Wednesday, December 31, 2008

an aviatrix with a charming smile

I expect we all know something about Amelia Earhart, but who's heard of The Flying Schoolgirl Katherine Stinson? Just out of her teens, Stinson became the 4th American woman to earn a pilot's license in 1912 and soon after earned fame as a barnstorming stuntflyer. In 1915 she was the first woman to do a loop and shortly after became the first woman air mail pilot. During the WWI her application to join the US Air Force was rejected, but although most civilian flight was banned, she was allowed to fly across the United States for the Red Cross on a fund raising tour. At the end of the war she came down with the flu while working as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in France and was forced to retire from aviation when it turned to TB in 1920. The Women Aviators wiki has a good bio. See other biographic links below.

Most of these photos come from the Prints and Photos collections in the Library of Congress.

Undated photo in the G.G. Bain collection


Just before the US entered the First World War Stinson toured Japan and China. On 12/16/1916 she was the first woman pilot to perform an airshow over Tokyo. This is another photo in LC's G.G. Bain collection.

In Tokyo.


Same. The race car driver is identified as Dario Resta.



This was taken shortly before she left on the trip to Japan and China.

In Tokyo. Shows Hantaro Nagaoka and his daughter. Stinson was only 5 ft. tall.

Same. With Marquis Ōkuma Shigenobu.

The Stinson Sisters: Katherine And Marjorie (SI Air & Space Museum photo)


Katherine Stinson on Centennial of Flight

Katherine Stinson on

the Women Who Dared the Skies on

Katherine Stinson on

Katherine Stinson, 1893-1977 on Ralph Cooper's pages

Katherine Stinson on Wikipedia

Katherine Stinson Otero, 1891-1977 on

A page about the Bain Photos in LC.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

shoot first

As the chief contributor to Cliopatria, a group history blog, Ralph E. Luker gives daily link-sets that are almost always interesting. Today he cites an article in Vanity Fair together with a short piece on the article in an AP blog. Luker's note:
Cullen Murphy and Todd S. Purdum, "Farewell to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House," Vanity Fair, February, includes candid and devastating commentary from within the Bush administration. The AP covers it in Staff, "Ex-aides say Bush never recovered from Katrina," AP, 29 December.

Posted on Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 12:46 AM

The article is chronological, beginning Jan. 20, 2001, and ending Nov. 4, 2008, but also topical, as the subhead indicates: "The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players." The authors are identified as Cullen Murphy, VF's editor-at-large and Todd S. Purdum, its national editor with help from Philippe Sands "an international lawyer at the firm Matrix Chambers and a professor at University College London," but there's no indication of the sources of the quotes which make up virtually all the content.

As you can tell from its title, the AP post highlights Katrina as the hinge which swung the administration from invincible to all but powerless. There's much else that interests however. The VF piece is all of 20,000 words and 14 web pages in extent.

{From the VF article. George W. Bush and his inner circle, photographed in the Cabinet Room of the White House in December 2001. From left: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, the president, National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card, C.I.A. director George Tenet (seated), and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.}

My draw down from the piece is not the stumbles that brought down the Bush people, but rather their ambition to attain virtually unilateral rule and their skill in achieving this goal. The article reminds me how greatly this presidency dominated the government within the US and how greatly it dominated world affairs.

Some of the more interesting quotes concern the manipulation of Bush by his close associates, their single-minded obsession with power, and their elevation of political tactics above any national strategy. But about these things we already knew much and suspected more.

Here are some no-context quotes that I pull out for their intrinsic interest:
Right around the time people started saying there’s going to be a permanent Republican majority, God kinda goes, No, I really don’t think so.

The threat is greater today than it was on September the 11th.

Bush had a lot of .45-caliber instincts, cowboy instincts.

We made even more mistakes in Afghanistan than we did in Iraq.

You had a president who basically took until late 2006 to understand how much trouble he was in in Iraq and seems to have taken till late 2008 to understand how much trouble he was in in Afghanistan.

