Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The View From Boston

Having lived there for twenty years, THC thinks this sums it up well (via Never Yet Melted):


Monday, May 30, 2016


For Memorial Day, a reposting of Tarawa, in honor of the 1,000 servicemen (mostly Marines) who died there and the story of Sandy Bonnyman, who remains to this day the only Medal of Honor recipient to be photographed during the action for which he was honored.  He received the medal posthumously.

Originally posted on November 20, 2013:

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's speech honoring the dead who gave "the last full measure of devotion" fighting to preserve the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of a 76-hour battle in which 1,000 Americans gave their last full measure of devotion; a battle on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean which, while ultimately achieving its goal, did so at a price that shocked the US Navy, the Marine Corps and the American public.

Last week some 2,000 or 3,000 United States Marines, most of them now dead or wounded, gave the nation a name to stand beside those of Concord Bridge, the Bon Homme Richard, the Alamo, Little Big Horn and Belleau Wood. The name was "Tarawa." (Time Magazine, December 6, 1943)

In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Army and Navy seized islands across the central Pacific to create a fortified barrier against any counterattack by the United States.  Since the end of World War One, Japan had already controlled the Marianas Islands under a League of Nation Mandates.  They quickly moved to capture the Philippines to the west, the Solomons and New Guinea to the south and the Marshall and Gilbert Islands to the east.

The Japanese offensive ground to a halt in the summer and fall of 1942 with the defeat of its carrier fleet at the Battle of Midway in June (and despite its capture of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska), the failure of its plan to capture Port Moresby on the south coast of New Guinea when the US Navy suffered a tactical loss but strategic victory at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May and then with the Marine landings on Guadalcanal in August, initiating a land/sea campaign that lasted until February 1943 when the Japanese withdrew the survivors of its garrison.

U.S. war planning had always focused on a central Pacific offensive designed to defeat the Japanese navy and seize its strongholds in the Marianas as the key to achieving a decisive victory in the war.  Military doctrine required both sea and land-based aviation in order to support this offensive.  With the Gilbert Islands serving as both a shield to the Marianas and with aviation fields within flying range of those islands, the U.S. Navy determined it was necessary to first capture the Gilberts and, in particular, Tarawa Atoll, which included the island of Betio with its landing strip.

Betio, the largest island of Tarawa Atoll, is about two miles long, 800 yards wide at its broadest with a highest elevation of only 10 feet above sea level, located on the equator about 2,400 miles southwest of Honolulu.

The Japanese knew the Americans were coming and spent 15 months fortifying Betio and placing a 4,800 man garrison (about 2,600 soldiers, a 1,000 strong Japanese construction battalion and 1,200 Korean slave laborers).  As described in an article in the Marine Corps Gazette:

Concrete and steel tetrahedrons, minefields, and long strings of double-apron barbed wire protected beach approaches. The Japanese also built a barrier wall of logs and coral around much of the island. Tank traps protected heavily fortified command bunkers and firing positions inland from the beach. And everywhere there were pillboxes, nearly 500 of them, most fully covered by logs, steel plates and sand. 

The island's geography and hydrography favored the defense. Betio was flat-machinegunners could cover the perimeter with simple traverse-and a barrier reef blocked boat intrusions at low tides. The Japanese placed mines, concrete tetrahedrons, and double-apron barbed wire offshore; surrounded most of the island itself with a log and coral seawall then built integrated systems of mutually supporting gun positions just beyond (and often within) the seawall (see p.64). In the end, there were 500 pill-boxes and bunkers on the island, most protected by layers of coconut logs, steel plates, and sand. - See more at: http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/tarawa-ultimate-opposed-landing#sthash.LHs3P4gs.dpuf
The flat terrain meant that the entire island could be covered by interlocking fields of fire from the Japanese machine guns.  And all of this in an area smaller than New York's Central Park.
Battle of Tarawa: The Marines Assault Betio, 20th November 1943 . (From History Of War.Org)
This was to be the first amphibious landing against opposition in the Pacific campaign (at places like Guadalcanal, the Japanese had faded away into the jungle upon the American landings and from there launched counterattacks).  The landing force was to be the 2nd Marine Division which had fought at Guadalcanal.  Because of the battle casualties plus the large number of marines who caught malaria during that campaign only about half of Marines in the division that would land on Tarawa had been at Guadalcanal.

Two issues dominated the planning.  One was the length of the naval bombardment before the landing.  Because the Navy feared a sortie by the Japanese fleet the plan was to spend the minimum amount of time for the bombardment which was limited to three hours, a decision that upset the Marines.    

The second was how to get the Marines from the ships to the beach.  Tarawa, including Betio, is an atoll surrounded by a coral reef several hundred yards from the island.  Any attacker needed to be able to get over the reef and into the shallow lagoon in order to land.  This required landing on a high tide, which was normally five feet above the reef, because most of the American landing craft had a draft of four feet.  

The Navy bombardment by sea and air began on the morning of November 20, 1943.   Despite its abbreviated nature many of Naval planners expected it to be decisive.  According to one account, an admiral boasted:

We do not intend to neutralize [the island], we do not intend to destroy it, Gentlemen, we will obliterate it.
 For the watching Marines it was an awesome sight and many expected resistance to be minimal.  According to the same account:

Staff Sergeant Norman Hatch, a combat photographer, thought to himself, "we just really didn't see how we could do [anything] but go in there and bury the people . . . this wasn't going to be a fight." Time correspondent Robert Sherrod thought, "surely, no mortal men could live through such destroying power . . . any Japs on the island would all be dead by now."
But the bombardment was ineffective against the well-entrenched and protected Japanese defenses. 

Then came the problem with the tides.  What the planners were unaware of was that twice a month there were unusual high tide conditions at Betio that left only three feet of water over the reef and it turned out that the invasion had been scheduled during one of these periods.  With many of the landing craft left stranded on the wrong side of the reef, Marines had to disembark and struggle on foot across the shallow lagoon under heavy rifle, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire with many being killed or wounded.  Those who made it to the beach were pinned down against the log seawall. It took six hours before the Marines were able to advance off the beach. The Americans had a bit of luck during that first afternoon when the Japanese commander and his entire staff were killed by a naval artillery shell while moving in the open between command posts.  While we were unaware of this event, it disrupted the Japanese chain of command and left each unit on its own for the rest of the battle.

