Saturday, October 31, 2015


From the Stanserhorn, a 6,000 foot mountain in the Swiss Alps.  Idyllic, isn't it?  (From Twisted Sifter).  It reminds THC of hiking 20 years ago in Grindelwald underneath the Eiger (below).

stanserhorn-swiss-alps-landscape-matthew szwedowski

Friday, October 30, 2015

Good News On Electoral Reform!

A recent SFGate news article alerts us to some welcome progress on ensuring we get the election results Progressives deserve.  This is the first success of the Administration's pilot program first announced right after the 2014 election and which THC broke as a nationwide story.  As a reminder:

November 5, 2014
Associated Press  - Surrounded by Democratic party leaders and an inclusive and diverse coalition of leading political activists, President Barack Obama today announced a bold new initiative to "get big money out of politics".  The President declared "Let me be clear, it's time to end the corrupt influence of special interests in our electoral system and it's time for the people's will to prevail".

Under the White House proposal it would name a special commission of the most highly regarded political science professors from Harvard and Yale, assisted by volunteers from Google and Facebook, to develop an algorithm based upon a voter's ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and class characteristics designed to ascertain how each voter should vote.  Once this is determined votes would be cast electronically on behalf of each voter, based upon how they really would have wanted to vote as determined by the expert-developed algorithm.  The President went on to say that such a system would eliminate the need for campaign ads and expenditures and finally end "the reign of big money.  And Koch Brothers".

Questioned by reporters the President insisted that the proposal was not prompted by the results of the mid-term elections and was instead driven by the urgent need for change to "get the American people on the right side of history".
While the algorithm is still under development by the really smart people the White House decided to launch several pilot projects using variants of its proposal, deciding to first experiment through the public educational system, an approach enthusiastically supported by the National Educational Association.

According to SFGate, the initial triumph of the new approach occurred at the Everett Middle School in San Francisco's Mission District.  The demographic profile of Everett:

This fall the school held elections for student council.  Examining the results, alert Middle School Principal Lena Van Haren realized something was amiss.  She saw that her deluded students had not voted in accordance with their ethnic and racial identities.  As she later said:
“It’s not OK for a school that is really, really diverse to have the student representatives majority white,”  
After all, what perverted lesson could the children take from this result?  The merits of a particular individual and the views of their fellow students really don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, do they?

White Privileged Principal Van Haren attempts to atone
Principal Lena Van Haren looks at Alexander Rowson as he and Jerome Palma debate how race impacts politics outside Everett Middle School in San Francisco, California, on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle  Principal Van Haren took the only responsible course of action - she delayed announcing the election results for a week while she sought a solution worthy of the diversity of her students.   Demonstrating the astuteness of her action to correct the rampant bourgeois cult of individuality, one student, obviously aspiring to be a future representative of the heteronormative patriarchy, Sebastian Kaplan, said of the delaythey want everybody’s voices to be heard but then when they don’t like the results, they don’t respect students’ choices."  How presumptuous coming from someone born of the oppressive class!

According to SFGate Van Haren remarked that "she wanted to wait until there was a plan — created with student input — to increase diversity among student leaders, perhaps by adding positions."

Another article clarified that she's thinking of adding council positions specifically reserved for African Americans and Hispanics, commenting that just such an ethnic and race based approach   "worked wonderfully for Yugoslavia!" and adding that "it is important to ensure that at a young age students are sensitized so that they do not ignore the overwhelming importance of voting according to race and ethnicity".

It is heartening to see the creativity encouraged by the new Federal pilot program.  White House sources said that focusing on children in the pilot was appropriate since the adult voters ultimately intended to be covered by the initiative are "essentially child-like".

Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Generation

The Who Singles 

It'd been more than five months since the release of The Who's second single, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere but it was worth the wait.  Released in the U.K. on October 29, 1965 My Generation was a revolution in rock:

The lyric: "Hope I die before I get old"

The stuttering vocal

Three key changes

That insane feedback/drum thing at the end

The bass solo by John Entwistle: still the best 50 years later

My Generation reached #2 on the British charts but failed to chart in the United States.  The first time THC heard it was sometime in 1967.