The Cheney team had technological supremacy over the National Security Council staff. That is to say, they could read their e-mails. I remember one particular member of the N.S.C. staff wouldn’t use e-mail because he knew they were reading it. He did a test case, kind of like the Midway battle, when we’d broken the Japanese code. He thought he’d broken the code, so he sent a test e-mail out that he knew would rile Scooter [Libby], and within an hour Scooter was in his office.

Religious conservatives and the Republican Party have always had a very uneasy relationship. The reality in the White House is—if you look at the most senior staff—you’re seeing people who aren’t personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders.

[The Bush people arranged] a double win for the Chinese leaders: they obtained valuable political goodwill from the Bush administration, which translated into gains on the Taiwan issues, and they helped to ensure that American troops would remain bogged down in Iraq for a long time.

[Powell's] task became essentially cleaning the dogshit off the carpet in the Oval Office. And he did that rather well. But it became all-consuming.

Jay Garner, retired army general and first overseer of the U.S. administration and reconstruction of Iraq: When I went to see Rumsfeld at the end of January, I said, O.K., I’ll do this for the next few months for you. I said, you know, Let me tell you something, Mr. Secretary. George Marshall started in 1942 working on a 1945 problem. You’re starting in February working on what’s probably a March or April problem. And he said, I know, but we have to do the best with the time that we have. So that kind of frames everything.

September 15, 2002: In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the assistant to the president for economic policy, Lawrence Lindsey, estimates the cost of a war with Iraq to be in the neighborhood of $100 billion to $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, quickly revises the figure downward to $50 billion to $60 billion, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld calls Lindsey’s estimate “baloney.” Lindsey is fired in December. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill is dismissed the same day. Years later, an analysis by Nobel-laureate economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda J. Bilmes will estimate the cost of the Iraq war to be $3 trillion.

Ari Fleischer, Bush’s first White House press secretary: What happened was the president made the point to the staff that, if America ever goes to war, we go to war because it’s the right thing to do regardless of the cost. That is a moral issue, and so we should not be talking to anybody about how much it may or may not cost; the whole issue is, do you or don’t you go? And if you go, you pay whatever the cost is to win. The day the president dismissed Larry and Secretary O’Neill, I remember he said to me that he noticed that morning that everybody in the Situation Room was sitting up a bit straighter.

Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell: We had this confluence of characters—and I use that term very carefully—that included people like Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and so forth, which allowed one perception to be “the dream team.” It allowed everybody to believe that this Sarah Palin–like president—because, let’s face it, that’s what he was—was going to be protected by this national-security elite, tested in the cauldrons of fire. What in effect happened was that a very astute, probably the most astute, bureaucratic entrepreneur I’ve ever run into in my life became the vice president of the United States.

He became vice president well before George Bush picked him. And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing that he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush—personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum.

{Karl Rove. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.}

{Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.}

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yelberton Abraham

If you watch TV in the US and are interested in American football, you can't avoid knowing that this is the 50th anniversary of what is known as the Greatest game in NFL history. You may already have seen too many clips from the game. Press coverage is extensive and the home newspaper of the winning team has many articles on the subject. Johnny Unitas was the Colt QB who shared with Alan Ameche honors as the game's hero.

If you are interested at all, but don't want to skim the extensive coverage in the Baltimore Sun, look at this piece in the LA Times: The day the NFL got sudden life.

Here's a Youtube video of the game-winning, OT touchdown:

The Giants QB that day was Charlie Conerly.

I can't remember whether I saw the game; maybe not. I watched sports on TV with friends sometimes but was not a fan of any spectator sport. To the extent I had any football loyalty it was with the Giants and the Giant's QB whom I best recall was still then playing for the 49ers.

The quarterback was just another player in those days and the ones that did a lot of passing got beat up pretty badly. Conerly was playing hurt during the Colts game for that reason. In my memory, however, no one took more punishment than YA. I think that was because he refused to eat the ball, generally attempting to pass even when about to be hit. I recall hearing that the player who roomed with YA on the road said Monday mornings he would have bruises over much of his body and be pretty much unable to move at all.

