Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A History of Exploration

From the Earliest Times To the Present Day...

By Brigadier-General Sir Percy Sykes....Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical and Royal Empire Societies

Originally published in London, England, in 1935...but this particular copy was purchased in a second-hand book shop, by an American serviceman in 1944 and sent home to his young nephew...

"Bought at W.H. Smith & Sons Ltd, Strand House Portugal St, London, England. Sent to me by my uncle Bill Corbin. Mailed in England March 29, 1944 and received by me on May 8, 1944... William A. Burkhardt

And pasted inside the front cover is the original shipping label...

Addressed to Master William Burkhardt...

Complete with vintage British stamps...

May 3, 1944 ...this book arrives in New York Customs and is stamped with the official date.

The book itself is a treasure for any explorer...color frontiespiece, black and white photographic plates, and thirty-five fold-out detailed maps.

Maps of the Itineraries of Marco Polo...

With detailed listings of towns like Kasariya and Odessa, and exotic countries like Turkey and Syria.

For a frame of reference: on the day this book cleared New York Customs and began it's journey to Master William Burkhardt in Long Island, New York...... Anne Frank was still safely hidden in an attic in Amsterdam.

On May 3rd, 1944, she wrote in her diary that she thought "all people are guilty for a war like this, not just the big politicians and war-mongers. " She thinks "wars will continue until the average people no longer have an inner desire to kill".

A History of Exploration
by Sir Percy Sykes (published 1935), offered for sale by Chewybooks on Amazon as of December 14, 2010.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The shop was full of bays formed by bookshelves protruding at right angles from the walls. The first bay was well-lighted and tidy; but the others, as they receded into the gloomy backward of the shop, were darker and darker, and untidier and untidier.

The effect was of mysterious and vast populations of books imprisoned forever in everlasting shade, chained, deprived of air and sun and movement, hopeless, resigned and martyrised.

At the back of the rather spacious and sombre shop came a small room, with a doorway, but no door, into the shop. This was the proprietor's den. Seated at his desk therein he could see through a sort of irregular lane of books to the bright oblong of the main entrance, which was seldom closed.

There were more books to the cubic foot in the private room even than in the shop. They rose in tiers to the ceiling and they lay in mounds on the floor; they also covered most of the flat desk and all the window-sill; some were perched on the silent grandfather's clock, the sole piece of furniture except the desk, a safe, and two chairs, and a stepladder for reaching the higher shelves.

Riceyman Steps, by Arnold Bennett, Grosset and Dunlap 1923

Top photo of Shakespeare & Company, the bookstore-to-end-all-bookstores, located in the Left Bank, Paris, France

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Wild Howling

Jonathan Harker's Journal, May 3rd.

"As the evening fell it began to get very cold, and the growing twilight seemed to merge into one dark mistiness the gloom of the trees, oak, beech and pine, though in the valleys which ran deep between the spurs of the hills, as we ascended through the Pass, the dark firs stood out here and there against the background of late-lying snow.

"Sometimes, as the road was cut through the pine woods that seemed in the darkness to be closing down upon us, great masses of greyness which here and there bestrewed the trees, produced a peculiarly weird and solemn effect, which carried on the thoughts and grim fancies engendered easlier in the evening, when the ailing sunset threw into strange relief the ghost-like clouds which amongst the Carpathians seem to wind endlessly through the valleys.

"Sometimes the hills were so steep that, despite our driver's haste, the horses could only go slowly. I wished to get down and walk up them, as we do at home, but the driver would not
hear of it. "No, no," he said. "You must not walk here. the dogs are too fierce." And then he added, with what he evidently meant for grim pleasantry - for he looked round to catch the approving smile of the rest - "And you may have enough of such matters before you go to sleep."

"Then amongst a chorus of screams from the peasants and a universal crossing of themselves, a caleche, with four horses, drove up behind us, overtook us, and drew up beside the coach. I could see from the flash of our lamps as the rays fell on them, that the horses were coal-black and splendid animals. They were driven by a tall man, with a long brown beard and a great black hat, which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight, as he turned to us.