The next two days were a gruesome and slow process of eliminating the enemy strongpoints.  The Japanese refused to surrender requiring each pillbox to be reduced at a heavy cost requiring the first large scale deployment of flame-throwers by American forces. The severity of the fighting led to four Marines receiving the Medal of Honor, three of them posthumously.  One of these was 1st Lt. Sandy Bonnyman.  His relentless determination and that of those who fought with him was replicated across Betio on those three days.

Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman was born in 1910.  His father owned a coal company and Sandy graduated from Princeton in 1932.  When the war started he was 31 and exempt from the draft with a wife and three young daughters but in July 1942 enlisted as a private in the Marines.  Joining the 2nd Marine Division he served on Guadalcanal, seeing combat and becoming a corporal and then receiving a field promotion to 2nd Lieutenant.  In September 1943, Bonnyman became a 1st Lieutenant and was appointed Executive Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines' Shore Party for the Tarawa attack.

Sandy Bonnyman's Medal of Honor Citation tells of his actions during the battle when he led the attack on the largest fortified strongpoint on the island:

Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long, open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flame throwers and demolitions, organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several hostile installations before the close of D-day. 

Determined to effect an opening in the enemy's strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily garrisoned, bombproof installation which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance.

Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion, directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances and seized the top of the bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down, and effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the desperate charge and killing 3 of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded.

By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. 

He gallantly gave his life for his country.
AlexanderBonnymanBW (Sandy Bonnyman)
Sandy Bonnyman was also the first and, to this day, the only Medal of Honor recipient to be photographed during the action for which he received the medal.  The photo below shows the emplacement being stormed by the Marines led by Bonnyman who is standing at the center right, silhouetted by the smoke, on top of the bunker; he is the Marine furthest advanced in the picture.

Marines storm Tarawa. Gilbert Islands." WO Obie Newcomb, Jr., November 1943.
The photo was taken by Corporal Obie Newcomb, a Marine Corps photographer who, according to an article by Joseph M Horodyski in WWII History Magazine, "quickly realized he was in the presence of someone unusual and decided to follow the lieutenant's assault with his camera".

Bonnyman led an improvised team of 21 Marines in the assault, eight of whom died along with Bonnyman.  One member of that team was Corporal Harry Niehoff, who is quoted by Horodyski in his account.  Niehoff said of Bonnyman, whom he did not know prior to November 21, "He just showed up.  Until that time we were being held up with no gain to show for it".   Late that afternoon, Bonnyman led an unsuccessful assault on the Japanese bunker and then spent the evening planning how to renew the attack the following morning.  Niehoff was next to Bonnyman when he died.

Obie Newcomb, in a letter to Bonnyman's family, wrote:

He didn't have to go up to take that blockhouse but there was no stopping him.  It was a perfect hell hole and the boys needed a little urging when things started to break.  I can still see him waving the boys up over that blockhouse and hear his southern voice urging them on.
Bonnyman was buried on Betio and the exact location of his body remains unknown (you can see a 2009 CNN story about the search of his grandson for his remains).

Tarawa was declared secure at 1330 on November 23.  One thousand Marines were dead and another 2,100 wounded (about 25% of those who landed on Betio).  Of the 3,600 Japanese only 17 wounded survivors were captured; all the rest were killed.  129 of the 1,200 Korean laborers survived.

Although some other earlier American campaigns in the war had higher casualties they had been incurred over much longer time periods; 3,000 dead and wounded in just three days was a shock to the public and caused an uproar at home.  In fact, Time's edition of January 17, 1944 mentions that "Navy spokesmen last week tried to correct the impression at home that Tarawa's cost had been too high".  To give some perspective on why this reaction occurred in late 1943 when we had been at war for almost two years remember that America was in WWII for 44 months but more than 70% of U.S. combat casualties occurred in the 13 months from May 1944 through May 1945.  The worst was yet to come.

The subject of American casualties remained sensitive enough that it required President Roosevelt's personal approval to show dead American soldiers in a documentary released in March 1944, With the Marines at Tarawa, which won an Academy Award in 1945.   The documentary, which you can watch below, shows the dead Marines at about 15 minutes into its 20 minute running length.  Also, at about 9:25 I believe it shows the bunker attacked by Sandy Bonnyman and at 8:40 you can see the first footage of the war showing both American and Japanese soldiers in combat in the same frame. Much of the footage was taken by Norman Hatch, a Marine Corps camerman.  You can see Hatch interviewed on his experience at Tarawa here.

Ten weeks after the fall of Tarawa and the Gilbert Islands, American forces seized the Marshall Islands and then, in July 1944, the Marianas.  While many lessons were learned and improved techniques employed in future landings, Tarawa was also an accurate predictor of the terrible toll that would be taken on American forces at Kwajalein, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other islands as the advance continued across the Central Pacific.

Americans In Europe

For Memorial Day

Last year, Civil War historian Brooks Simpson was in Europe visiting battle sites and American cemeteries containing WWI and WWII dead.  Take a look at his photos and commentary.  A couple of examples:

The Meuse-Argonne Cemetery; 14,246 Americans are buried here.
DSC00785  Grave marker of Joyce Kilmer, author of the poem "Trees", killed in action, July 30, 1918.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Big Papi Countdown

At the end of April, THC wrote of David Ortiz's projected stats for his final season.  It was fairly ridiculous - a record setting 74 doubles along with 34 HR, 121 RBI, a batting average of .321 and an OPS of 1.071 which would make it the best offensive final season in baseball history.  No way he could keep it up.
(David Ortiz hits 9th inning homer to tie game against Toronto Blue Jays, May 28, 2016)

Well, here we are near the end of May and the projected numbers look even more unbelieveable.  A record 76 doubles, 43 HR, 152 RBI, a batting average of .339 and an OPS of 1.140 along with being on pace for a record setting 122 extra base hits.