This famous photo taken on Sept. 20, 1964, has the caption: "Tittle kneels in the end zone after getting hit by Steelers lineman John Baker. Battered and bloodied, Tittle suffered a concussion and bruised ribs. He would play again in 1964, but the year did not go well for Tittle, or for the Giants, and he retired after the season. This photograph was taken by Morris Berman. The image won a national award and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is one of the most famous photographs in the history of American sports. For Giants fans, the photo is symbolic of decline: the Giants would go 18 seasons without making the playoffs, a drought which ended in 1981."

{From the same game}


Giants Greatest Quarterbacks

Fallen Giant

1964 Steelers: A Picture Worth More Than Words Can Say

Y. A. Tittle

Friday, December 19, 2008

the problem of evil

This might not be the best time of year to consider this topic, but when is? Maybe I can be forgiven for addressing it on this, the year's moment of greatest darkness, at the commencement of our festivals of light and, as days begin to lengthen again, of annual recommencement of hope. The topic matters because on any day of the year we find news of events that force us to see in the world what can only be called evil. That, and because we know how much of it has been committed in the past, leading to the extinction or near extinction of entire populations. I'm not going into the why of it, but only one important aspect: ordinary people can be manipulated, with relative ease, so that they are willing to commit it. And because this is so, the willingness to manipulate needs to be addressed as a moral issue, a political issue, a religious issue. It's not so much commission as incitement to commit that should concern us.

Here's what has brought this thought to mind:

The Milgram Experiment gave me the creeps when I first read about it. I've wished it could be replicated, its procedures shown to be faulty, and its results invalidated, as so often seems to happen with psychological experiments. However, this can't be: understandably, a code of ethics was put into effect directly after, insuring that academic researchers would never exactly duplicate what Migram did.

I was saddened on reading today that a new version of the old experiment sustains its findings. From Science Daily: Replicating Milgram: Most People Will Administer Shocks When Prodded By 'Authority Figure', ScienceDaily (Dec. 19, 2008). Go there and read. It says the experimenter did not permit subjects to give what they believed to be electrical shocks so intense as to cause fainting or death. He also made sure the subjects neither knew of Milgram nor were unduly susceptible to the procedure. These changes in the procedure make it impossible to compare results directly. Nonetheless, as the headline says, the participants were no less willing to inflict what amounts to torture than were their predecessors in the 60s.

In Burger's study, participants were told at least three times that they could withdraw from the study at any time and still receive the $50 payment. Also, these participants were given a lower-voltage sample shock to show the generator was real – 15 volts, as compared to 45 volts administered by Milgram.

"People learning about Milgram's work often wonder whether results would be any different today," said [the experimenter, Jerry] Burger, a professor at Santa Clara University. "Many point to the lessons of the Holocaust and argue that there is greater societal awareness of the dangers of blind obedience. But what I found is the same situational factors that affected obedience in Milgram's experiments still operate today."
The BBC News article on Burger's experiment adds to the story:
Dr Abigail San, a chartered clinical psychologist, has recently replicated the experiment for a soon-to-be-aired BBC documentary - all the way up to the 450-volt mark, again finding a similar outcome to Professor Milgram.

"It's not that these people are simply not good people any more - there is a massive social influence going on."

She said that the volunteers were being asked to carry out a complex task in aid of scientific research, and became entirely focused on it, with "little room" left for considering the plight of the person receiving the shock.

"They tend to identify massively with the 'experimenter', and become very engaged and distracted by the research.

"There's no opportunity for them to say 'What's my moral stand on this?'"
Do a search on "Milgram" and you'll find there are some Youtube videos of the experiment, along with more articles and books on the subject.

