Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Red...

...Fighter Pilot...the autobiography of Manfred Von Richtofen...aka The Red Baron.

I first became aware of this World War I flying Ace by reading the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz in the early 1960's.



My 10 year old self found it funny but confusing...had no idea why my favorite comic strip character's dog would be wearing goggles, scarf and helmet pretending to be flying his doghouse and shooting at a mythical opponent.

Then in 1966 I heard what became a very popular song courtesy of The Royal Guardsmen:

Snoopy vs The Red Baron 

(footnote: the German words at the beginning of the song - "AchtungJetzt wir singen zusammen die Geschichte über den schweinköpfigen Hund und den lieben Red Baron!". - translate to "Attention! We are now singing together the history of the pig-headed dog and the beloved Red Baron!")

At that point I decided the mystery deserved some investigation, so I pulled out my iPhone and googled The Red Baron...

Well, no I didn't...not in 1966.

Unlike today's world where the most un/misinformed generation of all time is surrounded by more information than at any point in human history and yet remains voluntarily mired in the slough of self-imposed ignorance (doubt me?  ask someone to tell you about Benghazi and brace yourself for their response of "Ben who?"), I didn't have fingertip access to every fact known to man.

So I hopped on the only vehicle available to me at that time...
loved that banana seat...ultra cool...
...and pedaled down the information superhighway (Linton Hill Road, Newtown, Pa) to the library, where I checked out a 1,000 page volume on World War I and The Red Baron.

Wow...was I ever surprised...over the course of several months and multiple library checkout renewals, I was mesmerized by stories of inhuman trench warfare, poison gas attacks, and the stalemate of the front lines...
 ...where wholesale slaughter of human beings, thousands at a time, became the norm for modern warfare.

I'd heard of "no man's land" before but didn't know what it was until I learned about opposing armies, dug into trenches surrounded by barbed wire, separated by a few hundred yards.

Every so often one side would begin shelling the other, and then launch a human wave attack where thousands of soldiers would rise up out of their trenches and race through "no man's land" to their certain death, getting hung up on the enemy's barbed wire and mowed down by machine gun fire.

In this manner five, ten, twenty thousand lives were squandered in a day with the result being the front lines rarely advanced or retreated more than a few dozen yards at a time.

In the context of this man made hell, aerial warfare arose.

At first it was little more than opposing biplane aircraft flying over enemy lines, photographing their trenches and armaments to be used as a means of aiming their artillery more accurately.

In the early days these daring pilots on opposite sides of the conflict might toss a respectful wave and salute as they buzzed past each other to reconnoiter their positions.

Eventually, as the horror of war became more prevalent, those chivalrous waves turned into potshots with handguns and eventually cockpit mounted machine gun fire.

The era of the aerial dogfight had arrived - do yourself a favor and watch the 1927 silent movie Wings -

- and the undisputed King of this airborne danse macabre...

...was Baron Manfred Von Richtofen, aka The Red Baron...so called bc his Fokker Triplane was painted a blood red:

The line from the Royal Guardsmen's song that "...80 men tried and 80 men died..." is statistical truth...that's how many official solo kills were credited to him.  Since a flyer only received credit for those downed aircraft that could be confirmed by ground forces, the reality is he probably shot down well over a hundred opposing aircraft.


The 2nd best WWI ace was Rene Fonck of France...
...credited with 72 solo victories.

His was a case where coming in 2nd to the Red Baron had the distinct advantage of him surviving the war, a feat which Von Richtofen did not achieve...he died in battle on April 21, 1918, seven short months before the end of WWI, while in pursuit of a British foe which took him well into enemy territory and too close to the ground. 

Thus the master of aerial warfare was ironically shot down by ground fire (most likely an Australian machine gunner, Sgt. Cedric Popkin).

The Red Fighter Pilot is an interesting read though no doubt heavily edited for propaganda purposes since of course the Baron was a national hero at the time it was published in 1917.

Even so it is an interesting insight into the man who excelled beyond his peers in the art and science of death in the skies.

Sobering.

later, mcm fans...


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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

And Finally...

...Spring...not sure who the robed gentleman is...perhaps a Druid celebrating the Spring Equinox?  An eclectic gathering at Stonehenge...kinda looks like the same group you might bump into at Wal-Mart...
In any event, Spring has finally sprung...insert excited "woo hoo" here.

Now if Mr. Weather will cooperate, we can get on with the business of having some warm and sunny...

This weekend I spotted this critter in the pre-dawn darkness...
...I could tell Mr. Fox was feeding on something and I had a sinking feeling it might be one of Karen's beloved felines, but no...both of them were safe and sound...

As a matter of fact, there's one of them now...

Of course Saturday was St. Patrick's Day...
...and a beautiful sunny day it was...so to celebrate our non-Irish roots Karen decided to work me like a borrowed mule outside on various and sundry spring cleanup jobs...lots of raking and hauling leaves and yard waste.
an actual photograph of yours truly celebrating yet another leaf pile...

Just before I collapsed in an exhausted heap she relented and we visited Boatwerks as a reward...
...no, it's not a place that makes boats...just a cool Chris-Craft wooden boat outside the restaurant...the good stuff was inside...
...dee-lish...