Here is Pete Townsend talking about Entwistle in a recent interview.  It's Townsend, one of the most blunt and intelligent people in rock, so it's worth listening to the whole thing.  At the 9 minute mark he talks about the challenge of "filling the air" when The Who play live now that Entwistle is gone (he died in 2002) and at ten minutes talks a bit about the My Generation bass solo.  He explains just how revolutionary Entwistle's approach to the bass was and that it was at the live shows and live recordings you could most clearly hear the difference.

And finally THC will throw in someone's excellent cover of Entwistle's bass part from 1973's The Real Me off the Quadrophrenia album.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Along The Dordogne

Mrs THC used the Brushstroke App to create these nifty painting-like versions of some photos she took during our recent visit to Perigord.

Along the Dordogne River At Limeuil

Moonlit Park in Domme 

From the Castle at Beynac

Good lookin' guy in cafe at Carennac

Monday, October 26, 2015

Riffmaster Joe Walsh

As promised THC compiled a Joe Walsh guitar mashup showcasing some of his best riffs.  This 14-minute clip features 20 selections from 14 tunes as listed below.  THC had forgotten how much good music Joe made.  All the songs are from Joe's solo album except where otherwise indicated.  It's best to listen to this LOUD.

Fun fact THC came across while putting this together.  Joe and Ringo Starr are brothers in law; Ringo's been married to Barbara Bach since 1981 and Joe married her sister Majorie in 2008.

The good news is that Joe has been sober and drug free for twenty years and is back on the road playing.  You can watch a recent interview with him here.  And here he is playing one of his new tunes with Daryl Hall and his band.

Selections In Order:

County Fair
Turn To Stone
The Bomber (James Gang)
Life In The Fast Lane (Eagles)
All Night Long
Walk Away (James Gang)
The Confessor
Funk #49 (James Gang)
Rocky Mountain Way
Hotel California (Eagles - dual guitars at end with Don Felder)
Welcome To The Club
Life's Been Good
Funk #49 (James Gang) 

Time Out
The Confessor
In The City
Walk Away (James Gang)
Funk #49 (James Gang)
Life's Been Good
County Fair 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

St Crispin's Day

On the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, it's time for the St Crispin Day's speech from Shakespeare's Henry V.  This is from the Kenneth Branagh version which is the best Shakespeare you will ever see on film.  Henry V was 28 years old at the time of the battle as was Branagh when he made the film in 1989.  During the fateful summer of 1940 Winston Churchill evoked the speech with his reference to "the few" when praising the pilots of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain.

You'll notice when comparing the video to the text below that Branagh does not use the entire speech.  Throughout the film he did a brilliant job editing the play and in his imaginative staging of the scenes.  If you watch the film you should do follow along with the text of the play so you can see the decisions he makes.

O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My First Ballgame?

With several UPDATES added.

The recent passing of Yogi Berra got me to thinking about the first major league baseball game I'd seen and I decided to track down the details.  In doing so it's made me confront issues of memory - what is it we remember and what is it we think we remember?  How many of our memories are because we've assembled those memories in a certain form for many years even though they might not resemble the original events?

Here is what I was certain about that first game:

My Dad took me to the game.
It was a day game at Yankee Stadium.
The New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees won on a walk-off home run.
The Yankees hoisted the player who hit the homer onto their shoulders.

Here is what I also thought happened at that game:

I think it was Yogi Berra who hit the homer.
The home run was hit to right or right-center.
I have a vague recollection that a Yankee pitcher, Bob Grim, was involved. 
The weather was mild, not hot.  It was partly cloudy or there was a haze.
It took place sometime between when the Giants left New York after the 1957 season and when the New York Mets began play in 1962. 

Here is what was jumbled in my mind:

At times I distinctly remember Ted Williams played for the Sox but at other times I remember my Dad telling me how disappointed he was that Ted was not playing that day.
Our seats were many rows back at ground level, somewhere between first and third base by my memories vary; sometimes I see us watching the game from the third base side, sometimes from behind home and other times along first.

A few years before Dad died I asked him what he remembered but his recollections were fuzzier than mine.