Gustav Doré's illustration from Milton's Paradise Lost:
...Toward the coast of earth beneath,
Down from the ecliptick, sped with hoped success,
Throws his steep flight in many an aery wheel;
Nor staid, till on Niphates’ top he lights.
•Book III, 739–742

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

a diversion

Click the ball and it will change color. Honest.
Es funktioniert wirklich^^

-- not only does it change its colour, it gets smaller everytime!
I got this from They got it from Overclockers in Australia. It's done in Adobe Flash. I'm not much fond of flash myself, but it has its uses.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Vitus - the bike

Before I retired I commuted by bicycle twenty miles a day. I rode every work day, excepting only the icy-snowy ones. Other bike commuters changed bikes infrequently, but I liked to keep a handful around, buying and selling in the second hand market, to keep things interesting. Now I ride shorter distances -- to the library, food store, post office -- and less frequently. There's much less reason now, if there ever was much reason, for me to keep more than one or two bikes handy. Still, I kept a half dozen of them ridable. And I kept one that I'd reduced to not much more than a frame by cannibalizing its components for other uses. And, oddly enough, I got it into my head to build up that frame back into a bike using old parts that I'd kept around. It's a Vitus 979 from about 1987 and it now looks like this:

{click to view full size}
This is my second Vitus, the first I actually bought new, back in 1978.

It's a famous bike. Top racers used it in the 80s. Men like Sean Kelly, one of the best cyclists of all time. Even when the team on which he rode was being sponsored by a different manufacturer, he'd have his Vitus repainted to make it appear to be what it was not. In the two following photos, however, he's on bikes that were made using Vitus tubing and are legit marques.

I suspect my respect for Kelly was a main reason I re-built the Vitus. I've been watching a DVD of the 1987 Tour de France while I jog on our tread mill. Torn ligaments in his shoulder forced him to withdraw from the race. The camera showed his agony as he tried to continue despite the pain and showed that he dropped out only when he could no longer hold onto the handlebar. An amazing man. As one site says of him:
Kelly was a complete rider who could sprint, time-trial and climb with the best, although he did have trouble in the heat and on the major climbs in the Tour de France.

Kelly was a rider’s rider, a professional’s professional. His record in the Tour de France of fifteen starts and twelve finishes attests to this.
Here's a view of a bike just like mine but for the brake cables, pedals, and color of saddle and bar tape.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

evading responsibility while peddling books

This is a double follow-up.

I wrote yesterday about use of the term perfect storm by people who wish to avoid taking responsibility for harmful acts. (I'm surprised we haven't heard it from O.J. Simpson himself, though it appears abundantly in articles about his recent conviction.)

A year ago I wrote about two women, one of whom -- Weatherperson, Cathy Wilkerson -- survived the blast that blew up her father's Greenwich Village townhouse. Unlike others in the news she admits past mistakes. In a memoir published last year she repents her involvement with terrorism as an instrument of politics.

These come to mind on reading in today's Washington Post an opinion piece on ex-Weatherman, Bill Ayers. Ayers doesn't use the perfect storm defense but evades responsibility for past acts all the same: The Unreal Bill Ayers
Three Decades After the Weather Underground's End, He's Still Justifying Its Means, by Charles Lane, Thursday, December 11, 2008; Page A25.

{The aftermath of the March 6, 1970, explosion in which three Weatherman militants died. (By Jacob Harris -- Associated Press)}

Lane points out that Ayers is seeking out interviews these days so that he can promote his new books and, as you can tell from the title of the piece, accuses Ayers of evading responsibility for a violent past. Telling us that Ayers now claims he was no terrorist, he writes that the definition of the term Ayers uses is ironically the one used by the U.S. government: "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents." "We did not do that," Ayers told Lane.

Here's how Lane concludes the piece:
To some, the U.S. Capitol, a Weather Underground target, might qualify as "non-combatant." But Ayers said it was fair game: The U.S. invasion of Laos and Cambodia made it "a symbol of empire."

