Posted on June 19th, 2020
When it comes to monumental events in United States of America history, the abolition of slavery ranks right up there with Independence Day. This is not up for debate. When America won its independence, not everybody was free. That came some 85 years later. But not really. The Emancipation Proclamation was proclaimed on September 22, 1862... but news apparently traveled slowly, so Texas didn't get the message until two-and-a-half years later. Texas didn't issue their proclamation until June 19, 1865... AKA Juneteenth. And that was the end of slavery, right? Not really. Delaware and Kentucky didn't get onboard until that December. So that's the end then? Not really. Penal slave labor still exists... but that's another discussion.
Juneteenth became a massive celebration in Texas. So massive that it spread throughout the South... and eventually throughout the country. Most states officially acknowledge Juneteenth in some way (I think the Dakotas and Hawaii are the holdouts). Some states, including Texas, have made it an official State paid holiday (and I think Washington will eventually get there).
There's a push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, something I fully support. Because if there's an event which deserves national recognition, celebration, and an official holiday in a country which prides itself on freedom, it's the end of slavery. How anybody can debate that is beyond me. And yet... all it takes is browsing through Facebook comments and you'll find all kinds of people freaking out over the idea. I can't even pretend to be shocked... hell, Juneteenth was never explained in my school. Do you know the first time I ever heard of it? When I was in GERMANY in the mid-90's! Yes. GERMANY. There was an article in a train magazine that I couldn't read, but I wrote down "Juneteenth" to look up when I got home because the photos made it clear that it's an American celebration.
Another thing that was never mentioned when I was in school? The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.
Do you want to know when I learned about that? When I actually visited Tulsa and went to the Tulsa Historical Museum... in 2010! TWO-THOUSAND-TEN! One of the most horrific events in American history, and I never heard about it until ten years ago.
That is all kinds of fucked up.
Since the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is a catalyst for my favorite television show of 2019 (and one of the best series I've seen ever), Watchmen, HBO is running it for free all weekend. I decided to binge-watch it for the fourth time even though HBO comes with my AT&T mobile contract for free...
This show just gets better and better with each viewing. I was such a hugely massive fan of the original graphic novel, and the HBO "not-a-sequel-sequel" so beautifully fits into that world. Flawless television. I have no idea how accessible it is to people who haven't read the comic book... but I think it's perfectly understandable (even if you miss some of the references), so you should definitely check it out.
And happy Juneteenth, everybody!
Posted on September 2nd, 2018
When is Sunday not Sunday? When Sunday comes before Labor Day! But don't celebrate just yet... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Real Problems! Couldn't find my iPhone. So I used Find my iPhone to locate my iPhone only to be told that my iPhone was not responding. So I decided to drive home and see if I left my iPhone at home in a lead vault or something. When I got to my car I found my iPhone baking in the passenger seat. Then my iPhone told me that my iPhone has to cool down before I can use it. Which is fine except then I couldn't remember what I wanted my iPhone for in the first place. Probably everything.
• Channel! I love history. I love smart videos. These two things collide in a brilliant YouTube Channel called Oversimplified...
All their videos are worth watching. You can visit the Oversimplified Channel here.
• New Ocean! Finally got around to watching Ocean's 8. I loved this movie. Not necessarily for the story, which was serviceable and smart (though lacking the abundance of fun of the Clooney flicks)... but for the cast. They made it fun. And stylish. And having it take place at The Met Gala was genius. Really, really hoping for a sequel.
Ocean's Eleven made $451 million on an $85 million budget and got two sequels. Ocean's 8 made $292 on a $70 budget. So it definitely made money... but is it enough money for the studio to greenlight another? Fingers crossed.
• Be Like Coke! The true power of good advertising...
I hope some ad agency is getting a bonus.
• Squatchie! And speaking of amazing advertising, I laughed more than a couple times at this viral marketing brilliance...
I hope some ad agency is getting a bonus.
• Clancey! After a lot of weeks waiting in anticipation for the latest adaptation of Jack Ryan to be released on Amazon Prime, I ended up a little disappointed.
This show has a lot of activity buzzing around too little story. I ended up liking it well enough... but it could have easily been distilled into a much shorter, stronger series with a more disciplined approach to the material. The original movies (namely The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) showed just how good these stories can be in the right hands. Hopefully the second season (which was greenlit before a single episode aired) will end up having tighter pacing.
And... back to Real Life.