#1 son read my blog entry where I said I was stuck for ideas on writing, so he suggested a ripped from the headlines story about a transgender robot...
...in the future struggling with the pressures of dating / ghosting /mosting, learning to dance while being bullied, dealing with micro-aggressions and the ubiquitous need for safe spaces.

We agreed if I could work in overtones of man-hating and the cultural worship of diversity, this would be gold, Jerry!


Or at least gold-plated.

later, mcm fans...


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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Beware The Ides...

...of March Madness...with apologies to the Bard for misquoting his play, Julius Caesar.

Anyone out there paying attention to the NCAA tourney?

Nah, me neither...well, not much anyway...I'll check the results now and then.

There was a time when I thought I might follow it closely many moons ago...#3 son was invited to a varsity basketball camp at the end of his 8th grade year and ended up playing on the varsity team as a freshmen...he was a 6'4" fourteen year old with good quickness and a feel for the game...scored the first points in an overtime win during the regional championship game that year.

He grew to be a 6'6" three sport athlete who was voted Athlete of the Year his senior year, and had his pick of several college scholarships in multiple sports.

But in the end he turned out to be a graduate of the Tom Selleck school of sports philosophy as articulated in his great flick, Mr. Baseball:
And what is that philosophy you ask?  Simple: <insert your sport name here> is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

Baseball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun...
Football is a game, and games are supposed to be fun...

...and the one that ended up hurting him the most...

Basketball is a game, and games are supposed to be fun...

When everyone around him got so serious about it, it stopped being fun and he was finally able to just let it go and move on with real life.

That's The Big O, Oscar Robertson himself, by the way...in the top picture...playing for the University of Cincinnati against Kansas, 1959, Regional championship game.

In the spirit of randomness...here's a pic of the ol' homestead...
...all lit up at night...for no particular reason other than I like the way it looks...

So we're less than a week away from the official start of Spring but it sure feels like winter 'round these parts...snow flurries and temps in the 20's...need someone to deliver the knockout blow to Ol' Man Winter...
It's impressive what an artist can do with a bunch of snow stuck to a tree...just a few well placed strokes here and there with a gloved finger and voila!  Ol' Man Winter...

Continuing with my trip down memory lane, another favorite from years gone by...
...she's such a doll...

A little bit at loose ends again, and I'm pretty sure it's because I'm not actively writing anything at the moment (well, other than this blog and a few programs at work).

A couple of ideas percolating, but not enough steam under them yet to push them out of my brain, into my fingers and onto the digital page.

I kind of think I'm going to pen the 6th Papa's Model T book...I've got the sports piece pretty well in hand...
...but struggling to find the main story / conflict...have started a couple of times but discarded early efforts.  We press on...

Came across this old midcentury modern ad for a local icon...
pretty cool...still going strong today...

During a recent conversation with #1 son he told me about buying a picture for his office...an artist's rendering of the great pugilistic battle between Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler, and Luis Angel Firpo from Argentina, the Wild Bull of the Pampas:
That is a spectacular rendering of this classic fight by artist George Bellows, who died just a year after painting this scene.

This epic battle took place place on September 14, 1923 at the Polo Grounds in New York City, and no one had ever seen anything like it before.  The challenger Firpo went down 7 times in the first round, and one of those times it looked like he was out for sure.

But each time he beat the count, got up and jumped back into the fray until he finally unleashed a vicious series of devastating punches that knocked the champ right out of the ring!

And all of this happened in the first round!

Dempsey v Firpo

Dempsey went on to knock Firpo out in the 2nd round, but this is one bout where handing out participation medals and calling both men a winner would have seemed just fine.

As we discussed the wild wild west that was the 1920's sports scene I reminded him that Papa X and Ike had witnessed another great Dempsey bout, the famous long count fight with Gene Tunney (Papa's Model T: The Long Count).
He suggested perhaps Papa X could use his time travel to change history by fixing the fight so Dempsey actually won.  After all, Tunney was in fact down for 15 seconds and you're officially out at the count of 10.

I agreed if I got rid of the moral element in my Papa's Model T books that would give me a wider audience that could even include democrats...

...but I think I'll keep them as they are for now...

Somehow we got onto the subject of land ownership, and I was reminded of an old joke I heard my father tell about the relative value of land.

This happened many moons ago during a family reunion in the great state of Texas...would have been early 1960's:

Three ranchers were bragging about how big their spreads were.

The rancher from Colorado said, "I own the Circle R ranch and have 2,000 acres and 1,000 head of cattle."


The rancher from Montana scoffed.  "That's nothin', I own the Flying T ranch and I've got 3,000 acres and 2,000 head of cattle."


The Texas rancher spit a stream of brown tobacco juice and drawled, "Well I guess y'all got me beat...all I own is 5 acres."

The other two laughed derisively.  "5 acres?  Some ranch!  Where is it, anyway?"

"Downtown Dallas," Tex replied.

later, mcm fans...

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

My New Hobby...

...Ice Sculpting...I call this one "Circle"...