Ayers has been singing this tune for years. In a 1976 tract, he called for "revolutionary violence," as long as it was "humane." By then the war was over, and his goal was "to build communist organization toward the stage where armed struggle becomes a mass phenomenon led by a Marxist-Leninist party: a revolutionary stage."

Hardly the worst crimes of that turbulent era, the Weather Underground's deeds were nevertheless immoral. They put innocents at risk and sowed fear. Ultimately, they achieved nothing except to undermine the peaceful antiwar movement. Bill Ayers should cut the sophistry and admit it.

{Image source: an anti-Obama site}

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Comic Book Exclamations

Writing a Facebook note the other day I searched my memory for an exclamation to express excitement and came up with Yoicks! The word came to me out of nowhere, unannounced. I couldn't recall ever using it nor when we might first have made each other's acquaintance. I thought I'd possibly seen it in comic books of my youth but a couple of Google searches drew a blank in that area (as it turns out this was partly because I used Yoiks instead of Yoicks). Then today I saw the word in a long scene within the first of the Palliser novels, which is my current recreational read. In it Trollope is describing a fox hunt and he has a character bellow "Yoicks, tally; gone away!" at an inopertune moment. It's an inopertune moment only because offensive to the imperious master of hounds, who responds "Do you suppose I don't know where the fox is?" This turns out to be a major put down. The DNB says the word isn't much older than the end of the 18th-c. ("The bold Fox-hunter, just come up to town, From ‘Yoicks, hark forward’, loves to seem a clown.") Altogether, except for the humor Trollope puts into it, the word and its context are unpleasantly John Bull bombastic: fox hunting is not an Austinesque country pursuit.

So, instead of Yoicks! I choose to write about comic curses and exclamations.

First Captain Haddock, so politically incorrect that his utterances have been deleted from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia aside, the internet provides lots of reveling in the excesses of Haddockian utterance. For example:
- Favorite Curses of Captain Haddock
- Favorite Curses, Visitor Contributions
- Speaking of curses and insults, watch out! Here comes Captain Haddock
- Captain Haddock's Curses
- Exclamations used by Tintin's Captain Haddock
- Captain Haddock's Insults
- Insultes à français

Not curses, but infuriating to the man, were Bianca Castafiore's many manglings of his name: Castafiore Can't Say Haddock!


After Yoicks! and before coming upon the delicious exploration of Haddock-exuberance, I found these other things:
- Archaic Exclamations
- Oddest Comic Book Exclamations! and
- The Comicraft Glossary of Lettering Terms

The latter of which contains some nice examples:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bodhi Day, a miscellany

This and that. As usual, click images to view full size.


Today I received four books via Bookmooch, the book exchange network. Membership is free. You add to inventory books you're willing to give away. As other members request these books from you (and you mail them out), you obtain credits which you can use to mooch books from others. What's remarkable today isn't so much four books at one time (all of them novels by Anthony Trollope), but the arrival of two barely-used ones -- one hardbound the other a quality paper edition -- from a member in Lisbon, Portugal. She spent 7.45 Euro to get them to me; mailed Nov. 28, they took only 9 days to arrive. Within the US books are sent Media Mail which costs a bit more than 2 bucks for most books and usually takes longer than that. I'm so impressed with her generosity (and, needless to say, appropriately grateful).


A member of my family is an admirer of Marilyn Monroe: her photos, her career, her mytique. So this caught my eye:

It can be seen on the photoblog called Shorpy: Hollywood, February 1947. "Movie starlet Marilyn Monroe.", photograph by J.R. Eyerman for Life magazine.

A commenter mentions some other interesting shots from the same time: Youtube: Marilyn Monroe "the army blanket photos 1947". Here's the comment: Marilyn's face, submitted by Charlene on Sun, 12/07/2008 - 11:35pm.
Her face changes between 1947 and 1950; her nose narrows, her cheeks become more defined, and her chin evens out. Check out her Army blanket photos for a view of Marilyn at this age without makeup. Her face is startlingly androgynous at this point - but not three years later, when she has much more stereotypically feminine features.