Big Papi leads the American League in doubles, RBI, On Base Percentage, Slugging, Total Bases, Extra Base Hits, OPS and OPS+ (the latter adjusted for park effects).

Going back to August 6 of last year, Ortiz has played in 90 games, hit 41 doubles, 29 HR, driven in 94 runs, and batted .341 with OBP of .428 and is Slugging .733.

He can't keep this up.  One of these months this prediction will be correct.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Wish I'd Said That

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

– P. J. O’Rourke

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Casablanca Begins Production

(AP Images)

One of Hollywood's most beloved movies, watched by THC countless times, and the source of countless quotable lines like, for instance, this one:

 began principal photography on this date in 1942.  Casablanca starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.  Watching it today with the knowledge of how World War II turned out is a different experience from what it must have felt like during the shooting, which wrapped on August 3.  We'll take a little time today to set the scene in the late spring and early summer of 1942, when the outcome of the war was very uncertain and then tell the story of the large group of emigres who had fled the Nazis and had roles in the the film.

By May 1942, the United States had been at war for five months.  It had been a bleak start to the war.  In the Pacific, Japan destroyed the American battleship fleet with its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and was continuing its rampage on land and sea.  In Southeast Asia, Japanese forces had overrun Malaya, Burma, the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and forced the humiliating surrender of 75,000 British Commonwealth troops at Singapore.  Allied naval forces in that region had been destroyed at the Battle of the Java Sea, and Japanese carriers had raided as far afield as Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and bombed the town of Darwin on Australia's northern coast.
http://d3lp4xedbqa8a5.cloudfront.net/s3/digital-cougar-assets/AusGeo/2013/11/08/12138/melbourne_argus_darwin_bombing_620.jpgIn China, the British colony of Hong Kong had been overrun and Japanese forces continued their advance into the interior of the country.  On December 22, 1941, Japan had invaded the Philippines and by the date filming began the entire island chain had been conquered except for the small island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Harbor, which was to surrender on May 8.  The prior month saw the Bataan Death March in which up to 10,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war died due to brutal treatment by their Japanese captors.

The island chains of the central Pacific had also been occupied and Japanese forces were advancing on Port Moresby in New Guinea and southward down the Solomons Island chain with an eye to severing communication links between Australia and the United States.  Earlier that month came the first glimmer of good news when, at the Battle of the Coral Sea, American naval forces fought the Japanese to a draw, causing them to temporarily put their plans for capturing Port Moresby on hold.

Nor was there much good news in the European theater.  Much of Europe lay under Nazi occupation or controlled by their allies.  Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and France were under direct Nazi control, though part of France was governed by the collaborationist Vichy regime.  Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland were Nazi allies.  Franco's Spain was nominally neutral, though leaning towards the Axis.  Only Britain still stood defiant in western Europe.

In the East, the Soviets had managed to stop the surprise Nazi attack of June 22, 1941 before the gates of Moscow during the winter of 1941-2.  By spring the front had stabilized, deep within the former Soviet borders and million of soldiers and civilians lay dead.  During May, Soviet offensives around Kharkov and on the Crimean peninsula misfiring leaving 470,000 of its soldiers dead, wounded or captured at a cost to the Germans of only 29,000 casualties.
Mass shooting of Soviet Jews had begun with the invasion of June 1941, but it was only with a 90 minute conference at a home in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942 that final agreement was reached on the logistical details for the killing all 11 million European Jews, and by May 25, 1942 the Nazi extermination camps in Poland were either under construction or already operating (for a chilling theatrical account of the Wannsee meeting watch Conspiracy, a 2001 film starring Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich, the SS officer who chaired the conference).

In North Africa, the Vichy collaborationist regime controlled Morocco (including Casablanca). Algeria and Tunisia and the German army under the command of General Erwin Rommel was advancing in Libya against British, Australian and New Zealand forces.

And closer to the United States, the Battle of the Atlantic was not going well.  German U-boats were roaming the ocean, taking a huge toll on allied shipping, particularly that of the U.S. which was ill-prepared to protect its merchant ships.  From January to August of 1942, 609 Allied ships were sunk in the Atlantic, including a number right off the east coast of U.S.

By the time filming wrapped on August 3, 1942 there had been some good news from the Pacific, where the outnumbered American fleet sank four Japanese carriers at the Battle of Midway, thwarting Japanese plans to lure the remnants of the American navy to its destruction.  Though not immediately apparent, the battle spelled the end for Japan's Pacific onslaught.

The news from Europe though was almost uniformly bad.  In the East, the German army launched a huge offensive on June 28, designed to bring all of southern Russia and the oil fields of the Caucausus under its control.  By early August, German panzers were advancing quickly, headed for a large, and symbolic, city on the Volga River - Stalingrad.

In Libya, the Battle of Gazala began the day after filming started and raged until June 21.  At one point, it looked as though the Allies would defeat Rommel but the tide turned and led to a catastrophe, the fall of Tobruk and the surrender of 25,000 Commonwealth soldiers.  Churchill later called it the most shocking moment of the war and it triggered a Parliamentary no-confidence vote regarding the Prime Minister (which he survived).  Rommel pursued the shattered Allied forces and by early August was in Egypt, only sixty miles from Alexandria.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-784-0246-22A,_Nordafrika,_Rommel_im_Befehlsfahrzeug_%22Greif%22.jpg
 (German armored vehicles, including Rommel's command vehicle on right, Battle of Gazala, from wikipedia)

By the time Casablanca had its premiere in New York City on November 26 and was released nationally on January 23, 1943 the global situation had brightened some.   The premiere was accelerated because of major news - on November 8, American and British troops landed in North Africa, and one of the three landing places was Casablanca!  And the national release took place while President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill were in Morocco meeting at the Casablanca Conference (January 14-24).  By that time Axis forces had been thrown out of Morocco and Algeria and Rommel had defeated in Egypt and began his long retreat across Libya to Tunisia.

In the Soviet Union, a massive surprise attack on November 19 by the Soviets had succeeded in surrounding the German 6th Army at Stalingrad (where it would surrender at the beginning of February) while in the Pacific, the Marines had landed on Guadalcanal and survived ferocious Japanese land, air and naval assaults.  The future was beginning to look better.

