May 31, 2006
May 24, 2006
[empire] Ben Hammersley: ‘Rome did not create a great Empire by organising committees and holding meetings…’
April 27, 2006
[history] Bronte and Dickens Caught Napping in 1841 Census — one night in 1841 caught in the data from a census of the UK … ‘Up in Yorkshire in the parish of Guiseley, 20-year-old Charlotte Brontë was living in Upper Road as a governess. At Parsonage House, Newton-by-Daresbury near Warrington, nine-year-old Charles Dodgson – later to find fame as Lewis Carroll – was living with his parents, four sisters, two brothers, one gentleman, three private pupils and five servants.’ [via Robot Wisdom]
March 17, 2006
[history] Boy’s Pancake Breakfast Delayed the End of WWII — Proving that the path of human history does not run smoothly when teenagers are involved in the process… ‘On Aug. 14, 1945, [Thomas] Jones, a 16-year-old messenger in Washington, D.C., was entrusted to deliver to the White House the cable announcing Japan’s surrender to the United States to end World War II. Unaware of his cargo’s import, the boy, in cavalier teenage fashion, put work on hold to eat pancakes at a diner, hang out with his friends and flirt with waitresses. Later, he left his pancakes to complete the job only to be pulled over en route to the White House by a police officer, who berated the boy for making an illegal U-turn…’
March 12, 2006
[books] The Man Who Hated Pooh … ‘The biggest regret in EH Shepard’s life was agreeing to illustrate Winnie the Pooh for AA Milne, as it resulted in the bulk of his work, even during his lifetime, being completely overshadowed. In his later years, Shepard was heard to describe Pooh as “that silly old bear” and resented his close identification with Milne’s books…’
February 28, 2006
February 1, 2006
December 18, 2005
[art] The Cat Pictures of Louis Wain — some examples of the Cat pictures of Louis Wain – a famous Victorian artist and schizophrenic. ‘…a foundation was set up for him by his peers (including the famous H.G. Wells) which enabled Wain to spend the last years of his life in comfort in private asylums in Southwark and Napsbury, where he continued to paint and draw his cats. Wain allows us a unique insight into the delusions and course of illness in a late onset schizophrenic.’
October 6, 2005
July 31, 2005
June 10, 2005
[watergate] Watergate Days — Seymour Hersh reminisces about Watergate … ‘Many people in government were outraged by the sheer bulk and gravity of the corrupt activities they witnessed in the White House. Reporters were their allies and confidants. Those men, who dealt with the most sensitive national-security issues, had their worst fears confirmed by the revelation, in July, 1973, of the White House’s taping system, which recorded their meetings and conversations with the President. They wondered what else they didn’t know. Some feared that the government might fall, and some talked to reporters about their concern that the President, facing impeachment, might try to hold on to his office by defying the Constitution.’
June 3, 2005
[watergate] How Mark Felt Became ‘Deep Throat’ — Bob Woodward describes his friendship with Deep Throat … ‘I took a job at the Montgomery Sentinel, where Rosenfeld said I could learn how to be a reporter. I told my father that law school was off and that I was taking a job, at about $115 a week, as a reporter at a weekly newspaper in Maryland. “You’re crazy,” my father said, in one of the rare judgmental statements he had ever made to me. I also called Mark Felt, who, in a gentler way, indicated that he, too, thought this was crazy. He said he thought newspapers were too shallow and too quick on the draw. Newspapers didn’t do in-depth work and rarely got to the bottom of events. Well, I said, I was elated. Maybe he could help me with stories. He didn’t answer, I recall.’
June 1, 2005
[watergate] After 33 years, Deep Throat, the man who brought down Nixon, Confesses All … ‘As it turns out, the greatest secret in American political history was blown a long time ago by an eight-year old boy at summer camp on Long Island. Deep Throat, the boy boasted to his friend, was Mark Felt, the number two at the FBI at the time of the Watergate scandal. That boy had some reason to know. He was Jacob Bernstein, the son of Carl Bernstein, who with Bob Woodward broke the Watergate story for the Washington Post.’