Posted on June 29th, 2017
I am not much for nostalgia or wishing I could return to bygone days, but I do love me some history. Studying world history is a byproduct of my world religions studies, and it always surprises me just how much I don't know about what's gone on in the world.
Take, for instance, James Whitcomb Riley.
I ran across a book by the guy this morning... The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, Volume VII. "Volume SEVEN?" I thought. How is it that a prolific author with seven volumes of works like this could be somebody I never heard of?
I kept digging and ultimately found out there were SIXTEEN TOTAL VOLUMES...
I opened one up, was terribly unimpressed with what I scanned, and decided I would not need to be reading any of his works. But I did note his name on my iPhone so that I could look him up when I got home.
Which is now.
Turns out, I do know of him. I just didn't know I knew.
Ever heard of The Duck Test? — "When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."
TOTALLY THIS GUY!
Ever heard of Little Orphan Annie? It's based on a poem called Little Orphant Annie?
TOTALLY THIS GUY!
According to his Wikipedia page, James Whitcomb Riley was a literary giant back in the 1890's and remained hugely popular until his death in 1916. From Wikipedia:
Although Riley was wealthy from his books, he was able to triple his annual income by touring. He found the lure hard to resist and decided to return to the lecture circuit in 1892. He hired William C. Glass to assist Henry Eitel in managing his affairs. While Eitel handled the finances, Glass worked to organize his lecture tours. Glass worked closely with Riley's publishers to have his tours coincide with the release of new books, and ensured his tours were geographically varied enough to maintain his popularity in all regions of the nation. He was careful not to book busy schedules; Riley only performed four times a week and the tours were short, lasting only three months.
So, essentially, James Whitcomb Riley was a rock star before there were rock stars...
In 1895 Riley made his last tour, making stops in most of the major cities in the United States. Advertised as his final performances, there was incredible demand for tickets and Riley performed before his largest audiences during the tour. He and Sherley continued a show very similar to those that he and Nye had done. Riley often lamented the lack of change in the program, but found when he tried to introduce new material, or left out any of his most popular poems, the crowds would demand encores until he agreed to recite their favorites.
And what, pray-tell, qualifies as one of those favorites? Here ya go...
O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
The apples in the orchard, and the pathway through the rye;
The chirrup of the robin, and the whistle of the quail
As he piped across the meadows sweet as any nightingale;
When the bloom was on the clover, and the blue was in the sky,
And my happy heart brimmed over in the days gone by.
In the days gone by, when my naked feet were tripped
By the honey-suckle’s tangles where the water-lilies dipped,
And the ripples of the river lipped the moss along the brink
Where the placid-eyed and lazy-footed cattle came to drink,
And the tilting snipe stood fearless of the truant’s wayward cry
And the splashing of the swimmer, in the days gone by.
O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
The music of the laughing lip, the luster of the eye;
The childish faith in fairies, and Aladdin’s magic ring—
The simple, soul-reposing, glad belief in everything,—
When life was like a story, holding neither sob nor sigh,
In the golden olden glory of the days gone by.
Well, he's no Walt Whitman, but okay.
I guess if they didn't have a Nintendo back then, this was as good as it got.
Posted on February 10th, 2017
When my grandmother could no longer live on her own and was moved to the nursing home, I packed up all her photo albums and memorabilia and stashed them in my storage unit. After she died, I put off going through everything because I was in the middle of moving house. Once I was moved, all her stuff went into my garage where it sat for a year.
Every once in a while, I go grab a box and rummage through it. Tonight I decided to tackle one of "the big ones" since I didn't bring any work home with me. The box is a hodgepodge of stuff that ranges from the late 1800's to the early 1900's... all of it interesting.
And if there's one thing I can conclude after sifting through this stuff for five hours, it's that people back then were crazy-weird. I can only guess that it was the non-stop boredom of living in a pre-internet society that drove them to be that way.
And if I open up one more damn envelope filled with hair, I'll be joining them. So gross. I mean, what was the obsession with saving hair? There's hair from babies... hair from birthdays... hair from people who just died... hair, hair, and more hair.
And then there's the letters.
People wrote a lot of letters back then. And they were really creative about it. Take, for example, the letter from my great-great-great-whatever that she wrote from the hospital. It included a kind of poem...
The Horrors of the Bedpan
by Gayle Monroe
I wanted to use the toilet
The nurses don't agree.
They say I use the "bedpan"
That thing's so cold on me.