In trying to pin down the game I started with the most noteworthy event - the walkoff home run - and wouldn't you know it, there is a website that lists every walkoff in Yankee history (Yankee$(KGrHqV,!h0E1LP7PD7QBN(ObzYBJQ~~_35.JPG
During the four seasons in question (1958, 59, 60 and 61) the Yankees twice beat the Red Sox on walk offs.  The first was on September 3, 1958 when Yogi Berra hit a three run homer in the bottom of the 9th to break a tie and give the Yankees an 8-5 victory.  The second was on October 2, 1960, when Dale Long hit a two run homer in the 9th to give the Yankees an 8-7 win (this was the final game of the year).

But then I noticed something else in the list of walk-offs.  The Yankees also had two walk-off wins against the Red Sox in 1957.  On April 28, 1957, Yogi Berra hit a bases empty homer in the bottom of the 10th to give the Yankees a 3-2 win and on September 5, 1957 pitcher Bob Grim stroked a three run homer for a 5-2 Yankee win.

So what's the story?  Which game did I see?  How certain was I that the game was during the 1958-61 window?  In reflecting on it, I knew for certain it was no later than 1961, but was less certain that it could have been in 1957.  I realized that my assumption was we were seeing the Yankees because the Giants, my Dad's favorite team, had already left New York, but that may be wrong.

I started to look for other information.  The first was when the games occurred as I thought it unlikely that my Dad would have taken me out of school to see it.  The games on April 28, 1957 and October 2, 1960 both took place on Sunday.  The September 5, 1957 and September 3, 1958 games were on a Thursday and Wednesday respectively.  I decided to check out when Labor Day was those years since when I was in elementary school the school year always started on the Wednesday or Thursday after Labor Day.  It turns out that Labor Day was on September 2 in 1957 and September 1 in 1958 so the games might have been on a school day.

Next step was to go the box scores and play by play at to see if there was anything there that could narrow down the possibilities.

April 28, 1957

A big crowd, almost 38,000.  Temperature at game time was 71.  Frank Sullivan started for the Sox and Ike Delock took the loss.  Ted Williams was in the lineup.  Whitey Ford pitched seven shutout innings for the Yankees but Bob Grim blew the save, with Don Larsen picking up the win when Yogi homered.  Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin were both ejected for arguing with the umpire. The play by play does not indicate to which field the lefty swinging Yogi homered.  UPDATE: The New York Times reports Yogi's shot landed in the lower right field pavilion.  I also found a detail that makes me doubt this was the game I saw - there was an 18 minute rain delay in the bottom of the 7th inning, something I have no recollection of, though it doesn't mean it did not happen.

September 5, 1957

Only 15,600 in attendance.  Temperature was 72.  Willard Nixon pitched the entire game for the Sox.  Williams did not play.  Bob Turley started for the Yankees with Bob Grim pitching the top of the 9th and getting the win on his three run homer.  The bottom of the 9th was strange by today's standards.  Yogi led off with a single and was caught stealing (perhaps a missed hit and run?) UPDATEAccording to the NY Times report Yogi overslid second and was tagged outHarry Simpson made the second out.  Jerry Lumpe singled and Enos Slaughter walked and Casey Stengel let Grim, hitting .125, bat which is simply unthinkable in today's game.  Grim batted righty but there is no indication where the homer was hit.  UPDATE: Found an extensive report on Grim's homer from the Kingston Daily Freeman:

Grim HR
And here is some more from the NY Times:

"Even in batting practice I could never hit a ball to right field" said Grim, still in a happy state of semi-shock . . .  "I would have had somebody bat for him, except we had nobody much left to hit, pitch or field" Stengel said "Then he did it and my only worry was that when he got to second base he'd peel off and go out and see how far that ball went".

When they weren't pounding Grim on the back, various elated Yankees took time out to exclaim "Wow" or "Whoopee".

September 3, 1958 

Attendance was 13,600.  Temperature unknown.  Frank Sullivan started for the Sox with Leo Kiely giving up Yogi's game winner.  Williams did not play.  Murray Dickson started for the Yanks with Ryne Duren getting the win for his two innings in relief.  Mickey Mantle hit a homer earlier in the game which rings a bell with me but I don't trust my memory now.  Berra hit his homer following singles by Mantle and Slaughter.  No indication of field.  UPDATEFound a newspaper report that Berra's blast was deep into the right field bleachers.