[politics] Deep Throat Revealed — Metafilter discuss Woodward and Bernstein’s whistle-blower outing himself. Orthogonality: ‘You have to be of an age to remember the times. And the hideous sideburns and the too-wide, too-ugly, too-polyester neckties. The Christmas bombings and the secret bombings (said by Nixon himself to have been inspired by seeing the musical 1776) and his “secret plan to end the war” and then “Vietnamization”. The enemies’ lists and the paranoia about “the Jews”. And “pray with me Henry” and C.R.E.E.P and Dean and Erlichman and Haldeman (each with his sideburns and the god-awful neckties, too). And the jowls. The hatred, rooted in envy, for the Kennedys and for the whole East Coast Establishment. And the V-for-victory salute. And the sweaty face. All the way back, to HUAC and “a little dog named Checkers” and the “good Republican cloth coat” and “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore” and Eisenhower’s reluctance to endorse his own Vice President’s succession. And finally the “This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office….” The whole long national nightmare…’
January 9, 2005
[history] Desperate Lucan Dreamt of Fascist Coup — great article looking at Lord Lucan’s fascist tendencies as he cracked-up before murdering his children’s nanny … ‘…One [Lucan] biographer, Patrick Marnham, said: ‘Seen from the Clermont Club [Lucan’s favourite gambling haunt], the country was starting to resemble the less stable years of the Weimar Republic. Sir James Goldsmith began to develop his theory of “the Communist infiltration of the Western media”. Over the smoked salmon and lamb cutlets, the talk turned to the pros and cons of a British military coup.’ It may seem difficult to believe now, nearly eight years into the most secure Labour government in British history, but across the country pockets of the traditional ruling class were preparing for military action.’
December 27, 2004
[history] Who was Inês de Castro? … ‘[The King of Portugal] revealed to the country that had secretly married Inês and that she was the lawful queen of Portugal. The king’s word was, and still is, the only proof of the marriage, but Peter took Inês’s body from the grave and forced the entire court to swear allegiance to her as queen.’
November 14, 2004
[games] Spacewar – Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums — a profile of Spacewar (one of the first computer games) and the personalities behind it by Stewart Brand from Rolling Stone magazine in 1972 … ‘Spacewar as a parable is almost too pat. It was the illegitimate child of the marrying of computers and graphic displays. It was part of no one’s grand scheme. It served no grand theory. It was the enthusiasm of irresponsible youngsters. It was disreputably competitive (“You killed me, Tovar!”). It was an administrative headache. It was merely delightful. Yet Spacewar, if anyone cared to notice, was a flawless crystal ball of things to come in computer science and computer use…’ [via del.icio.us]
September 23, 2004
[distraction] 56K Modem Emulator — the sound of the internet on dialup (I don’t miss it!).
August 9, 2004
[urban.myth] Son of a Gun — another urban myth examined by Snopes … ‘It seems that during the Civil War (May 12, 1863, to be exact), a young Virginia farm girl was standing on her front porch while a battle was raging nearby. A stray bullet first passed through the scrotum of a young Union cavalryman, then lodged in the reproductive tract of the young woman, who thus became pregnant by a man she had not been within 100 feet of! And nine months later she gave birth to a healthy baby!’
May 27, 2004
[potus] Kissinger tells of Drunk Nixon … ‘When I talked to the President he was loaded.’
March 4, 2004
[quote] Alistair Cooke: ‘Last Tuesday night, for the first time in thirty years, I found myself by one casual chance in a thousand, on hand in a small, narrow serving pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, a place that I suppose will never be wiped out of my memory: a sinister alley, a Roman circus run amok, and a charnel house. It would be quite false to say, as I should truly like to say, that I’m sorry I was there. It’s more complicated than that…’ [thanks Graybo]
February 13, 2004
[summary] The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less — The Last Sixty Years: ‘World conflagration. Fission explosions. United Nations. Space exploration. Assassinations. Lunar excursions. Resignation. Computerization. World Trade Organization. Terrorism. Internet expansion. Reunification. Dissolution. World-Wide Web creation. Composition. Extrapolation? ‘
November 4, 2003
[history] At home with the Führer — nice summary from Simon Waldman about what happened when he posted a Hello-type article on Hitler from 1938 to his weblog … ‘As a result of this casual browse through an old magazine, I have struck up a friendship with an amateur historian in Louisiana, been involved in a copyright tussle with the UK’s biggest magazine publisher, been branded a Nazi sympathiser, been written about in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and the Jerusalem Post, and become the subject of a petition from 60 Holocaust scholars as well as protests from David Irving.’
July 21, 2003
[space] The Moon, July 21st. 1969 …
‘The lunar module curved gently down over the Sea of Tranquility, the drama heightened by the calm, almost casual voices of the astronauts and the mission controller at Houston.The casualness was deceptive: from 500 ft. above the surface and all too aware that an error could lead to irretrievable disaster, Aldrin brought the spacecraft down under Armstrong’s direction. At the moment of approach Armstrong’s heartbeat rose from its normal 70 to 156. Yet his voice was calm and flat: “Contact light: engines stopped? The Eagle has landed.” The landing was perfect.’