"As I looked back I saw the steam from the horses of the coach by the light of the lamps...Then the driver cracked his whip and called to his horses, and off they swept...As they sank into the darkness I felt a strange chill, and a lonely feeling came over me...Then a dog began to howl somewhere in a farmhouse far down the road, a long agonized wailing,as if from fear....the sound was taken up by another dog, and then another and another till borne on the wind...a wild howling began, which seemed to come from all over the country, as far as the imagination could grasp it through the gloom of the night."

Dracula, Bram Stoker (1897)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Under the Sway of Some Witching Power

Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie.

They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air.

The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole nine fold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region,and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head.

It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the revolutionary war; and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk, hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind.

His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance.

Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper, having been buried in the church-yard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head; and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the church-yard before daybreak.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, published 1820, one of the earliest examples of American fiction, but written by the author while he was living in England.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things That Go Bump In the Night

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

~Scottish Saying

Some of the basic Scottish ghoulies, ghosties and long-leggedy beasties....

Black Donald - the devil

Brownie - good-natured, invisible brown elves or household goblins.

Clootie - another Scottish name for the Devil. The name comes from cloot, meaning one division of a cleft hoof.

Ghillie Dhu - a solitary Scottish elf.
Kelpie - a water devil.

Monster of Loch Ness - First seen by St Columba in 565 a.d., still seen today

Scotia - a goddess but frequently portrayed as an old hag

Selkie - a marine creature in the shape of a seal.

Shellycoat - a Scottish bogeyman who haunts the rivers and streams. He is covered with shells, which rattle when he moves.

Sidhe- the Gaelic name for Fae (fairies) in both Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Chained Form

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated -- I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs , and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall. I replied to the yells of him who clamoured. I reechoed -- I aided -- I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. *

* The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe,1846

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Woeful Time

The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustion and confused events
New hatch'd to the woeful time: the obscure bird
Clamour'd the livelong night: some say, the earth
Was feverous and did shake.

Scotland's Glamis Castle, the scene of William Shakespeare's fictional MacBeth, and the actual site of the murder of King Malcolm II in 1034. The bloodstain left on the floor has never been removed. Despite all attempts at cleaning, it still remains, albeit boarded over to hide the evidence.

*MacBeth by William Shakespeare

Monday, October 4, 2010


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" -
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven,thou,"I said,"art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never - nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore:
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting -
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe, 1845

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Perfect Haunting

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone. **

**the very first, and the very last paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Risks of A Strenuous Social Life

"Our busy life, our manner of dress, with all its attending demands are causing havoc with the health of women who are under its terrible strain. The number of women undergoing operations in our public and private hospitals from day to day bears witness to the ravages of the strenuous social life and mute testimony of the neglect of the laws of nature.

"The conduct and health of our women represents the life of our nation; individually, in a measure at least, health governs the happiness of the home.

"All a woman has to do in this world is contained within the duties of a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother.

"But how many girls grow to womanhood untaught; enter wifehood in ignorance, and assume motherhood wholly inprepared for the duties that are thrust upon her?

"Above all things, parents of young ladies should remember that HEALTH is more important than high grades in school. Do not offer prizes for high marks and otherwise add to the pressure of the present school system. Relieve her of worry, do not add to it."

From Mother's Remedies: Over One Thousand Tried and Tested Remedies from Mothers of the United States and Canada (1917) Offered for sale by Chewybooks as of September 12, 2010.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yes, we are barbarians.

"Damn your economic science...bring me money. I don't care how you get it. The masses shall be eternally disenfranchised...they are fools, donkeys and sterile old men..Our aim is to appeal to their baser instincts.

I am freeing man from the restraints of intelligence...from the dirty and degraded self-mortifications called conscience and morality...the world can be ruled by only fear...We are above clinging to the old bourgeois notions of honor and reputation. We have no time for fine sentiments...it will be unbelieveably bloody and grim.

Yes, we are barbarians...we may fail, but if we do, we shall drag the world down with us...a world in flames."

---Adolf Hitler, to his associates at Berchtesgaden, via the testimony of Dr. Hermann Rauschning, History of World War II, Francis Trevelyan Miller, Armed Services Memorial Edition, 1945

Sobering enough, but more so considering at time of publication we were just comprehending how narrow our escape actually was.