October 2, 1960

Attendance was 16,900.  Temperature 64.  Earl Wilson started for the Sox with Arnold Early taking the loss.  Williams did not play - this was the series after Ted closed out his career in Boston by hitting a home run against the Orioles in his last at bat.  Ralph Terry started for the Yankees followed by Whitey Ford, Ryne Duren, Luis Arroyo and Duke Maas who picked up the win.  Dale Long, a lefty hitter, got his home run with one out in the 9th.

Well, that wasn't a lot of help.  I also looked for newspaper articles and photos, in particular any reference to the home run hitter being carried off the field but found none. 

So which game was I at?  The only one I'll rule out was the last one in which Dale Long homered.  I would have been nine years old at the time and think I would have remembered this better if it was the game.  Moreover, there is nothing that matches up in my memory with this one.

The only other possible narrowing down is if, in fact, the September 5, 1957 and September 3, 1958 games were on the first or second day of the new school year it is unlikely that Dad would have taken me to the game making April 28, 1957 the most likely first game I ever saw.  UPDATENow that I know about the rain delay in the April 1957 game I have no idea which game I saw.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Turn To Stone

Was reminded of this song when watching Black Mass a few evenings ago (post forthcoming on the film).  Great tune by riffmaster Joe Walsh from his outstanding 1974 album, So What.  THC predicts a Joe Walsh guitar mashup coming soon to this blog.

So What contains some very subtle and tender music.  Listen to Help Me Thru The Night, Falling Down:
Making no deposit, no return
Making the same mistakes, we never learn
All of the pain in those faces
Trying not to show concern

Spent and broken
Like a worn out subway door in the city

Hanging in the closet, wait in line
When you go by the laws, you pay the fine
I'm burning the candle at both ends
Twice the light in half the time

Down to crawlin'
Feel like I'm falling
Oh & yes, the rain doesn't have to hurry in the city;
Falls sadly to the ground
Rain doesn't have to hurry in the city                                                                                   Only way to fall is down
And finally, Song For Emma, which THC did not realize until researching this post was written for Joe's 3-year old daughter who died earlier that year in a car accident while on her way to nursery school.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Champ Ferguson

Champ Ferguson was hanged that morning.  They got right to it.  In Nashville.  October 20, 1865.  Sure, the Civil War had wound down by then and most of the Reb soldiers had gone home without the Federal government bothering them.  But there were a couple of exceptions.  One was William Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla who'd led the attack on Lawrence, Kansas in 1863 during which more than 150 civilian men and boys sympathetic to the Union were murdered.  Frank and Jesse James along with Cole Younger learned their bushwhacking trade serving under Quantrill.  Quantrill was finally hunted down in Kentucky where he was wounded and captured, dying on June 6.

Another was Captain Henry Wirz, commander of the notorious prisoner of war camp in Andersonville, Georgia where 13,000 Union prisoners died under horrendous conditions.  Wirz was one of only two men to be tried and convicted of war crimes in the aftermath of the Civil War.  The other was Champ Ferguson.
Champ Ferguson sitting.jpg(Champ Ferguson from Wikipedia)

Clinton County in east Kentucky, was where Champ was born in 1821.  During the 1850s he moved his family just over the state line to White Country, Tennessee about halfway between Nashville and Knoxville.  Champ was always a rough guy.  Well before the war he was known as a "gambling, rowdyish, drinking, fighting, quarrelsome man" according to HistoryNet and in 1858 he'd killed Sheriff James Read of Fentress County.