January 25, 2003
[email] Reaction to the DEC Spam of 1978 — the first ever Spam email … ‘WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE THE 2020 AND HEAR ABOUT THE DECSYSTEM-20 FAMILY AT THE TWO PRODUCT PRESENTATIONS WE WILL BE GIVING IN CALIFORNIA THIS MONTH. […] A 2020 WILL BE THERE FOR YOU TO VIEW. ALSO TERMINALS ON-LINE TO OTHER DECSYSTEM-20 SYSTEMS THROUGH THE ARPANET. IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO ATTEND, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT THE NEAREST DEC OFFICE.’ [Related: A Brief History of Spam]
August 24, 2002
[war] Notes from a Suicide Manual — excerpts from a Kamikaze’s cockpit reading … ‘At the very moment of impact: do your best. Every deity and the spirits of your dead comrades are watching you intently. Just before the collision it is essential that you do not shut your eyes for a moment so as not to miss the target. Many have crashed into the targets with wide-open eyes. They will tell you what fun they had.’
August 6, 2002
[war] One Hell of a Big Bang — Studs Terkel interviews Paul Tibbets the man who piloted the Enola Gay …
‘ST: One last thing, when you hear people say, “Let’s nuke ’em,” “Let’s nuke these people,” [al-Qaeda] what do you think?
PT: Oh, I wouldn’t hesitate if I had the choice. I’d wipe ’em out. You’re gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we’ve never fought a damn war anywhere in the world where they didn’t kill innocent people. If the newspapers would just cut out the shit: “You’ve killed so many civilians.” That’s their tough luck for being there.’
July 17, 2002
[film] Chronicle of a Death Foretold — Greil Marcus on the Manchurian Candidate, John Frankenheimer and the Kennedy Assasinations … Frankenheimer: ‘I can see Bobby’s face on a big television monitor in the ballroom and I can see his back for real. As I stood there a figure went by me and it was as if there was electricity coming out of his body. I’ve never felt anything like it before or since. Of course it was Sirhan Sirhan.’
July 4, 2002
[war] Is this World War III? — Dan Hartnung wonders about a name for the current conflict and discusses the origin of the term “World War II”. ‘…when Germany entered Poland on September 2, it was as if the storm had finally come ashore. The next day, Britain and France honored their mutual defense treaty with Poland and declared war. A famous photograph had a newspaper vendor in a sandwich board which read WORLD WAR DECLARED (OFFICIAL) that same day. ‘ [via Follow Me Here]
June 24, 2002
[history] Inspired by the Finder’s guide to Deep Throat and Meg… Deep Throat was…
- …a smoker and he drank Scotch.
- …a composite, if he (or she) existed at all.
- …the shadowy source who haunts the pages and scenes of “All the President’s Men.”
- …presidential adviser Patrick J. Buchanan.
- …Pat Gray, FBI director from May 1972 to April 1973.
- …Earl J. Silbert, an original Watergate prosecutor.
- …some sort of liberal bureaucrat.
- …a spook.
- …in fact, the lead actress in the film of that title.
- …a well-read but occasionally rowdy man.
June 22, 2002
March 22, 2002
[politics] Just What Was He Smoking? — The Washington Post takes a look at audio tapes from Richard Nixon’s White House. ‘…he does explain many other things in these drug tapes, including the insidious nexus between drugs, homosexuality, communism and, of course, Jews. The excerpts begin with the Nixon doctrine on why marijuana is much worse than alcohol: It is because people drink “to have fun” but they smoke marijuana “to get high.” This distinction was evidently enormously significant to Nixon, because he repeats it twice.’ [via Scripting News]
March 1, 2002
[war] Nixon talked of nuclear bomb for Vietnam … [via Metafilter]
‘Kissinger laid out a variety of options for stepping up the war effort, such as attacking power plants and docks, in an April 25, 1972, conversation in the Executive Office Building.
“I’d rather use the nuclear bomb,” Nixon responded.
“That, I think, would just be too much,” Kissinger replied.