Will our grandchildren be able to say the same in 2075?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

From One Heretic To Another

"I was born a heretic. I always distrusted people who know so much about what God wants them to do to their fellows."

— Susan B. Anthony


From Middle English heretik, from Old French heretique, from Late Latin haereticus, from Greek hairetikos, able to choose, factious, from hairetos, chosen, from haireisthai, to choose.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shining Bright Since 1609

Sonnet LXV

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Simply because William Shakespeare remains the master.

Monday, July 19, 2010

We were mountain men and we liked it.

"My old grandad said that when he had at last made his way to the top of the big rim where he could see over into the Carolina Piedmont, he expected to start down the mountain slope. But, when he got there and looked, all he could see was a great blue ocean of peaks stretching out into the haze of the distance as far as he could see.

"Laurel and rhododendron were in great plenty, along with sweet shrub and witch hazel, wild sweet williiam and holly, alder and sassafrass, sumac and buckeye. The herbs were there too. "Yarb" doctors have dug them up for generations. There are still those in the hollows who know how to brew for distempers and aches -dog hobble and mullein, horsemint and wild cherry, boneset and queen of the meadow, ginseng and lady-slipper...

"There had never been any pillared mansions in those remote slopes and valleys. Nor had there been any ease from labor. The cabins had been not much better than those of slave quarters on the plantations.

"When you think about the mountains in the old days, don't you go thinkin' about them in terms of picnics and these little walks you call hikes. I remember the ox-carts strainin' and creakin' and complainin' along the ridges. I think of men walking a hundred and fifty miles and fetching back things they needed on their backs, or maybe packin' it in on a horse. Some drove oxen and it took a couple of months to come and go. It was long hard work.

"We were mountain men and we liked it."

The South and the Southerner, Ralph McGill, 1964. Offered for sale by Chewybooks as of July 19, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I will, then, be a toad.

"In 1894, Stephen Crane called on his friend, bringing a roll of manuscript for him to read. It was a group of poems he had written during the past few days, poems which amazed his friend with their power. When asked if he had any others, Crane replied,"I have four or five up here," and he pointed to his forehead, "all in a little row. That's the way they come - in little rows, all ready to be put down on paper." He had written nine the day before, and he "put down" another before he left.

"Crane, then twenty-two, was struggling to earn his living as a journalist.He himself had paid to publish his first novel, Maggie:A Girl of the Streets, and found no one wished to buy it. His life was miserable: he slept on the floor of a studio and had little certainty of eating three meals a day.

"He wanted to experience everything possible, to be a participant in whatever happened. He was an angry young man, in rebellion against easy respectibility and the genteel tradition. He had a fierce sense of justice and a hatred for cruelty, whether he found it in the vengeful God of his forefathers, or in man's inhumanity to man. He was determined to be his own judge of what was right or wrong. He placed kindness and integrity among the highest virtues and set for himself a heroic ideal. "There was in Crane a strain of chivalry," said Joseph Conrad, "which made him safe to trust with one's life."

A man said to the universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," repied the universe,
"the fact has not created in me
"A sense of obligation."


"Think as I think," said a man,
"Or you are abominably wicked;
"You are a toad."

And after I had thought of it,
I said, "I will, then, be a toad."

Poems of Stephen Crane, Selected by Gerald D. MacDonald, Woodcuts by Nonny Hogrogian, First Edition, Second Printing ,1964. Offered for sale by Chewybooks as of July 14, 2010.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Enchanted Playhouse

"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again." ~ CS Lewis~

"It was the visit to Cousin Alice that began it, for Cousin Alice's little 'Lizbeth Ann, who was just about as big as Patty and Polly, had a playhouse - the loveliest little playhouse!

"It had a porch on the front, and a path leading to the door. There was a row of bright red geraniums at either side of the path, and 'Lizbeth Ann had even put an even row of cockleshells right in front of the red geraniums, for all the world like Mistress Mary's garden!"
"From that day Patty and Polly could think of nothing but a playhouse. They talked and talked about it.

"The tent made quite a nice playhouse, but not as nice as the Pigpen House, and neither one was half as nice as 'Lizbeth Ann's."