When war broke out in 1861, there were many Union sympathizers in east Tennessee, including most of Champ's family but he decided to throw his lot in with the Confederates.  By early 1862 Ferguson had organized his own guerrilla band which varied over the course of the war from dozens to hundreds.  HistoryNet notes:
By the spring of 1862, relatively few major military engagements had taken place in Tennessee, but the Cumberland Mountains were filled with violence. Roaming bands of outlaws took advantage of the war to steal whatever they wanted with no regard for their victims’ politics. It was not uncommon for these outlaws simply to declare a man an enemy sympathizer and then take his possessions or even kill him. Families, friends, and neighbors were so passionately divided that even idle rumors questioning a man’s alignment could soon lead to his death. Many prudent people avoided their own homes.
It wasn't just east Tennessee.  Everywhere west of the Appalachians, guerrilla warfare thrived and raiding, destruction, murders and massacres happened all the way to Texas.  It was a brutal chapter in a war which gave license to those with the least restraint in society with each outrage provoking retaliation from the other side and further rounds of mutual brutality. Tennessee from

History Net goes on to report:
In the middle of all this chaos stood Champ Ferguson. Many of the Union men he took prisoner — some in the army, some not — were found shot and often stabbed through the heart. Ferguson favored the Bowie knife and often finished his victims off with one. There were rumors of decapitations.
An account in The New York Times adds:  
His first victim was a neighbor, William Frogg. When he rode up to the Frogg cabin, Mrs. Frogg suspected no ill will; she had known Ferguson since childhood, and offered him a seat and an apple. He refused both, and sought out her husband, who lay ill in his bed. Champ inquired as to Frogg’s health, and his neighbor responded, “I am very sick. I had the measles, and have had a relapse.”

Champ accused Frogg of having contracted his illness while visiting the Yankee recruitment center at nearby Camp Dick Robinson, which Frogg vehemently denied. Ferguson simply drew his pistol and shot Frogg twice in front of his wife and child, killing him on the spot. He then ransacked the cabin, looking for weapons. At his trial four years later, Ferguson would voice what would become his constant refrain: “I considered myself justified in killing him.”
He also claimed at his trial that he had personally killed over one hundred men in the war, all in self-defense.

It was an event in early October 1864 that would eventually seal Champ's fate.  The main source of salt for the Confederacy, an essential element for its survival, were the saltworks in the aptly named town of Saltville, Virgina near its border with Tennessee.  Finally realizing the importance of the saltworks the Union launched a raid against the town which was defended by regular Confederate troops along with Ferguson's ragtag band.  The Federal force was repulsed and many prisoners and wounded were left in Rebel hands.  Ferguson and his men, possibly with some participation from regular Confederate troops set about murdering the captive Yankees, particularly those from the 5th US Colored Cavalry and their white officers.  According to the Times account:
Following the fighting, the Union lieutenant Elza C. Smith of the 13th Kentucky Cavalry lay wounded in the Emory and Henry College Hospital, along with several of his white and African-American soldiers. Suddenly, Ferguson burst into the ward at the head of his band. He strode across the room, and when he came to Smith’s cot, he raised his rifle and snarled, “Do you see this?” He placed the muzzle a foot from Smith’s forehead as the injured man lay helpless, pleading for his life.
Ferguson drew back the hammer, and … “click!” The weapon misfired. He cocked his rifle and pulled the trigger twice more, with the same result. Finally, mercifully, on the fourth attempt the gun discharged, and Lieutenant Smith lay dead on his cot, a bullet through his head. 

Both before and after the killing of Lieutenant Smith, Ferguson and his men rampaged through the hospital and the grounds, slaying injured black troopers where they found them, as well as the white soldiers and officers with whom they served. Spying one wounded young white trooper crawling along the ground, Ferguson demanded to know why he had “come down there to fight with the damned niggers.” Ferguson drew his pistol and asked the hapless soldier, “Where will you have it, in the back or in the face?” The terrified youth was incoherent with pain and fear, so Ferguson peremptorily chose for him. from

Modern historians have concluded that between 45 and 50 Union soldiers were murdered that day before another Confederate unit, the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders intervened to stop the slaughter.   The Saltville massacre reached the attention of Robert E Lee and other Confederate Army leaders who ordered Ferguson's arrest.  Although he was held for two months he was ultimately released.  For a detailed account of the massacre see this summary at southern

A second raid on Saltville in December 1864 was successful, putting the works out of commission.

