Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Today is the anniversary of one of the most significant battles in the history of the United States and nobody seems to notice. A short history of the Revolutionary War could read like this:

- The British surrendered at Yorktown after being surrounded by the Continental Army on land and bottled up by the French fleet at sea.
- The British were stuck at Yorktown because they had been so long occupied in the South by battles like the disaster (for the British) at Cowpens
- Cowpens was made possible by Valley Forge and the victory over the Hessians at Trenton
- The French navy was brought into the war because of the overwhelming victory over the British at Saratoga.
- Trenton was made possible by the Continental Army slipping out of Long Island where they really should have been trapped and destroyed by the British
- Long Island was made possible by the victory over the British in the siege of Boston which in turn was made possible by the guns taken from Fort Ticonderoga and by the start of the war at Lexington and Concord.

Of the above - the Battle of Cowpens (which happened 236 years ago today) is probably the least remembered.

If it is remembered it is probably the version that was put forth in the Mel Gibson movie The Patriot. In the movie there is a battle without a name in which Gibson's character asks his irregular infantry to get off two shots and then retreat to trick the British into chasing after them. This is the same basic "plot" to the Battle of Cowpens. The Jason Isaacs character of the dark-hearted Col. Tavington is loosely based on Col. Banastre Tarleton who led the British troops at Cowpens. Unlike the battle in the movie, however, in real life Tarleton (nee Tavington) escapes to fight another day.

One other note that may only interest me. In the movie The Patriot, Gibson's character uses straw soldiers to convince the British to let captives escape. In real life this trick was used but it was used by the British to allow the "captive" loyalists to escape Boston via ships in the harbor under the cover of "troops" placed overlooking the city on Bunker Hill. The troops later turned out to be straw dummies.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

If Martin Luther King Jr were alive today he be 88-years old and probably a past 1 or 2 term President... Cool "let it ride" story. At this point he has to see it out till the end... Extra Cheese would be an awful nickname to give a girl. Even if she is from Vermont or Wisconsin... Heh heh - speaking of Aaron Rodgers... On that commercial featuring the deaf football team - how do the deaf players hear the referee's whistle?... The comments on the Ginger C*nt's tweet are fantastic... Why Trump won - it is more likely for a DC based or NY Times journalist to personally know a person who has won a NEA grant than a person who owns a pickup truck... The beaded lacewing is my spirit animal... There should be a word for a person who is often alone but never lonely...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trump and Fake News Part 1

In the spirit that your gut reaction is normally correct - here's what my gut reaction is telling me about this current maelstrom.

BuzzFeed "published" a series of allegations that are most likely false. I say most likely because I'm guessing there are a few innocuous true things scattered among the lies. The allegations are nothing new - they had been circulating among the Washington media for months but were never brought up because nothing could be verified. Let that sink in - for months professional journalists had the opportunity to verify the allegations but they could not. Why weren't they verified? The Occam's razor explanation would be BECAUSE THEY JUST AREN'T TRUE!

And now any "journalist" that joined in on the Twitter Golden Shower joke fest yesterday has called into question not just their own professionalism and bias but also the credibility of whatever news organization employs them. There will be ramifications.

At the very least say goodbye to the "Nerd Prom". The White House Correspondent's Dinner should have been ended years ago. Now it is absolutely done. And if the correspondents decide to go it alone without the President? They'll just look petty and cruel - which may be what they are at their core anyway.

At the worst - President Trump may turn the White House Briefing Room back into a swimming pool.  If Trump decided to end the daily press briefings and pool reporters traveling with him wherever he goes - who could really blame him? The White House could simply rely on press releases and maybe a weekly YouTube video from The Donald. If criticized President Trump could say that by doing just official press releases he is trying to eliminate the fake news and slander that is rampant in the Washington press. "Don't blame me" he'll  say, "blame the fabulists at BuzzFeed and The Rolling Stone, and all the others who can't be trusted to report the truth."

You know that the Golden Shower jokes will not go away. And Trump will now get to play the wounded husband and father. "My wife and children have to read these lies!" Middle America will not just feel his embarrassment but will also root for him to get even. When history asks how Trump's second term was made possible - Golden Showergate will be the starting point.