The cast of Casablanca reflected the world's turmoil.  Many had fled Europe.

The last surviving cast member, Madeleine Lebeau died earlier this month at the age of 92.  Born in France, she fled Paris with her Jewish husband just before the Nazi occupation began in 1940.  They made it to Lisbon and from there to Mexico, where they were detained when it was discovered that their Chilean visa was forged, finally making it to America on a temporary Canadian passport.  In this, her third Hollywood film, she played Yvonne, who can be seen singing during the Marseillaise scene. Madeleine Lebeau(From Deadline Hollywood)

Madeleine's husband was a Romanian Jew, Marcel Dalio, who plays Emil the croupier at Rick's Cafe.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/60/Dalio5.jpg(Dalio from Wikimedia)

Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo) emigrated from Austria in 1935, after a fascist government came to power.https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/a3/d0/f0/a3d0f0103a54e652a1dbe895243d624c.jpg(Henreid from Pininterest)

The villainous Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser was played by Conrad Veidt who had been a major film star in Germany, achieving fame as the murderous Cesare in 1920's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.  He fled Germany with his Jewish wife in 1933 when Hitler came to power.  Strasser's adjutant, Colonel Heinze was Richard Ryen, a Hungarian actor expelled from Germany by the Nazis.
http://thefilmspectrum.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Picture-20-300x225.png(Veidt from filmspectrum)https://cdn1.lockerdome.com/uploads/0a961a7ac0d2feeec61c0f3afd5592a5ccdbf754cd9742f9fcb719569cdfa02a_large(Ryen from lockerdome)

Another former German film star was Peter Lorre (Signor Ugarte), who became famous for the title role in M (1931).  He also left Germany in 1933. http://thefilmspectrum.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Picture-28-300x224.png

The actor playing Carl, a waiter at Rick's, was SK Sakall, a Hungarian Jew, who had been a popular actor in Germany and Austria.  Forced to return to Hungary in 1933, he emigrated after Hungary became a German ally in 1940.  Three of his sisters and many other family members were killed in the camps.  The bartender at Rick's, Sascha, was Leonid Kinsky, who'd fled Russia in the midst of its revolution in 1917.  That's Kinsky in the photo above with Ms Lebeau.
(Sakall from natedsanders)

The pickpocket you see in one of the early scenes of the film was played by Curt Bois, a German Jew who fled the country in 1934.
 http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsB/1733-3021.jpg(from weary sloth)

Helmut Dantine - Jan, the Bulgarian boy, whose wife comes to Rick for advice, grew up in Vienna, where he was an active anti-Nazi.  After the German takeover of Austria in 1938 he was briefly detained in a concentration camp before his parents were able to obtain his release and send him to America.  http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsD/4175.gif(from weary sloth)

In the first scene of the movie an actor can be seen muttering "waiting, waiting, waiting....I'll never get out of here....I'll die in Casablanca."  That's Louis V Arco (real name - Lutz Atschul),  who left Germany in 1933 and then his native Austria in 1938. 

The actress who asks Carl the waiter  "Will you ask Rick if he will have a drink with us?", to which Carl responds, "Madame, he never drinks with customers. Never. I have never seen it.", setting up that wonderful moment when Rick sits down to drink with Victor Laszlo and Ilsa, is Trude Berliner.  Berliner was a famous cabaret performer in Berlin and appeared in four German movies with SK Sakall, who plays Carl.  Berliner left Germany in 1933.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CPhaquQVAAAp_N0.png(Berliner, asking for Rick)

A well known German Jewish actress, Ilka Grunig also left Germany after 1933.  She plays part of a husband/wife combo who have one amusing scene in which they are practicing their English.  Ludwig Stossel, who plays her husband, fled Germany in 1933 to return to his native Austria, where, as a Jew, he was imprisoned several times after the Nazi takeover before escaping Vienna.  Here they are as Herr & Frau Leuchtag.

The man with expired papers shot by Vichy police at the beginning of the film is Wolfgang Zilzer, another Jewish actor who fled Germany.  http://movie-dude.co.uk/Wolfgang%20Zilzer%20%20Casablanca%20(1942).jpg(from movie dude)

Given the times and the people involved it is not surprising that the "battle of the anthems" scene was an emotional highpoint for many in the cast.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Colfax County War

http://sangres.com/cimages/newmexico/angelfire/wheelerandtrees01.jpg(Colfax County, sangres.com)

Methodist Reverend Parson Franklin J Tolby was well-liked in the Cimarron area of northeast New Mexico so a lot of folks were shocked when his body was found in Cimarron Canyon on September 14, 1875.  He'd been shot in the back.  Suspicion fell on Cimarron's new Constable, Cruz Vega.  On the evening of October 30, a masked mob led by Clay Allison (today remembered as one of the most deadly gunfighters of the 19th century West), seized Vega and lynched him.  Two days later, Allison gunned down Vega's friend, Francisco "Pancho" Griego, during a confrontation in a local saloon.  More violence was to follow.  A lot more.

On our road trips, THC and Mrs THC enjoy learning about the history of the areas we drive through.  Often, as we pass a town or site of interest, whomever isn't driving will look it up on Wikipedia.  While traveling I-25 in New Mexico and Colorado (and, by the way, the stretch of Interstate from Santa Fe to Denver with the Rockies on your left and the Great Plains on the right is gloriously scenic) a small reference in the Wikipedia entry on the town of Cimarron, New Mexico (present day population, 1021)  led us to discover the tale of the Colfax County War, a violent, 15-year confrontation between landowners and squatters that took up to 200 lives and culminated in a decision by the United States Supreme Court.
Map of New Mexico highlighting Colfax County
Map of Colfax County, NM
http://www.margolisandmoss.com/margolis/images/items/300x1000/2194b.jpg(from margolisandmoss)

The origins of the war go back to the days when Mexico governed the province of Nuevo Mexico.  It starts with Charles H Beaubien, born in Quebec in 1800, who emigrated first to the United States and then to New Mexico, arriving there in the early 1820s, shortly after Mexico gained its independence from Spain.  Settling in Taos, he applied to become a Mexican citizen and in the process his first name was recorded as Carlos, a name retained in all of his future records.  Beaubien married Maria Paula Lobato .  Scrambling to make a leaving during the governorship of Manuel Armijo, who placed discriminatory taxes on non-native Mexicans, Beaubien was able to enlist the governor's secretary, Guadalupe Miranda, in a scheme to obtain a land grant in northeast Nuevo Mexico.  In 1841 the partners were successful in obtaining a grant of 1.7 million acres on the Great Plains, east of the Sangre de Christo Mountains (various sources claim that grants of more than 90,000 acres were not permitted under Mexican law).