So this absolutely, heart-stoppingly gorgeous woman still isn't good enough for someone, and has to be changed to be acceptable. You have to ask yourself what they were thinking.
. A couple other comments on the same blog post: A Real Beauty and Transformation


Odetta Holmes, known simply as Odetta, dies on Dec. 2 in New York City at 77 from heart failure.


Spiegel has a piece about the perils of ocean yacht racing -- not the ordinary ones: Ocean Race Goes on Despite Pirates, by Rob Schoof

The Puma yacht arrives off the coast of Cape Town on Nov. 2.


The author says:
In addition to the world's most treacherous seas, the eight teams competing in the Volvo Ocean Race this year could face off against another threat: pirates.

The organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world are continually monitoring the movements of the fleet of eight boats from its headquarters in southern England. Somewhere along the route, there is always a chance the yachts may fall prey to pirates.

There's a blog post on Scholars & Rogues about Howe and Bauerlein, about whom I wrote the other day: The “dumbest generation”: sloppy thinking, maybe, but it’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Gen X.

The author says: "Howe has Millennial children and thinks incredibly highly of them and their contemporaries (this is his point, directly paraphrased from Millennials Rising, not mine). Certainly the verve with which he goes after Mark Bauerlein’s The Dumbest Generation (the jumping-off point for his column) suggests that he’s had enough Mill-bashing. ... The most disturbing part for me was this: 'And today, as midlife parents, they have become ultra-protective of their own teenage kids and ultra-demanding of their kids’ schools, as if to make double-certain it won’t happen again.'"


Today is Bodhi Day

The tree:

A sermon: Bodhi Day, Celebrating the Buddha's Awakening, by Ryuei Michael McCormick.
extract: "As the morning approached, Siddhartha contemplated the vast network of cause and effect itself. He saw how all beings were intimately connected to one another in this vast network of mutual influence and creation. Like a vast net of jewels reflecting each others' light and beauty he saw how all beings arose as part of an unending process of mutual creation. He also saw how ignorance of the true nature of reality was the cause of all the selfish craving which led to suffering, and he saw that this suffering could be ended."

Interestingly, there's a blog called Buddhist Military Sangha, which has a post on this day: Bodhi Day!.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

attack on Pearl Harbor

Here are images of the attack and times, including a bit of iconography. Sources are flickr and the LC's Prints & Photos Div, as indicated. Click to view full size. "December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, 16 years of age. Henry was home on furlough, He made this picture after we came back from church, just before we heard over the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor." Written by Nita (my maternal grandma) Pearl Harbor 12 by alice83642, Taken on December 7, 1941, Recently Found Photos Stored In An Old Brownie Camera. "Thought you might find these photo's very interesting, what quality from 1941." Pearl Harbor Photos found in an old Brownie stored in a foot locker. These Photos Are From A Sailor Who, Was On The USS QUAPAW ATF-11O.

LC P&P Div. Newspaper extra on December 7, 1941. Redding, California

LC P&P Div. Newspaper extra, December 7, 1941. Redding, California

LC P&P Div. Corner of Montgomery and Market Streets, Monday morning, December 8, 1941, after Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. San Francisco, California

LC P&P Div. President Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Germany, Dec. 11, 1941

Untitled (Lower Manhattan seen from the S.S. Coamo leaving New York). Photograph by Jack Delano on assignment for the Farm Security Administration, December 1941. From the FSA-OWI collection at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), 30 December 1941. Karsh photographed the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the Speaker’s Chamber, moments after his rousing speech in the Canadian Parliament. This “Roaring Lion” portrayal of a defiant wartime leader became one of Karsh’s most reproduced portraits, and defined the face of the Allied war effort. Library and Archives Canada, Yousuf Karsh Fonds, a215595

LC P&P Div. Photograph shows Joe DiMaggio, of the New York Yankees, about to kiss his signature baseball bat. Dec. 15, 1941.