“The nuclear bomb. Does that bother you?” Nixon asked. “I just want you to think big.”‘
February 10, 2002
[past] Let’s Blog like it’s 1983…
- Film: Risky Business … ‘Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, “What the fuck.” “What the fuck” gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.’ [Related: Risky Business at IMDB]
- Comic: Swamp Thing 21 — The Anatomy Lesson … ‘You see, throughout his miserable existance, the only thing that could have kept him sane was the hope that he might one day regain his humanity… the knowledge that under all that slime he was still Alec Holland. But if he’s read my notes he’ll know that just isn’t true. He isn’t Alec Holland. He never will be Alec Holland. He never was Alec Holland. He’s just a ghost. A ghost dressed in weeds.’
- Book: Christine by Stephen King … ‘If being a kid is about learning how to live, then being a grown-up is about learning how to die.’
- Game: Manic Miner by Matthew Smith … ‘Can YOU take the challenge and guide Willy through the underground caverns to the surface and riches. In order to move to the next chamber, you must collect all the flashing keys in the room while avoiding nasties like POISONOUS PANSIES and SPIDERS and SLIME and worst of all MANIC MINING ROBOTS. When you have all the keys, you can enter the portal which will now be flashing. The games ends when you have been ‘got’ or fallen heavily three times.’
- News: Headlines on Ceefax for the evening of Monday 3rd October 1983 also Guardian Coverage from 1983 … Mrs Thatcher in 1983: ‘ She has a temperamental determination and some shrewd populist instincts and she has acquired that inner metal which comes from having visited the edge of disaster. But she owes as much to luck as to native skill and her success has been achieved in spite of her propensities to rash misjudgment, wilfulness, and narrowness of mind and vision. She is not short of fatal faults to bring her down.’
September 11, 2001
[history] You can find anything on the internet… JFK’s Autopsy Photos and Frame 313 of the Zapruder Film … Zapruder: ‘And I was shootin’ as the President was comin’ down from Huston Street and makin’ his turn… he was about half-way down there when I heard a shot (makes a down angle motion with his left hand) and he slumped to the side… like this (mimics left slump). I heard another shot or two — I couldn’t say if it was one or two — then I saw his head open up… (hand to head) all blood and everything… and I kept on shootin’…’ [Related: The Zapruder Film — interesting analysis, source of quote above. JFK Autopsy Photo link via LukeLog]
August 25, 2001
[comics] Mad Magazine Vs. J. Edgar Hoover — the FBI investigated Mad Magazine after J. Edgar Hoover was mentioned in the magazine … ‘Several complaints have been made to the Bureau concerning the Mad comic book, which at one time presented the horror of war to readers. Various comic books of this nature were brought to the attention of the Justice Department, which rendered the decision that such books did not constitute a violation of the Sedition Statutes.’ [via Comic Geek]
July 20, 2001
[comics] Uncle Joe loved a good joke — Stalin’s Politburo liked to doodle cartoons during meetings… ‘. Uncle Joe himself may have been a mass murderer, tyrant and scheming paranoiac, but he had his jocular side as well, even if his sense of humour was typically brutal. As revealed by an extraordinary buff folder marked Top Secret, containing drawings by senior Bolsheviks, he appreciated a good political cartoon as much as the next man.’
July 12, 2001
[tech] Cap’n Crunch’s Homepage… includes the infamous article from Esquire on phone phreaking…. ‘I ask him who this Captain Crunch person is.”Oh. The Captain. He’s probably the most legendary phone phreak. He calls himself Captain Crunch after the notorious Cap’n Crunch 2600 whistle.” (Several years ago, Gilbertson explains, the makers of Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal offered a toy-whistle prize in every box as a treat for the Cap’n Crunch set. Somehow a phone phreak discovered that the toy whistle just happened to produce a perfect 2600-cycle tone. When the man who calls himself Captain Crunch was transferred overseas to England with his Air Force unit, he would receive scores of calls from his friends and “mute” them — make them free of charge to them — by blowing his Cap’n Crunch whistle into his end.)’ [thanks Phil]
July 7, 2001
[quote] ‘In London, where Southampton Row passes Russell Square, across from the British Museum in Bloomsbury, Leo Szilard waited irritably one gray Depression morning for the stoplight to change. A trace of rain had fallen during the night; Tuesday, September 12, 1933, dawned cool, humid and dull. Drizzling rain would begin in early afternoon. When Szilard told the story later he never mentioned his destination that morning. He may have had none; he often walked to think. In any case another destination intervened. The stoplight changed to green. Szilard stepped off the curb. As he crossed the street time cracked open before him and he saw a way to the future, death into the world and all our woe, the shape of things to come.’