With the end of the war, Champ returned home apparently assuming the general pardon would apply to him but the Federal government had other plans and he was arrested, charged with 53 murders and went through a lengthy trial with 43 prosecution witnesses after which he was deservedly convicted and hung.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Isonzo Isonzo from Wikipedia)

With dawn breaking 1,200 artillery pieces opened fire on enemy positions across the river.  It was the morning of October 18, 1915.  The artillery was that of the Italian Army.  The enemy were the forces of Austria-Hungary (AH).  The river was the Isonzo.  The firing marked the opening of the Third Battle of the Isonzo.  The dreary drawn out slaughter of World War One was continuing a mere 80 miles from Venice.

We are much more familiar with the battlefields of the Western Front - Somme, Verdun, Ypres, Marne, the Argonne Forest and even Loos but the lesser known and even more futile Battles of the Isonzo should be marked as examples of how horrible that war was.

Historians disagree on how many battles took place along the Isonzo from June 1915 through the fall of 1917; depending on how you are counting it's ten, eleven or twelve.  With the exception of the final battle, about a million soldiers on both sides were killed, wounded or captured and with the exception of that final battle all were offensives by the Italian Army.  The later battles were the backdrop for Ernest Hemingway's novel, A Farewell To Arms.  Hemingway served as an ambulance driver supporting the Italians.

Italy was not involved in the initial outbreak of the war in August 1914; in fact it had a secret alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary but refused to enter the war on their side.  For the next several months Italy entertained offers from both sides, eventually deciding to join Britain and France based on their assurances of territorial gains in the Tyrol and Istria at the expense of the Austrians after the end of the war.

On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on AH.  Although mobilization of the Italian army had begun earlier in the year, the military was hamstrung by a lack of equipment; of 1.2 million men called to arms there was only equipment for 700,000.  Furthermore, the military leaders were not notified by the government until a few days beforehand of the planned declaration of war.

The Isonzo battles arose from the reality of the military situation and geography.  Militarily, AH would be content to remain on the defensive since its army was already fully occupied coping with a successful Russian offensive and secondarily with Serbia.  And since it was the Italians who had territorial aspirations it was they who would launch the offensives.

Map of the Italian front.  The Isonzo is along the right side bordering the Adriatic.  
Italian Front 1915-1917.jpg
The AH could afford to adopt a defensive posture on the Italian front since most of the 400 mile border between the two countries was dominated by steep mountains.  It was only along the 60 mile stretch of the Isonzo which drained to the Adriatic Sea were there was some relatively open land and it was here that Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna focused his attacks.  But concluding that attacking along the Isonzo was a better option than attacking through the Alps did not make the Isonzo a good option.  Because it drained the Alps the river was frequently flooded and during the war the region was subject to record rainfalls and snowmelts.  Moreover, on the northern end of the Isonzo battlefield along the Austrian side were mountains that provided the AH army great vantage points to observe any Italian buildups on the other side of the river.  In addition, the remainder of the battlefield was also not a particularly favorable for offensive action as described by the British Official History of the Italian Front (from; for reference the area east of the Isonzo was on the AH side:

East of the [Isonzo] the arid limestone uplands sloping gently westwards are deeply cut into a tangle of ridges and valleys. Here the denuded plateaux, known to fame as the Bainsizza and the Carso, the wooded Selva di Ternova lying back between them, form enormous natural fortresses, towering 2,000 ft or more over the surrounding lowlands. The Bainsizza is described as "not flat, but traversed by ridges which rise to a considerable height above the general level" and the Carso is depicted as "a howling wilderness of stones sharp as knives." [Italian troops came to hate the barren Carso, particularly, with its relentless summer sun and crushing winter wind called the "Bora".] 
Isonzo Front Map(from
For these reasons the Third Battle of the Isonzo was as unsuccessful as the prior two for the Italians.  The official end date of the Third Battle was November 3, but the Fourth Battle which was essentially a continuation of the Third began on November 10 and lasted until December 2.  The Italians suffered 115,000 casualties during the two battles, the Austrian-Hungarians about 72,000. army along the Isonzo front)

For over two years the Italians hammered away along the Isonzo line making very little headway.  The futility of these repeated efforts undermined the morale of the army and General Cadorna proved an uninspiring leader.  Finally on October 24, 1917 the AH, reinforced by German divisions (and a young officer named Erwin Rommel) launched a massive counteroffensive which shattered the Italian Army, inflicting 300,000 losses (mostly prisoners), driving it back to the outskirts of Venice where British and French divisions rushed from the Western Front helped to stiffen the defensive line.  This battle is alternatively known as the 12th Battle of the Isonzo or the Caporetto Campaign.