The Greenbrier Ghost

An interesting nugget of US history. The only instance of the testimony of a ghost making its way into a murder trial in US history. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- It's been a year since the death of David Bowie. Here's a list of his favorite 100 books.

- This doesn't bode well for the Texans

- Interesting

- Flaming Muffins would be a great name for a lesbian punk band.

- Cool flying car

- Some interesting German compound words

- Heh heh

Possum Kingdom - The Toadies

Just felt like hearing this song.


The story Cinderella was written in 1699 by a Frenchman named Charles Perrault. In the original story, Cinderella wore slippers made of squirrel fur but when the book was translated into English the word "vair" (squirrel fur) was mistranslated as "verre" (glass) and the rest is history.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Some Things You Can't Explain

Some things you can't explain.

Over the course of many years I have read and re-read both The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham and also Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I've found Larry's "enlightenment" instructive and inspirational and Cannery Row is just a fun book to read over a couple summers days at the beach. I've also read many other books by both Maugham and Steinbeck - but never their masterpieces.

My friend Bill bristles when someone comments, for example, that a pitcher has just thrown "another masterpiece". There can only be one masterpiece. That's what makes it the "master" piece. The acknowledged masterpiece for Maugham is Of Human Bondage and for Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath.  I've never read either book. Over the years I've bought several copies of each book but for whatever reason have never actually read them. I've tried several times to read James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses and several times have failed. But with Joyce I can explain my failure - the book is just so dense. I have no such excuse for either Of Human Bondage or The Grapes of Wrath.

Some things you just can't explain.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

The biggest unanswered question from John Podesta's email hack is whether or not he ever got that knock-off Viagra he was looking for... Cool - NASA announces two new asteroid missions... "The best time for a man to do Kegel exercises is while he urinates." - John Kerry...  Heh heh... Death Waltz would be a great name for a heavy metal Lawrence Welk cover band... This is quite a hiking accomplishment... Speaking of unanswered questions - is Brian Urlacher still rocking the suddenly found hair he had going on last January?... Tommy Heinsohn is the best... Speaking of band names - Vengeance Quakers would be a good name for a band... I still say that salad bars should be renamed "vegetable buffets"...  Cool... People forget that 2016 started with the death of the immortal Abe Vigoda. It is possible that so many celebrities died last year as revenge from the Angel of Death who was finally able to defeat the Great Vigoda...

Origin of the Poolroom

Back in the day before state run lotteries - local bookies would run numbers games and these tickets for the "pool" were often sold in a "poolroom". The numbers would be drawn once or twice a day and in order to fill the time between drawings - the operators at many locations put in billiards tables. Billiards was changed or Americanized by adding pockets and creating the game pocket billiards which we now know simply as pool.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- Yeah I think I'm going to eliminate Vermont maple syrup from my diet after seeing this.

- I love Arnold

- This is hilarious!

- Very cool! I'm sure we will hear much more about this new star as we get closer to 2022.

- It was only a matter of time. For the first time streaming eclipses disc sales in 2016.

- How to live a creative life

The Armada by Garrett Mattingly

I think most people who are familiar with the story of the Spanish Armada have the impression that the story went something like this;
In 1588 the Catholic Spanish King sent a fleet of ships bigger than anything ever previously assembled to Protestant England in order to crush the English military and remove Queen Elizabeth from the throne. However, the smaller, faster English fleet coupled with a major storm combined to defeat the Armada and usher in a new era of Rule Britannia.
The true story is much different. The two fleets were actually pretty fairly matched and in the end it was a lack of provisions (especially gun powder and cannon balls) that caused the Spanish defeat. The Spanish ran out of ammunition and the English at the end were able to hammer away at the Armada from close range with devastating effects.

The battle and the results didn't much change the balance of power between England and Spain but surprisingly it had great political ramifications in France.

Garrett Mattingly tells this true story in his fascinating 1959 book The Armada. I highly recommend this book to fans of military or world history. Thank you to whoever first recommended this book to me.