Settlement of the grant was delayed by several years.  First, by invasions from the new Republic of Texas, which claimed that its western border extended to the Rio Grande.  The largest of these, while "unofficial", resulted in a Texian force being captured by Mexican troops.  Second, by the American-Mexican War of 1846-8, in which Nuevo Mexico was conquered by the American army.

Beaubien weathered the transition, being appointed to the new American territory's Supreme Court and having his grant confirmed by the peace treaty.  As for Miranda, after the war he left the territory and became mayor of Juarez in Mexico.

Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois in 1814.   At a young age, he went west and became a fur trapper and trader.  He also served as chief hunter for John C Fremont's 1841 expedition of exploration through the Rockies, a journey on which he met and became fast friends with Kit Carson. Kit and Lucien settled in Taos and in a dual ceremony in 1844, Maxwell married the daughter of Carlos Beaubien and Carson the daughter of another prominent local family.

In the 1850s, Lucien Maxwell took on the active management of the land grant (now referred to as the Maxwell Land Grant) and, when Beaubien died in 1864, he inherited his share of the grant (in 1858, Miranda had sold his share of the grant to Maxwell for $2,745).  According to most sources the Maxwell Land Grant was one of the three largest contiguous property holdings in American history.

In 1870, Maxwell sold the grant to financiers from Chicago representing British investors  for the sum of $1,375,000 and retired  to Fort Sumner, New Mexico where he died in 1875 (six years later, Sheriff Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid at Maxwell's Fort Sumner home, then owned by his son).
http://www.legendsofamerica.com/photos-NM-Misc/Lucien_B.MaxwellPhotoPhilmontMuseum.jpg(Lucien Maxwell from legends of america)

What did the new investors find when they took possession?  Lucien Maxwell, moved to the settlement of Cimarron sometime in the 1850s (the town was formally chartered in 1859).  While he sold some parcels, there were an increasing number of squatters; miners and farmers of Anglo, Spanish and Indian origin and given the size of the grant, Maxwell was pretty casual about enforcing his property rights.  The number of squatters accelerated with the 1866 discovery of gold on Baldy Peak which quickly led to the founding of the boom town of Elizabethtown which had a population of 7,000 within a year.  Both the town and the gold fields were within the land grant.  In 1869, Colfax County was created by carving off an portion formerly belonging to Taos County and Elizabethtown became the county seat.
http://www.usgwarchives.net/maps/newmexico/taos1895.jpg(from usgwa archives)

Unlike Maxwell, the new owners wanted to establish their property rights.  The initial attempts by the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company to assert its rights were a failure.  With the assistance of the Territorial Attorney General, eviction notices were served but mostly ignored.

Before going further, let's take a moment to sort out the players on the ownership side.  While the original investors were British, the company was eventually taken over by Dutch investors.  At some point, Stephen Benton Elkins was installed as president of the company.  Elkins was a big figure in New Mexico history.  From 1867 to 1877 he served as Territorial Attorney General, US District Attorney, Territorial Delegate to Congress, as well as maintaining a law practice and becoming president of the Santa Fe National Bank.  Along with a couple of associates he formed what became known as the Santa Fe Ring, which, through its manipulation of the territorial judicial process was able to control some of the old Spanish and Mexican land grants and play a major role in triggering both the Colfax Country and Lincoln County Wars (it was the latter, taking place from 1878-81 in which Billy the Kid attained national fame).  In later life, Elkins moved to West Virginia, became Secretary of War in President Benjamin Harrison's administration and served as Senator from the state from 1895 until his death in 1911.  [Note:  The ownership trail and the role of Elkins and the Santa Fe Ring remain disputed; if you read ten accounts they will give you ten different versions of the story - THC has chosen to simplify it as best he can].
Stephen Benton Elkins Restore.jpg(Elkins, wikipedia)

The Territorial Attorney General to whom the land company turned for assistance was a friend and business associate of Elkins.  The attempts to serve eviction notices in the squatter stronghold of Elizabethtown backfired, provoking a riot and leading the Territorial Governor to call for federal troops to restore order, a request that was ignored.
https://41.media.tumblr.com/b9c4e6e62111f317af59380f20bef535/tumblr_nq7mkbN54w1rnh4hbo1_500.jpg(Harvesting grain on the Maxwell Land Grant, from tumblr)

However, other means were available.  The first was in 1872 to transfer the county seat to Cimarron where the land company was headquartered.  A further round of eviction notices followed and, like the first, were mostly ignored, along with more complicated maneuvering, summarized by one source as follows:
At this point the land grant company elected as vice president and COO the chief construction engineer of the Santa Fe Railroad, one William Raymond Morley. Morley was aware that the grant company controlled the key right-of-way over Raton Pass and he took a leave of absence from the railroad to try to strengthen the relationship between the land grant and the railroad. Aware of the impasse between the land grant company and the squatters, Morley requested his friend, Frank Springer, of his native Iowa, to come and help sort out the problem. Springer was a brilliant, analytical and honest attorney. He became one of the most respected of the territorial pioneers. He and his brother Charles founded the CS Ranch, which is still owned and operated by their descendants.

In 1874, ignoring the 1860 Act of Congress, the Federal Department of the Interior declared the land grant to be public domain. At about the same time, the Maxwell Land Grant Company defaulted on their property tax obligations. A public auction was held and Melvin Mills, an associate of Thomas Catron, bought the property for $16,479 in back taxes, intending to sell it to Catron for $20,000. When this plan was exposed, the Dutch owners raised enough money to redeem the property. And exposure of this plan shed light on the “Santa Fe Ring,” a secret Republican coalition designed to control public offices in New Mexico, especially the judiciary.