There were two positive aspects of the final battle.  First, it prompted the Italian government to finally remove the inept General Cadorna and secondly, it was also costly for the AH army which was almost as demoralized as the Italians.  They were unable to capitalize on the victory and advanced no further in the war.

Another sad episode in an unnecessary war.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Driving In Domme

Domme is completely surrounded by its medieval walls and cliffs so its footprint has not expanded in seven centuries which presents a challenge for driving.  To enable the town to function most streets are one way.  The four short videos below document the route we had to take from entering the town to getting to our house.  NOTEVideos may not display properly on mobile devices.

#1:  You see the remnants of the town wall and then we drive through the narrow gate.  Our house is on the same street only a block and a half further uphill but it is one way in the wrong direction.  Instead we have to take a right which eventually brings us to one of the two main squares in town.

#2:  We drive through the square and take a right which takes us past the other gate into town.  We then start going uphill towards the upper part of town and the cliffs overlooking the Dordogne River Valley.

#3:  At the upper town we turn left and drive past the hospital.

#4:  We drive through the other main square in town and then turn left and head downhill towards the gate through which we originally entered.  At the end you can see our house directly ahead.  You'll also hear Mrs THC mutter "oh rats" because she's noticed that on the little side street to the right the parking spot we usually tried to get was already taken.

Friday, October 16, 2015


The town in Perigord we stayed in during our recent visit (see Beynac & Castelnaud for a general description of the region).  Built in the late 13th century as a fortified town it was the location of much fighting during the French-English wars of the 13th through 15th centuries and the Religious Wars of the following century.  The small house we rented was originally built in the 14th century.

Panorama view from Domme over the Dordogne River Valley:

Around town:

Our house and street:

Above, from our terrace.

Our favorite restaurant:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bat Flip

Bottom of the 7th in yesterday's Rangers - Blue Jays game.  Joey Bautista has just hit a 452 foot three run tater to break a tie.  Watch the look on his face and then the bat toss.  This has to be the #1 bat flip of all-time.   You can watch it here.

The context made it even bigger.  The whole seventh inning was just crazy.  The Blue Jays, playing at home in the fifth and deciding game of the series, were in the playoffs for the first time since 1993.  They had just tied in the game in the bottom of the 6th with Edwin Encarnacion's monster 457 foot shot off Cole Hamels who had been dominating up till that point.

In the top of the 7th, with a Rangers runner on third, two outs and two strikes on the batter, a freak play occurred when catcher Russell Martin's return throw to the pitcher glanced off batter Sing Soo Choo's hand or bat allowing the runner on third to score and give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.  The fans, upset with the umpire's ruling on the unusual play pelted the field with garbage causing a temporary suspension of play.

And then things got really weird.

In the bottom of the 7th, Rangers infielders botched three routine plays on the first three batters to allow the Jays to load the bases, the first time in post season history there were three errors on three consecutive plays.  The last one occurred when the Jays bunted with men on first and second and Rangers third baseman, Adrian Beltre made a terrific play to field the bunt and fire to third where the runner would have been out except Elvis Andrus dropped the throw.

After a force out at the plate, Josh Donaldson got jammed and hit a weak pop to very short center field which should have been an easy play for the second baseman who instead let it drop for a hit, allowing the runner on third to score and tie the game.

