting old, abandoned vehicles awaiting either final oxidation or a trip to China to come back as Harbor Freight Tools. This week Martin turned up a 1968 Jeep DJ-5A “Dispatcher Jeep” with a General Motors powertrain — four-cylinder Chevy 153 with two-speed Powerglide.

Given my own lingering interest in speed and how it is displayed, I took a look at the dash. Not being a safety regulator by trade, I did not cry out “Those knobs are dangerous!” However, my attention was distracted by a business card stuck to the dash:

Dashboard of 1968 Jeep

Dashboard of 1968 Jeep

Two possibilities present themselves:

  1. This could have been the insurance agent’s Jeep, once upon a time;
  2. This Jeep could have been owned by someone who needed to contact an insurance agent on a regular basis.

Noting that there’s just something about women in Jeeps, I of course lean toward the first alternative. Not that I’m going to write her and ask if this Jeep was hers, of course: there may be unpleasant memories involved.

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Days of 45

Terry Teachout has the post-road downs, or something:

Consider, if it doesn’t embarrass you too much to do so, the rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. How much of it holds up today? I was raised on rock and took it with supreme seriousness, but most of the albums with which my high-school playlist was clotted now strike me as jejune at best, horrendous at worst. I don’t know about anybody else, but I haven’t been able to listen to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Jefferson Airplane for decades.

One of the reasons why so much first- and second-generation rock and roll has aged so badly is that most of it was created by young people for consumption by even younger people. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing — if you’re a teenager. But if you’re not, why would you want to listen to it now? And what has happened to its makers now that they’re over the demographic hill? Have they anything new to say to us, or are they simply going through the motions?

I concede that Grace Slick wore out her welcome about the time she claimed that they built this city on rock and roll. However, despite being about two years older than Teachout, I still embrace the songs of my youth — some of them, anyway.

The key here, I think, is Teachout’s reference to his high-school playlist as being jam-packed full of albums. And albums, then and now, more often than not are, in Dave Marsh’s phrase, “singles separated by filler.” There were about two and a half memorable songs on the Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, the .5 depending on how you felt about “Plastic Fantastic Lover.” That leaves eight and a half that nobody plays anymore, and I’m pretty sure no one misses “D.C.B.A-25.” And while I’m on my second copy of Crosby, Stills & Nash, I didn’t come close to wearing out the grooves on “You Don’t Have to Cry,” and Atlantic Records, in its wisdom, once issued a 4:35 single edit of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” that isn’t anywhere near as tedious as the 7:25 album version. (Try finding that single today, though. Bands at this level of self-importance, which is most of them you’re likely to have heard of, resent the hell out of 45 and radio edits.)

It’s entirely possible that some singer or some band I thought was utterly wonderful when I was in high school might do something wonderful today, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen. I am, however, thankful that they can still, for the most part anyway, breathe.

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The survival instinct is keen

Her Majesty acceded to the throne sixty years ago, so a business operating since the thirty-third year of her reign has had a good quarter-century run and then some.

Wait, what? It was the 33rd year of the reign of Elizabeth I? Yes indeed:

R Durtnell & Sons Limited is Britain’s oldest building company and has earned an enviable reputation for quality work, fine craftsmanship and business integrity. As a family, the Durtnells themselves are no less remarkable and can trace their ancestry back to the Norman Conquest.

The first recorded mention of building, as opposed to property, in the family — and hence the year from which Durtnell dates its existence — is 22 July 1591, when John Dartnall married Ann Hearst, registering his profession as ‘carpenter’, synonymous with ‘builder’ at a time when most houses were of timber-framed construction.

Durtnell have operated continuously from offices in Brasted, Westerham, Kent since 1591, easily qualifying them for Britain’s Tercentarian Club. Says Lynn Durtnell today:

[S]he knew what she was taking on when she married John, but casts a protective eye at her son Alexander, in his early thirties, who has partly taken over the day-to-day running of the company. “There is enormous pressure on the children at these companies,” she says. “They don’t want to be the generation that mucks it up.”

In the case of young Alexander, the thirteenth generation.

(Suggested by Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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I can’t Gopher that

If the Internet and the World Wide Web were in fact one and the same, this would have made a little more sense:

[W]e completely forgot that December 25 is the birthday of something glorious, magnificent, and wonderful for all mankind.

We’re talking, of course, about the Internet. On Dec. 25, 1990, a British physicist, computer scientist, and all-around genius named Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, with help from Robert Cailliau and a then-student at CERN, arranged for the very first successful Internet communication between a server and a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client.

Al Gore will be heartbroken. (He’s very sensitive.)

Then there’s this:

By June 1993 the World Wide Web had a whopping 130 websites. A year later, that number grew to 2,738, and by January 1997, shortly after its sixth birthday, the Internet sported an estimated 650,000 websites (most of which were 100% 8-bit porn ads).

By January 1997, I’d already written thirty-four Vents.