Widely suspected as members of the Ring were Stephen Elkins, Dr. Robert Longwill, Melvin Mills and Thomas Catron (who, by then, was no longer the Territorial Attorney General). When they became aware of possible hidden motives, Morley and Springer founded The Cimarron News and Press, a newspaper which regularly criticized the Santa Fe Ring. This got both men marked for assassination.
Scattered violence was already taking place, but it was the events of 1875 that ignited the War.
Rev. Tolby had arrived in Colfax County and ministered to its population, becoming an advocate for many against the land company and the Santa Fe Ring.   In July 1875, letters were published in the New York Sun, denouncing the Ring and naming Elkins, Catron and local judge Joseph Palen as key members.  Tolby was suspected to be one of the authors.  In early September, Rev Tolby publicly criticized Judge Palen and a local grand jury for failing to indict Pancho Griego for the killing of two soldiers. Later that month, while riding from Cimarron to Elizabethtown, Tolby was shot twice in the back in an ambush.

As related above, Cruz Vega was suspected of the murder, seized and hanged, but before that he was tortured and implicated Manuel Cardenas as an accomplice (Cardenas was killed on November 10) followed by the shoot out in which Clay Allison killed Griego.
Clay Allison, 1875(Clay Allison from legends of america)
Clay Allison already had a reputation as a dangerous man.  In 1870 he led an Elizabethtown mob in attacking a jail and seizing and lynching a prisoner and in 1874 had killed another well known gunfighter, Chunk Colbert.  The year after shooting Griego, Allison shot and killed Constable Charles Faber of Bent County, Colorado.  Eventually relocating to Dodge City he is also alleged to have had a confrontation with Wyatt Earp, though that may just be a piece of Western myth (for more on that legendary cowboy town read The Dodge City Peace Commission).

The violence and legal maneuvering continued over the next decade.  At one point, the land company recruited Bat Masterson's brother, James along with 35 enforcers to handle evictions and even got the governor to briefly give them militia status!  In the meantime, the county seat was transferred yet again in 1881 to the new town of Springer..  In 1885, the lawn of the new country courthouse in Springer was the site of yet shootout that left two men dead.

The legal aspect of the dispute reached the Supreme Court in 1887 with the court hearing four days of oral argument.  The case centered on whether the land grant was valid since there was evidence that the size of the grant far exceeded that allowed under Mexican law at the time.  At the same time the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago, ending the Mexican-American War, as well as the 1860 Act of Congress declared the grant valid.  The Court, Justice Miller writing on its behalf (United States v Maxwell Land Grant Co., 122 U.S. 365), found that the grant was indeed valid and noting in conclusion :
The case itself has been pending in the courts of the United States since August, 1882, and, on account of its importance, was advanced out of its order for hearing in this court. The arguments on both sides of the case were unrestricted in point of time, and were wanting in no element of ability, industrious research, or clear apprehension of the principles involved in it. The court was thoroughly impressed with the importance of the case, not only as regarded the extent of the grant and its value, but also on account of its involving principles which will become precedents in cases of a similar nature, now rapidly increasing in number. It was therefore given a most careful examination, and this petition for a rehearing has had a similar attentive consideration. The result is that we are entirely satisfied that the grant, as confirmed by the action of congress, is a valid grant; that the survey, and the patent issued upon it, as well as the original grant by Armijo, are entirely free from any fraud on the part of the grantees, or those claiming under them; and that the decision could be no other than that which the learned judge of the circuit court below made, and which this court affirmed.
With the Court's decision most of the remaining squatters settled with the company or left.  The last casualty was rancher Richard Russell, killed by company enforcers in 1888.

The gold was running out in Elizabethtown by the 1890s.  Today it's a ghost town.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Glory Of Love

From Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958).  Composed by Billy Hill and first recorded by the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1936, the Broonzy version was done sometime in the 1940s or 50s.

Broonzy was a blues and folk singer, born in Arkansas or Mississippi.  Moving to Chicago in 1920 he took up the guitar and soon gained a following though his career was limited by the racial barriers of the time.  The folk music revival of the 1950s led to a career resurgence and he toured England, where many British musicians who became famous in the 60s, including John Lennon, cited him as an inspiration.  With The Glory of Love, Big Bill took an insipid song and made it a joy to listen to.

It's also the version of the song the Coen Brothers chose to have playing over the credits of their 2003 film, Intolerable Cruelty, starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones at her most lovely.  Intolerable cruelty.jpgTHC recommends it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The (Not So) Old Days

. . . well, not that old - it's a Best Buy flyer from October 23, 1994 (via Twisted Sifter).

You can get a Compaq laptop with 256 MB hard drive and 4 MB of memory for only $2598!   And it's got a Intel 14.4 fax/modem!  We thought this was revolutionary.  This was the year THC purchased his first computer for the family - it was a Gateway.

This Best Buy Flyer from 1994 Shows How Fast Technology Has Changed (7)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Google's Disgrace

Yuri Kochiyama's 95th Birthday

Today's Google Homepage features the image above.  When you run your cursor over it you'll find it honors Yuri Kochiyama's on what would have been her 95th birthday (she died in 2014).  Ms Kochiyama was born in San Pedro, California and during World War II was interned in a detention camp as part of the unjust imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during the war.

Ms Kochiyama is often described as a "Japanese-American human rights activist".

This is also Ms Kochiyama:

Interviewed in 2003 she stated: "... I consider Osama bin Laden as one of the people that I admire. To me, he is in the category of Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro, all leaders that I admire.... You asked, 'Should freedom fighters support him?' Freedom fighters all over the world, and not just in the Muslim world, don’t just support him; they revere him; they join him in battle. He is no ordinary leader or an ordinary Muslim."