"While they nibbled seedcakes and drank cambric tea, they told Miss Merriweather all about 'Lizbeth Ann's playhouse and how they had tried to have one too. "I remember one I had when I was little," said Miss Merriweather. "My brothers made it for me, up in an apple tree."

"Come, come you youngsters, I've thought of something," said Cap'n Holly. "How'd you like a house under that old dory back there? It's way above high-water mark. I'll tip it over, then we can brace it up with logs on end, so you can crawl underneath." Then he told them all about Mr. Peggotty's house, made out of a boat, in a book written by a man named Charles Dickens. Patty, Polly and Alec listened eagerly and couldn't wait to have a house like Mr. Peggotty's."

"Then tomorrow came, and the wind blew, and there was an awful storm.

"Was it a hurricane Daddy?" they asked. "Yes it was." Daddy said.

"Everything was sopping wet, but Patty, Polly and Alec had to go and see it all. On they went, through the long wet grass, and there, right on their own field, stood the most enchanting little playhouse. It was tipped to one side, and its windows were broken, but it was still an enchanted playhouse. They looked in through the broken windows, and there, all piled up in one corner, and soaking wet, were little tables and chairs, and a little bureau too.

"That very day Joe started repairing the little house. He put in strong cement underpinnings; he put new glass in the windows, fresh paper on the walls, and painted inside and out. Mother made pretty flowered curtains for the windows and bought a gay new rug for the floor.

"It was such a lovely little playhouse! "It's almost too good to be true," sighed Polly happily. "Yes but it is true," said Patty. "We have a real playhouse at last!"

The Enchanted Playhouse, by Mabel Betsy Hill, First and Only Edition, 1950. Offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of July 10, 2010.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The kings sleep in the ground

Ind raith i comair in dairfhedo,
Ba Bruidgi, ba Cathail,
Ba Aedo, ba Aillello,
Ba Conaing. ba Cuilini,
Ocus ba Maile Duin:
Ind raith dar eis caich ar uair,
ocus ind rig foait i n-uir.

The fort over against the oakwood,

It was Bruidge's, it was Cahill's,

It was Aed's, it was Aillil's,

It was Conaing's, it was Cuiline's,

It was Mael Duin's:

The fort remains after each in turn,

And the kings sleep in the ground.

"And so it was first told of to a mortal, this crown that was in the well, and if it had not been told about, this crown of Bruin, the war that the rest of Ireland waged against Cncobar's kingdom, the war for the Brown Bull of Cooley, would not have been.

"For when Nera went back to the world of mortals he told the King and Queen of Connacht, Ailill and Maeve, about the treasure in the well. They broke into the Fairy Mound of Cruachan to possess themselves of the crown of Bruin. Some say the treasure was taken by them and some say they could neither reach or nor take it, but the storytellers of Ireland have to speak about it because the foray brought the Battle Goddess Morrigu into the Fairy Mound of Cruachan.

The Frenzied Prince Being Heroic Stories of Ancient Ireland, Told by Padraic Colum, Illustrated by Willy Pogany, 1943, Stated First Edition, embossed green cloth with gold gilt titling, illustrated endpapers,color plates throughout, includes original dust jacket. Retained for personal collection.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.

Mankind is not likely to salvage civilization unless he can evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell.

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

Political chaos is connected with the decay of language.

The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun.

War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.

We of the sinking middle class may sink without further struggles into the working class where we belong, and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose.

What can you do against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

George Orwell (June 25, 1903- January 21, 1950)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Death In Belmont

A picture is worth a thousand words. And sometimes, a picture is as easily misunderstood as a thousand words.

Here's a lovely multigenerational family photo: young mother beaming down at her toddler on her lap, the proud handsome father standing behind her, both watched lovingly by a grandfather? Favorite uncle maybe?

Hmm. Images are not always what they appear to be.

The older man is actually a carpenter -one who built the house the young woman lives in. He and his assistant have spent the better part of the last two months building an studio addition to the young woman's home - going in and out at all hours, generally unsupervised, while her husband is away at work.

The young woman is an artist, and the child on her lap is most definitely loved and cherished.

That child will grow up to be an accomplished author, one with no memory of the day this photo was taken.