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I’ve passed this way before

It’s not something you have to be a pony to experience, either.

The music, incidentally, is Whovian in origin.

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Right down Santa Claus Lane

I used to scoff at that one line in “Here Comes Santa Claus,” because who would name a street Santa Claus Lane? The answer: Hollywood, California, at least temporarily:

Each November beginning in 1928, extravagant holiday decorations transformed a one-mile stretch of Hollywood Blvd. between Vine and La Brea into Santa Claus Lane.

The brainchild of businessman Harry Blaine and the Hollywood Boulevard Association, which promoted the thoroughfare as the “world’s largest department store,” Santa Claus Lane lured shoppers away from downtown’s dominant Broadway retail district with winking lights, daily processions featuring a reindeer-drawn sleigh, and plentiful, brightly decorated Christmas trees.

Today, eighty-four years later, and sixty-six years after Gene Autry commemorated the event in song, there is still a Hollywood Christmas Parade each year, though since 1978 it’s been held on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, instead of just before. Think of that parade, and not the mid-October arrival of seasonal merchandise at your local big-box store, as the beginning of the holidays.

(With thanks to Nancy Friedman, who pointed me toward the details.)

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The dreaded Petticoat Rule

A hundred-year-old flyer arguing that women ought not to vote:

Anti-Woman Suffrage Pamphlet

Article 3 of the original Oklahoma constitution defined electors as “male citizens over twenty-one years of age,” which would seem to suggest that we wouldn’t need an anti-suffrage association. Just the same, we got one:

After World War I suffragists accelerated their demand for the right to vote as a more receptive attitude toward women’s suffrage grew nationwide and in Oklahoma. The formation of additional antisuffrage state associations became necessary, and in 1918 the NAOWS sent Sarah C. White to Oklahoma to speak against suffrage and establish an organization. Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage Association officers included Sallie Sturgeon of Oklahoma City, president, Alice Robertson of Muskogee, vice president, and Maybelle Stuard of Oklahoma City, press chair and speaker. Meldia Constantin served as treasurer, and her husband’s business, the Constantin Refining Company in Tulsa, provided the association with unlimited funds. Other committee members included Laura Greer of Tulsa, Ruth Fluarty of Pawnee, and Jessie E. Moore of Oklahoma City.

The group, however, didn’t last long:

On November 5, 1918, the passage of State Question 97 franchising Oklahoma women brought defeat to the Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage Association, and the final death blow came when Oklahoma ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on February 28, 1920.

(Photo Found in Mom’s Basement.)

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Take a bow, Norma Jean

The December issue of Playboy has Marilyn Monroe on the cover. Now the blonde and the mag go back a long time together — MM was the very first “Sweetheart of the Month,” before Hef decided on “Playmate” as the descriptor — and by “long time,” I mean to the fall of 1953, which I am bound to believe is a long time for personal chronological reasons.

And if the pictures are No Big Deal anymore, people still have something to say about Marilyn. The John Updike commentary I assume is a reprint, inasmuch as he’s been dead for three years, but I don’t remember seeing the Roger Ebert article before, and his last paragraph may be the best thing about the pictorial:

If Marilyn had lived into old age, what might she have become? An elderly parody of herself? I believe she was too intelligent. I believe — or hope — she would have quietly disappeared, as another great star, Doris Day, has chosen to do. Her legacy would never die. From everything I sensed when I saw that first photo and all of her movies, I believe she would have become a sweet little old lady and a good friend.

With that in mind, this is probably my favorite MM picture ever: it’s a press gathering at her house in March 1956, and the balance between sultry and goofy has seldom been so perfect. Her, I can believe as a little old lady of eighty-six.

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Hitting the Brixton

Brian J., motivated by the sound of Eddy Grant, rocks down to Electric Avenue, and gets engrossed by the history thereof:

The song itself refers to the 1981 Brixton Riots, a “confrontation” between residents of Brixton and the police. The Wikipedia entry gives you a full panoply of excuses for the riot, but it’s the usual economically depressed populace of a one race reacts violently to the death of one of their own that they blame on members of the police who are of a different race.

Me, I always wondered if Grant’s 1982 record, a #2 hit in both the US and the UK, had anything to do with Montgomery Ward’s reboot of its appliance and electronics department as “Electric Avenue” three years later, which provided a decade-long boost to the store’s revenues, though the chain didn’t have long to live after that, and died unceremoniously in 2000. (The wards.com Web storefront, now in its second incarnation, dates to 2004.)

Eddy Grant, of course, had been around for a while; his group The Equals crept into the Top 40 in 1968 with a song called “Baby Come Back.”

In 1984 he turned out a theme song for Robert Zemeckis’ film Romancing the Stone, which wasn’t used, except for a teensy bit of the instrumental break halfway through.

Aside: For some reason we have a shopping center in this town called Brixton Square. I hasten to add that it has never had a Montgomery Ward store.

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