That brought Bautista to the plate who hit the homer to make it 6-3 an incredible dramatic high point in an emotionally intense game.  And that didn't end the craziness.  Once again, Jays fans pelted the field with debris causing a game delay and when Encarnacion implored them to stop, the Rangers pitcher, Dyson, mistakenly thought he was inciting the crowd and confronted him causing the benches to clear as players from both teams came out onto to the field, as did the police.  And there was another bench clearing incident at the end of the inning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Like Father, Like Son

Watch Ross McManus performing If I Had a Hammer from 1965.  Ross is the father of Declan McManus, better known as Elvis Costello.  You can compare their styles by also watching this Elvis video.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Musee de l'automate

It's like being inside the set of a particularly creepy version of The Twilight Zone or perhaps like wandering in the late evening hours at Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show looking at the freaks and wondering if you can find a way out of the confusing Hall of Mirrors (all courtesy of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes).

During our visit to Perigord we went to the Musee de l'automate in Souillac which is devoted to automata built during the years from 1850 to 1930.  The setting is dark and eerie and odd carnival like music playing softly in the background as you walk through the almost empty museum.  There were only two other people present while we were there.  Here's a small sampling of what we saw:

Sunday, October 11, 2015


A small village at the confluence of the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers.  Typical of these towns there are small houses and a cafe along the riverside and then you walk up a narrow street to the ruins of the chateau on the rocky outcrop above - which is now home to a lovely garden.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Beynac & Castelnaud

THC and the Mrs recently returned from a trip to France, having spent a week in Paris and another week in Perigord.  Since THC's anthropological study from his last research trip to France still awaits publication in the prestigious Journale du Voyages a la Recherche D'oeuvres L'Objects Extraordinaire (see Paris Anthropologie for more details) he will cover his latest adventure in a series of travelogue posts.

Perigord is an ancient county in France that aligns itself neatly with the current day Department of Dordogne in the southwest, about 100 miles inland from Bordeaux. (from

The area we visited is referred to as Perigord Noir, because of the many black chesnut trees, and is in the southeast corner of the Department.  It is very hilly, with cliffs along the two major river valleys (the Dordogne and the Vezere) dotted with small villages, towns and castles along narrow windy roads.  We stayed in the small bastide town of Domme, situated on a cliff about 400 feet above the Dordogne.  The bastides were built by French and English kings between the 13th and 14th centuries and designed as defensive bastions to provide security for local farmers.

The need for the bastides goes to the history of Perigord.  Today the area is picturesque and prosperous as a vacation area but most of its history is pretty dismal.  After the collapse of Roman rule in the area during the 5th century, the region descended into darkness for several centuries.  When it comes back to light it is in the midst of several centuries of conflict between the English and French crowns culminating in the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).  During much of the period between the 12th and 15th centuries, the Dordogne River was the dividing line between the two kingdoms, with the French on the north side and English on the south.  During this period the peasants were subject to pillaging, looting and worse from both sides.  In the midst of this also occurred the bloody suppression of the heretic Cathars who had many strongholds in the region.

A few decades after the end of the Hundred Years War, the religious wars began between Catholics and Protestants and again this region saw a great deal of violence between adherents of both sects.  Once that was finished in the early 17th century, the region reverted to its normal state of poverty, albeit more peaceful.  While the 19th century saw some prosperity the slow economic decline soon began again and in the decade after the Second War War, there was large scale migration from the region by younger folks to new jobs in the growing industrial regions of France.

It was only with the decision of the French Government in the 1960s to encourage the growth in the region as a tourist center via the use of subsidies and tax incentives for second homeowners, as well as the reconstruction of the medieval center of the town of Sarlat near the Dordogne that the fortunes of the region revived.  Today it is a popular destination for tourists across Western Europe, and particularly Britain.
For orientation, Domme is in the lower center of the map,  Sarlat is in the upper center.  The Dordogne River flows from right to left through the center.   On bends in the river about five miles downstream are the castles of Castlenaud and then Beynac.  Castelnaud was occupied by the English during most of the Hundred Years War while Beynac was ruled by the French.

Beynac from the south side of the Dordogne.  The village of Beynac is at the foot of the cliff upon which the castle sits.

The castle as you approach from the north side.

Now it's looking more formidable!
From the castle overlooking the river.

Looking down on the village.

View from an arrow-slit.

Meeting hall in the castle.

15th century frescoes.

And now on to Castlenaud:
From the river.

Looking around from the castle:

 Beynac from Castlenaud.

My little Trebuchet.

Let's stop for lunch!