And the proud young father? That handsome young man is actually a part-time laborer, the assistant to the carpenter. He is strong and muscular, quiet and polite, conscientious about his work -always arriving on time and always particular about details.

His name is Al.

Albert DeSalvo. And he is about to become better known as The Boston Strangler.

A Death in Belmont is the strange story of author Sebastian Junger's brush with the infamous. It's the story of the day his mother hired a carpenter to build an addition to her home, and found herself staring down her basement steps, into the eyes of a man that would turn out to be a serial killer. That particular day, Albert DeSalvo had murdered a woman several blocks away, and then reliably showed up for work. When called to the top of the basement steps, something about his eyes served as warning, and the young mother stepped back, shut the door, and threw the bolt. In hindsight, entire lives turned on that one little uneasy feeling, that one small thought, that one glimmer of premonition.

This is one of those books you can't put down.

A Death in Belmont, by Sebastian Junger (2006).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crazy Horse and Custer

"On the sparkly morning of June 25, 1876, 611 men of the United States 7th Cavalry rode towards the banks of the Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory where three thousand Indians stood waiting for battle. The lives of two great warriors would soon be forever linked in history.

"This is the story of two men who died as they lived - violently. They were both war lovers, men of aggression with a deeply rooted instinct to charge the enemy, rout him, kill him. Men of supreme courage, they were natural-born leaders in a combat crisis, the type to whom others instinctively looked for guidance and inspiration. They were always the first to charge the enemy, and the last to retreat. Both became leaders in their societies at very early ages; both were stripped of power, in disgrace, and worked to earn back the respect of their people. Both had much to win and only life to lose.

"There were other parallels. Neither man drank. Both were avid hunters, for whom only the excitement of combat exceeded the joy of the chase. Each man loved horses, and riding at full gallop across the unfenced Great Plains of North America, day after day, was a source of never-ending delight for both of them.

"Yet Crazy Horse and Custer, like their societies, were as different as life and death."

Crazy Horse and Custer, by Stephen Ambrose (1975 BCE with dj). Offered for sale by Chewybooks as of June 16, 2010.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Moveable Feast: Sketches of Paris in The Twenties

"You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people sat outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food. When you had given up journalism and were writing nothing that anyone in America would buy, explaining at home that you were lunching out with someone, the best place to go was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the way from the Place de l'Observatoire to the rue de Vaugirard.

"There you could always go into the Luxembourg museum and all the paintings were sharpened and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cezanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when he was hungry.

"I used to wonder if he were hungry too when he painted; but I thought possibly it was only that he had forgotten to eat. It was one of those unsound but illuminating thoughts you have when you have been sleepless or hungry.

"Later I thought Cezanne was probably hungry in a different way."

A Moveable Feast:Sketches of the Author's Life in Paris in The Twenties (Ernest Hemingway), First Edition, BMC (1964). Offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of June 14, 2010.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fly Boys

Wartime is the mothership of invention. So many words and phrases were created by soldiers and sailors during World War II; figures of speech that we've long since forgotten the origin of (not just the immortal FUBAR) but more obscure "slanguage", such as....

Tin fish (an aerial torpedo), flak (Abbreviation of "Fleiger abwehr Kanone", a German phrase meaning anti-aircraft cannon fire), grease monkey (any member of a aircraft ground crew), lame duck (a crippled airplane) and....

V-Mail (Mail for World War II military, where the original was written on a specially printed form, then photographed on 16mm microfilm, sent to its destination by air, where it was enlarged and delivered to its recipient. V-Mail forms were available at any post office, and could be dropped into any mail box. 200,000 microfilm letters fit into one mailbag.

In 1942, it was also necessary for pilots to know how to dock and pilot airships, a skill now sadly lost.

There were several sorts of airships: non-rigid, pressure-rigid, rigid, and semi- rigid. There were airship stations, airship hulls, airship gangplanks, airship cabins, bumper bags, an aerostat center of buoyancy, bridles, axial cables, and bow-weighing devices. All of those long-lost definitions are described and illustrated in exquisite detail, straight from 1942 and those who lived it.

Jordanoff's Illustrated Aviation Dictionary, (1942). Offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of June 12, 2010.