In addition to supporting bin Laden, the racist, gay-hating murderer Che Guevara and the dictator Fidel Castro, Ms Kochiyama was also a vocal supporter of the mass murdering Maoist lunatics of Peru's Shining Path and of Mao himself (hey, didn't THC just write about Mao?).  In fact, according to Wikipedia: "Kochiyama in the mid-1960s joined the Revolutionary Action Movement [a self-described urban guerilla warfare movement], a clandestine revolutionary nationalist organization which was one of the first organizations in the black liberation movement to attempt to construct a revolutionary nationalism based on a synthesis of the thought of Malcolm X, Marx, Lenin, and Mao Tse Tung".

She supported Puerto Rican terrorists, and the Japanese Red Army, which in the 1970s conducted killing operations in Japan, as well as doing a favor for their Palestinian terrorist friends and slaughtering 26 people and wounding 80 others in the Lod Airport massacre in Israel.

This is only a partial account of the murderers, dictators, thugs and enemies of human freedom that Ms Kochiyama endorsed over the years.  It is a corruption of the English language to describe her as a "human rights activist" when she was an enemy of human rights.  For Google to honor her, parading in front of an equality sign, when she fought for the most unequal societies of the past century is a disgrace and dishonors the tens of millions killed and imprisoned by the very people Ms Kochiyama most admires.

If you would like to read a whitewashed version of her bio, look at Google's tripe.

UPDATE:  Some more from Ms Kochiyama on bin Laden and the U.S.:
He was fighting for Islam and all people who believe in Islam, against westerners, especially the US--even when he was fighting against the Russians…I do not care what the US government or Americans feel--I think it’s shameful what this government has done from the beginning of its racist, loathsome history. 
Way to go, crack Google team!!

SECOND UPDATE:  Turns out Ms Kochiyama was honored by the White House in 2014!
Given that Google executives and lobbyists have had 427 White House meetings since President Obama took office, far more than any other company, one would expect White House staffers would actually know how to do a Google search - or perhaps they just don't care, which is even more disturbing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Like In The Movies

. . . this isn't gonna end like in the movies

From Chrissie Hynde's 2014 solo album.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sometimes They Get One Right

At least they did on this date in 1954:

Front Page ImageYou can find the full text of the NY Times story here.  Oddly enough, despite popular belief, Brown v Board of Education did not overrule the holding in Plessy v Ferguson (1896) which ruled that segregation was not unconstitutional if equal facilities were provided to both races, the "separate but equal" doctrine.  The 1954 Court simply held that the doctrine did not apply in the field of education. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

"We Thought Mao Was Doing A Wonderful Thing"

May 16, 1966, fifty years ago today, is generally considered the day China's Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao Tse-Tung.  Over the next three years, 2 million Chinese may have died in the upheaval, with millions more punished and/or internally exiled.  While the worst of the violence was over by 1970, aspects of the Cultural Revolution lasted until 1976 when Mao died and the Gang of Four (which included his wife) were deposed.
The problem with revolutions is that you have to keep them going, otherwise, as Chairman Mao¿s ¿faithful dog¿ Zhou Enlai pointed out, ¿every time the situation improves a little, the people move back towards capitalism
(Mao, from the Daily Mail)

Having only a few years earlier (1958-61) subjected to populace to the madness of the Great Leap Forward which led to perhaps 20 to 40 million deaths from starvation and regime-inspired violence, Mao feared his subjects were beginning to show too much personal initiative and losing their revolutionary ardor to achieve the Communist state.  Or, as Zhou Enlai, Mao's comrade, observed, "every time the situation improves a little, the people move back towards capitalism".

The Cultural Revolution was Mao's way of shaking things up, particularly with those he thought might thwart progress, mid-level officials at the city, village and province levels, those related to the former pre-1949 capitalist classes and, most of all, educators.  In preparation, 60 million copies of Mao's Little Red Book were distributed and realizing that young students were the most impressionable and easily manipulated he and his comrades created the Red Guards who they then let loose on the country to indulge in an orgy of harassment, public humiliations, torture and murder.  Mao's instructions were to attack the "four olds" - old ideas, old culture, old habits and old customs.

As Frank Dikotter, a professor of history at Hong Kong University and author of The Cultural Revolution: A People's History 1962-76, observes in the Daily Mail:
Higher education was a particular target. Professors were spat upon and made to wear placards around their necks identifying them as ‘imperial spies’. Lecturers were beaten with nail-spiked clubs, made to crawl over broken glass and had boiling water poured over them.

‘There were even cases of people being buried alive,’ writes Dikotter.

Pensioners and those on sick leave were flung out of the cities, along with China’s ‘most eminent scientists, physicians, engineers and philosophers, who were made to clean toilets.

‘What stinks is not so much the excrement as your own ideology,’ intellectuals were told. A ‘counter-revolutionary’ came to mean anyone who ‘likes freedom’ — freedom of speech, movement, expression. It was a death sentence to be found listening to a foreign radio station. 

Military drills were held in the middle of the night. ‘Class enemies’ had their tongues ripped out or eyes gouged from their sockets. The offspring of former landlords or vaguely bourgeois sorts were electrocuted. Children were hung from their feet and whipped.

In the district of Wuxuan, 60 people had their heads bashed in with hammers.
https://hansimann.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/1966-persecution-cultural-revolution.jpg(from hansimann.files)
Yet, there are those for whom it was all worthwhile.  The Telegraph (UK) recently ran an article which features the quote heading this post.  It's from Michael Crook, who was a 15-year old Briton in 1966, living in China where his Communist father had moved before World War Two.  His father had fought for the Communists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) and served as a Soviet spy in order to unmask Trotskyites in the communist ranks - who were then promptly executed.  Speaking to The Telegraph, Crook still doesn't think the Cultural Revolution was so bad:
“We all thought it was a wonderful thing that Mao was launching,” Mr Crook, now 64, told the Telegraph, in his first interview with a British newspaper. “It would guarantee that China would take the socialist road.”

While mistakes had been made during the Mao period, he argued, the free-market economics on which China has since prospered had led to just as much upheaval, creating a “tremendous imbalance” between rich and poor.

