Friday, June 21, 2019

The Medal

On Memorial Day, we published a post on Johnnie D Hutchins, whose actions in the South Pacific saved his crew and ship at the cost of his life, actions for which he posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

Yesterday we visited the National WW2 Museum in New Orleans.  On display was Hutchins' Medal of Honor.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Take On Me

A worldwide hit from 1985 by the Norwegian band A-ha.  Played endlessly on MTV because of its innovative video, which has now accumulated over 900 million views. This is their acoustic version from 2008.  As one of the comments on YouTube says, "Basically every 80s song played slowly becomes the saddest song ever."  And the first time I'd ever listened to the lyrics.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Talking With Pete & Roger

A recent SkyNews interview with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend as The Who prepare to embark on a European tour, 55 years after the band's start.  Fascinating insights into the band, the music business, and their relationship over the years.  At the end Pete talks about the MeToo movement and then the interviewer asks Roger about whether if the UK proceeds with Brexit it will adversely effect tours like their in Europe to which Roger responds:
"As if we didn't tour in Europe before the f***ing EU!  If you want to be run by a mafia you do it!  [The EU is] like being governed by FIFA!"

Monday, June 17, 2019

Old Town Road

It's been the #1 song in the United States for the past ten weeks.  20 year old Lil Nas X created one of the wittiest and catchy songs of recent years, setting a record in April being streamed 143 million times in one week.  Who knows what genre it fits into?  It's been described as country rap, country trap, and Southern hip hop (this song may have been the first of the genre). Who cares?  I hope the kid keeps his head on straight.  He's got some talent.

Lil Nas X (aka Montero Lamar Hill) hails from the Atlanta area.  The song and its associated remixes have a complex history which I won't recount here (if you are interested read this) with the most popular version featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.  The riff is sampled from a haunting Nine Inch Nails song composed by Trent Reznor (the same guy who wrote Hurt, so memorably covered by Johnny Cash).

This is the original.

A modified version.

And finally the full movie-type video featuring Lil Nas, Billy Ray, and Chris Rock.  It's a hoot.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Pig War

On this date in 1859, Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer on San Juan Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (between present-day Bellingham, Washington and Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia), discovered a large pig in his garden, eating his newly planted potatoes.  The annoyed Cutler shot the pig thereby triggering an armed confrontation between Great Britain and the United States.

Cutler, in his mid-twenties, arrived on the island that April after failing to stake a claim during the 1858 gold rush in British Columbia.  According to the Skagit River Journal:
A contemporary described him as "one of the unwashed sovereigns of the United States who did not scare worth a cent".  Another recalled he was "tall, light-haired fine looking, fearless, adventurous and full of fun."  A third said he set up housekeeping with an Indian woman in a structure that was a cross between a tent and a hut.
Belle Vue Sheep Farm photo
(Hudson's Bay sheep farm on San Juan Island)

The pig was owned by Charles Griffin, who'd been hired by the British Hudson's Bay Company to run its sheep ranch on San Juan.  Cutlar offered to pay Griffin $10 as compensation for the pig, but when Griffin demanded $100, Cutlar rescinded the offer.  After British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, the farmer and his American neighbors called for American military protection.
Charles_John_Griffin(Charles Griffin)

Thirteen years to the day before Griffin's pig wandered into Cutlar's garden, the U.S. and Britain signed the Oregon Treaty, settling their conflicting claims in northwestern North America.  America retained the lands that later became the states Oregon, Idaho and Washington while the lands further north, between the Rockies and the Pacific, were confirmed as British possessions.
 (from wikipedia)

For most of the territory in dispute the dividing line became the 49th Parallel but as it reached the Pacific it was described as:
"the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the Pacific Ocean."
The problem was that neither side had a firm grasp of the geography of the area.  It turns out that there are two channels, one to the west, and one to the east, of San Juan Island which can be considered the middle channel.   The result was both countries claimed sovereignty over the island.
PigWar-boundaries.png(from wikipedia)

In 1856 the two countries agreed to form a Boundary Commission to discuss disputes arising from the treaty, including the status of San Juan Island but by the end of 1857 the commission had failed to reach agreement and adjourned to report back to their respective governments.

It was during this period the Hudson Bay Company established its operation on the island and about 25 to 30 American settlers arrived and tensions were heightened between the two groups.

In response to the American settler request, the military dispatched Company D of the 9th Infantry Regiment stationed in Bellingham, along with its commanding captain, to San Juan Island.  The captain was George S Pickett (the same man who attained immortality in the charge at Gettysburg that bears his name, on July 3, 1863).

Pickett had been transferred to the Washington Territory several years before and oversaw the construction of Fort Bellingham.  While there he married Morning Mist, a member of the Haida tribe, who gave birth to a son before dying in 1858.

After arriving on San Juan on July 27, Pickett and the 60 or so men under his command established camp and began building fortifications to repell any attempted British landing.  In response, three British warships anchored off the island, prompting yet more reinforcements to be sent by the Americans.  Both sides were under orders not to fire first, but to resist if the other initiated combat.

By mid-August 461 American soldiers and 14 cannon were on the island, while offshore over 2,000 British with 70 cannon were aboard five warships.

The governor of Vancouver Island ordered Rear Admiral Robert Baynes to land naval marines on the island, but Baynes, fearing such an act would trigger open conflict, refused to do so.

As the standoff continued the atmosphere grew more relaxed.  According to the National Park Service website San Juan Island National Historical Park:
While the Americans dug in, the British conducted drills with their 52 total guns, alternately hurling solid shot into the bluffs and raised rocks along Griffin Bay. It was all great fun for tourists arriving on excursion boats from Victoria, not to mention the officers from both sides who attended church serves together aboard the Satellite and shared whisky and cigars in Charles Griffin’s tidy home.
When word of the strange and dangerous confrontation reached Washington and London both sides took steps to defuse the crisis.  President Buchanan dispatched General Winfield Scott (commander of the U.S Army) to the northwest to negotiate with the governor of Vancouver Island.  Reaching the area in October, Scott was quickly able to obtain agreement to a joint occupation of San Juan Island until such time as the two nations could reach a final settlement.

Under terms of the joint occupation both sides were limited to no more than 100 military personnel on the island.  The occupation would continue until 1871 when Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Washington, settling all outstanding disputes between the countries, including those arising from the Civil War.  Among its provisions, the boundary dispute was referred to Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany to resolve the dispute by arbitration.  The Emperor referred the matter to a three person arbitration commission in Geneva, Switzerland and in 1872 it awarded San Juan Island to the United States.

The joint occupation forces had an amicable relationship with frequent socializing and athletic competitions.  The Americans invited their British counterparts to an annual July 4th celebration while the Brits hosted the Americans for an annual celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday.

Lyman Cutlar left the island sometime during the late 1860s and died on April 27, 1874.