I ring and ring the buzzer
I say I have to go.
Out comes the old cold bedpan,
I think, again? Oh no!
I sit and strain for hours
and then to my despair,
I think relief is coming,
but tis just a gust of air.
I grunt 'n' groan 'n' suffer
and then with an awful jerk
I let loose with a mighty stream
right over the end I squirt.
I ring again the buzzer
and then with an auful stink,
She wisked away my bedpan
and dumps it down the sink.
And then to my great horror
The job was just a stall
I backfired on a belch, Oh God!
It wasn't a belch at all.
I thought I'd clean it up
with the corner of my gown
That spot? It just got bigger,
A hideous glob of brown.
Most folks have their troubels
As you can by now see
A "slip" can be so treacherous
Just ask my cousin and me.
I mean, crazy-weird, right?
Where did the cousin come from at the end? Had she been there the entire time Gayle was in the hospital?
Maybe one of the other letters will explain it all. But probably not. It's crazier-weirder if it's a mystery.
Posted on January 9th, 2015
Yesterday I mentioned that I've got another batch of family photos that are getting scanned.
This morning I started reviewing the scans in process at ScanCafe. As these are my grandmother's photos, I don't know most of the people that are showing up. I assume they're mostly images of my extended family, but they could be anybody.
All I really know for sure is that there's some crazy-interesting stuff popping up...
And it only gets stranger from here...
Posted on April 8th, 2014
This morning I needed to dig out a software manual from storage (remember when software came with printed manuals?) and had a small blue pressboard binder fall on my head. It looked familiar, but I didn't know why.
Remember when I was lamenting that I couldn't remember my CompuServe ID Number? Well, yeah, the small blue pressboard binder had all my CompuServe stuff in it... including my ID...
Now that I see it... 70717,3107... I can't imagine how I ever forgot it. Those digits flow through my mind like my own name, because it was my name for a number of years. When I typed it just then, I didn't even need to take a second look, my fingers automatically keyed it in. Just like old times.
Somehow, I feel more complete than I did yesterday.
ALSO in the small blue pressboard binder... COMPUSERVE INFORMATION SERVICE RATES: 1984!"
A few things...
All told, I'm currently on the internet for one thing or another at least 5 hours a day. That's minimum 35 hours a week... probably much more. Putting two hours of that in the daytime and three hours of that in the evening, in 2014 dollars I'd be spending $58.76 per day... $411.32 per week... just to get online.
And "being online" then sure ain't what it is now.
How in the hell did we ever make it out of the dark ages of technology?
Posted on November 26th, 2010
One of my favorite blogs is Letters of Note, which is a fascinating collection of letters by famous persons which have been nicely transcribed. I happened across it a year ago while researching Alan Moore's work on Marvelman, and have been a huge fan ever since. Pulling a few recent entries from the webfeed, there's a letter from John Lennon saying Yoko Ono doesn't sweat, a speech for President Nixon if the moon landing should fail, John Byrne's introduction of Kitty Pryde to X-Men, and a letter from J.K. Rowling to a young fan about her plan for seven Harry Potter books. The site is addictive, and there's some amazing stuff to be found in their well-organized archives.
It's all good stuff, but this morning's entry "To My Widow," is particularly touching. It's a letter written by doomed South Pole explorer Robert Falcon Scott to his wife when he realized the expedition party wouldn't survive the journey back...
I became interested in the so-called "Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration" after visiting Frammuseet (The Fram Museum) in Norway, which is home to a ship used for expeditions to both of earth's poles... including the Amundsen Antarctic expedition which beat Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole by 35 days...
It's a fascinating period in history, and one which has been continuously reinterpreted since it began. Historians have alternately praise Robert Falcon Scott as a hero, then dismissed him as incompetent. Despite all that, Scott's journal (which has been brilliantly reproduced in blog-form!) makes for interesting reading. Humans are at their best and worst while on the cusp of discovery and high adventure, and first-hand historical accounts are a treasure.
In other news... it's Black Friday today! A magical time for our consumerism culture to run amok!
I try hard not to buy something "just because it's on sale," so this day isn't particularly special to me. But I do need to get a new television to replace my ailing one, so I'll keep my eyes open and see if anything interesting turns up. Hopefully I'll find something before mine dies completely, because television is where humanity finds itself on the cusp of awesome discoveries and high adventure
Or at least it will be until the last episode of Hannah Montana airs early next year.