“Letting greed drive development – well that certainly does bring about development – but it also brings about polarisation, so what price social harmony?” he said. 
What can be said about such an appalling person?   It reminds me of the last century of Western "idealists", who first thought the Russian Bolsheviks, then the Chinese communists, then the Vietnamese communists, then the Cuban communists, then the Nicaraguan communists and most recently the Chavistas in Venezuela would herald new dawn for humanity.  They so prided themselves on their idealism that they constantly looked ahead and towards the horizon and never bothered to look down and notice they were wading through a blood filled swamp.
(from nybooks.com)

Reading Mr Crook's words reminds THC of the passage in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago in which he relates the sorrowful tale of the Baltic-White Sea Canal built in the early 1930s. Stalin demanded the building of a canal that would allow the passage of Soviet naval vessels from one sea to the other in order to avoid the Arctic Ocean, setting a 20-month deadline for completion.  Hundreds of thousands of prisoners were assigned to its construction.  The canal was dug by hand without any mechanical equipment under terrible physical conditions and brutal oversight from abusive guards with 250,000 dying during its construction.  The canal was poorly designed and never functioned as planned. Solzhenitsyn is unsparing in his portrayal of this debacle and near the end of the chapter recounts a visit he made to the canal in 1966 as he was completing the book and of the official tour he took:

"It's so shallow", complained the chief of the guard, "that not even submarines can pass through it under their own power, they have to be loaded on barges, and only then can they be hauled through."
And what about the cruisers?  Oh, you hermit-tyrant!  You nighttime lunatic!  In what nightmare did you dream up all this?

And where, cursed one, were you hurrying to?  What was it that burned and pricked you - to set a deadline of twenty months?  For those quarter-million men could have remained alive.  Well, so the Esperantists stuck in your throat, but think how much work those peasant lads could have done for you!  How many times you could have roused them to attack - for the Motherland, for Stalin!

"It was very costly", I said to the guard.

"But it was built very quickly!", he answered me with self-assurance.

Your bones should be in it!
For those who grew up during those years in China and are now in their 50s and 60s, the fear of returning to those days of chaos and disorder remains and is why they value the relative stability of modern China, even with its repressions.

A few years ago, a Chinese friend gave THC a book called Red Memory, published in China and containing propaganda posters from the 1950s, 60s and 70s and subtitled "Posters of Cultural Revolution".  The English language introduction reads, "We hope that such crazy and flimflam years will never come again".

From Red Memory:
 If you are interested in learning more about events in China leading up to the Great Leap Forward, THC recommends reading:

Sunday, May 15, 2016


THC follows four people on twitter.  One of them is David Burge, who used to run the Iowahawk blog.  This is why:

Daryl Hall On Cultural Appropriation

(From Salon, via Powerline).

THC has written before about Live From Daryl's House, Daryl Hall's terrific live music show featuring established and new artists performing with Hall and his ace band.  Recently Daryl was interviewed by Salon and the subject of cultural appropriation came up (you can find the entire interview here).  THC thinks Daryl's comments are right on point:

One of the current debates is over “cultural appropriation” – The idea that white people should not appropriate the culture of ethnic and racial minorities. I know that you don’t like the term “blue eyed soul.” Have you followed this conversation?
Are you trying to say that I don’t own the style of music that I grew up with and sing? I grew up with this music. It is not about being black or white. That is the most naïve attitude I’ve ever heard in my life. That is so far in the past, I hope, for everyone’s sake. It isn’t even an issue to discuss. The music that you listened to when you grew up is your music. It has nothing to do with “cultural appropriation.”

I agree with you entirely, because…
I’m glad that you do, because anyone who says that should shut the fuck up.

Well, this entire critique is coming back…
I’m sorry to hear it. Who is making these critiques? Who do they write for? What are their credentials to give an opinion like that? Who are they?

Much of it is academic.
Well, then they should go back to school. Academia? Now, there’s a hotbed of idiocy.
Anyone who knows about music, about culture in general, understands that everything is much more natural. Everything is a mixture.
We live in America. That’s our entire culture. Our culture is a blend. It isn’t split up into groups. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool – worse than a fool – a dangerous fool.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Coywolf

(from the conversation.com)

The eastern coyote now cohabits New England with us human folks.  Over the years, we've seen two coyotes on our property during daylight.  The coyote is a mixture of coyote and wolf, though the degree of interbreeding is still debated.  The literature says that the eastern coyote is quite a bit heavier than its western cousin, averaging about 1/3 more in weight.  That's certainly consistent with THC's own observations.  During the past two years, he's encountered coyotes on three occasions while walking his dog in the Phoenix area, and all of them were smaller in stature and scrawnier than what he's seen passing through his yard in Connecticut.

The presence of this coyote/wolf animal (with some mixture of domestic dog genes) in the Northeast, which only began in the 20th century, has prompted a scientific debate over whether these creatures are best classified as a subspecies of coyote or as a totally new species, the coywolf.  You can find an interesting discussion on this topic at The Conversation.com.

All this, of course, leads to the bigger question: Will The Wolf Survive? as presented by Los Lobos

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ride The Wind


On Thursday, THC took a spin around the Indianapolis 500 Speedway and hit a top speed nearing 200 mph.  He was not driving.  He was riding in the second seat in the white and blue race car that is next to him in the photo above.  It was courtesy of the Indy Racing Experience and set up as part of a conference THC was attending.

A few years ago, THC drove his 350Z at the Lime Rock Track in Connecticut.  It's a cross-country track, not an oval like Indy, and THC topped off at around 120 mph.  It was thrilling and exhausting.  Driving near 200 mph at Indy felt like 5 times as fast as he drove at Lime Rock.  It was akin to riding a rocket.  There is nothing particularly scary about the ride, which is two laps on the 2 1/2 mile track, but it is overwhelming.  The speed, vibration and engine noise create a world where everything else is shut off.  Once we got on the open track and accelerated, the wind suction was so intense it felt like my helmet (which was very heavy) felt like it was going to lift straight off my head.

And we all looked like 9 year olds with goofy grins when we got out.

THC had seen the Indy Speedway on TV but it hadn't conveyed how gigantic the structure actually is.

The Indy experience reinforced THC's respect for professional race car drivers.  He first realized after driving at Lime Rock the extent to which long distance racing demands great physical and mental strength.  Those drivers are real athletes.