May 15, 2001
[war] The Smoking Gun has a recently declassified report on Hitler’s leisure time and sexual activities… ‘Once Dr. Sedgwick asked him: “Why don’t you marry and fool your enemies?” Hitler answered: “Marriage is not for me and never will be. My only bride is my Motherland.” Then seemingly with no sequence of ideas he added: “There are two ways by which a man’s character may be judged, by the woman he marries, and then the way he dies.”‘ [via Clog]
May 5, 2001
[century] 1974 – Nixon Resigns … ‘If Mr Nixon had been at his best last night, then he was at his worst this morning. Sometimes one wished that his agonized wife would take this wretched slobbering, spluttering man away by the arm and propel him into some windowless vehicle for transport to obscurity. But Pat Nixon, with Julie and Tricia and their grey-faced husbands beside them, allowed the man to proceed. It would have been worse, perhaps, if they had tried to stop him. “I remember my old man. They would have called him a common man… he was a street car motorman at first… my mother” – at this point he sobbed violently, his tears somehow eluding the gravitational pull and remaining shining in his eyes – “a saint. She will have no books written about her.”‘
May 4, 2001
[century] 1965 — The Guardian sums up after the death of Winston Churchill…. ‘It was his fate that in spite of his gifts he had only at exceptional moments the full confidence of his fellow-countrymen. This lack of trust cut across all parties. Labour feared what it called his class bias. Some Conservatives thought that he was not biased enough; they felt that, with his past, he was not a sound party man, and they did not like the warmth for his former associates, the Liberals, which he never wholly extinguished. A sentiment very widespread was that Churchill was to be kept only for great occasions: he was too incalculable – or dangerous – for politicians’ daily food.’
May 3, 2001
[century] The Guardian Century… 1990 – Thatcher Resigns (another posting about that joyous day): ‘For old time’s sake, she had a jolly good shout at Neil Kinnock. Before finally hanging up her handbag, she gave it one last swing at a few Labour backbenchers who strayed within range. And then Dennis Skinner engaged her in a double-act. Asked whether, in retirement, she would still oppose a European central bank, Mr Skinner fed her a line, shouting: “No, she’s goin’ to be the Guv’nor.” “What a good idea!” she cried, to swelling cheers. “I’m enjoying this,” she said, doing little bows. “Thank you. Thank you.” They have loved her never so much as when losing her.’ [discovered via Tom]
April 16, 2001
[tank man] The Unknown Rebel — Time profiles China’s Tank Man… ‘Almost nobody knew his name. Nobody outside his immediate neighborhood had read his words or heard him speak. Nobody knows what happened to him even one hour after his moment in the world’s living rooms. But the man who stood before a column of tanks near Tiananmen Square–June 5, 1989–may have impressed his image on the global memory more vividly, more intimately than even Sun Yat-sen did. Almost certainly he was seen in his moment of self-transcendence by more people than ever laid eyes on Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and James Joyce combined.’
April 4, 2001
[urban myth] Pickled Penis — Is John Dillinger’s 23 inch penis stored at a museum in Washington? ‘The bulge in the center of the photo (Dillinger’s arm) was supposedly mistaken by contemporary viewers of fuzzy newspaper photos for his penis, thus starting the tale of an incredibly well-endowed John Dillinger. (How he managed to die in a fully erect state was a question the public either didn’t ponder or else attributed to some rather strange misunderstandings about the process of rigor mortis.)’ [kinda via Blogadoon]
January 27, 2001
[more wilde] A web page about the recording of Oscar Wilde’s voice which I linked to yesterday… ‘…Wilde was asked to say something into the horn of the recording mechanism. He responded by reciting part VI of The Ballad Of Reading Gaol, which consists of the last three stanzas of the poem, and identifying it with his name at the end. The recording, which lasted a little more than two minutes, was made on a wax cylinder. Fortunately, it survived along with other Edison memorabilia and to it we owe the preservation of the only recording ever made of Wilde’s voice.’ [thanks to Prolific]
January 26, 2001
January 9, 2001
[old perv] Pass Notes on the Marquis de Sade. ‘The man in his own words: “Go fuck away the livelong day.” Do say: “Had a good day at the orifice, Count?”‘
January 1, 2001
[politics] Thatcher — started as she meant to go on… ‘Margaret Thatcher’s first recorded intervention in Edward Heath’s cabinet was to propose the imposition of borrowing charges on library books, and the abolition of free school milk for children over seven, which earned her the nickname Milk Snatcher. The new education secretary told the cabinet in September that “she had been able to offer the chief secretary, Treasury, rather larger savings than he had sought on school meals, school milk, further education and library charges”‘