Here's another view...
...and don't think all I did was lift some frozen ice off the top of a garbage can filled with water...it's much more involved than that...but as with magicians, the international brotherhood of ice sculptors are sworn to secrecy re: our methods and procedures, which is why you never see anyone ice sculpting in public...
...well, almost never...he was most likely disbarred from the brotherhood...

Anyway, since I see this morning it's only 22 degrees outside and I forgot to empty the garbage can of snow melt runoff from our roof, I may go do a little more ice sculpting pretty soon...

Did you remember to spring forward this morning?
Normally I detest this spring time ritual for the obvious reason my body is not fooled when the alarm goes off in the morning...the clock may say it's 4:30 but my body knows it's really 3:30...

...but this year I'm in the mood to overlook that issue for the benefit of it being light later in the evening...sunset just jumped from 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm...nice...now if Mr. Temperature will cooperate and do the same, I might be able to get outside and swing my hickories pretty soon...

Wasted a a few bucks and a couple of hours last night watching Woody Allen's latest effort, Wonder Wheel...
...and while this one is visually interesting and well acted - especially by Kate Winslett as a desperately unhappy, emotionally volatile wreck of a woman - there's little to redeem this foray into the seedy lower rungs of economic bottom feeders.

We knew before we rented it that it was widely panned by the critics - often an indication it might be a pretty good flick - but this time, surprisingly, the critics got it right.  I agree with what one of them wrote...it's entertaining but not enlightening.

Besides some of the heavy handed symbolism -

Justin Timberlake plays a lifeguard who becomes involved with Winslett's character - she's drowning in a sea of unhappiness and he's a lifeguard come to rescue her - get it?? - please...

- it's just an unrelentingly grim and hopeless retelling of people screwing up their lives and going nowhere but down.

If I wanted a documentary of the carnie life, I'd rent one - but movies - good ones, anyway - should introduce you to characters you can care about and show them confronting a challenge in life.

This one has all the appeal of watching footage of people being swept away by a tidal wave of poor choices.

About the only uplifting part of this movie is the music, and especially the 1932 recording of the Mills Brothers singing "Coney Island Washboard"...

Coney Island Washboard

...it was a #1 hit for them then, and though it predates the time frame of the movie by 20 years, it's still very apropos.

An interesting footnote to their classic is the only instrument heard in the song is a guitar, all other instrumental sounds are made by the Brothers themselves. 

That lone sweet spot aside, the rest of the movie is akin to enduring a root canal...grip the chair arms and hang on until the end.

Unless you're simply too happy all the time and are looking for some way to take the edge off your constant natural high, avoid this one...it's a stinker.
Been digging into the photo archives lately and came across another favorite...this one of Karen and me right after we tied the knot and just before we left for our honeymoon...
...my word that woman is beautiful...how did she end up with me?  now that was a pretty good day...

And speaking of weddings, I heard from #1 son the other day that his oldest daughter - the one in the Navy Ceremonial Guard, stationed in Washington, D.C. - just got married...she informed everyone after the fact, which made me laugh.

I've known of so many wedding situations through the years where the woman has completely bought into the "Say Yes To The Dress" / "Queen For A Day" concept - and they busily - and expensively - create a monument to ego.  Look!  It's the Wonder of Me!

But Tionna and her beau waltzed down to the Justice of the Peace, got hitched, and are on with married life.
Here's wishing them a long, happy and fruitful union.

later, mcm fans...


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Friday, March 9, 2018

Happy Birthday...

...Barbie...March 9th, 1959, The American Toy Fair in New York City...

The original #1 1959 Barbie doll (full name: Barbie Millicent Roberts; hometown: Willows, Wisconsin) was 11" tall and the first mass produced toy doll with adult features.  Prior to her introduction, dolls were typically babies or children.

However, Ruth Handler, co-founder with her husband of Mattel in 1945, noticed her daughter (Barbara!) playing with paper dolls cut to look like adults.

That, I suppose, it's what's known as inspiration.  Well, that and an already in production German doll known as "Lilli"...
...based on a cartoon strip that ran in a German tabloid, "Bild".

Look familiar?

Even if you don't understand German, I'm sure you can get the gist of the cartoon strip...Lilli was a racy, high end call girl type, and the one panel cartoon always showed off her long legs, curves and her wit.

In one she's wearing a bikini and a German policeman has just told her bikinis are not allowed in public so she'll have to take it off, to which she replies, "Oh?  And which part would you like me to remove?"

The comic strip was so popular they made Lilli dolls that were marketed to men and sold in tobacco and liquor shops...they were made to be hung from the rearview mirror in your volkswagen...

So the entrepreneurial Ms. Handler bought the rights to Lilli, tweaked her a bit (not much, obviously) and marketed her to American girls.  (In fact, Mattel became the first toy company to advertise specifically to kids when they bought commercial time on the Mickey Mouse Club show.)

Let the controversy begin...some folks said it was great that girls had a beautiful role model that worked as an airline stewardess, doctor, pilot, etc...

...while others bemoaned the emphasis on physical beauty and material possessions (you have to admit, she had a hot ride and lived in cool digs...)

No matter what your opinion is, Barbie was a smash success.

At a time when you could buy a gallon of gas for 25 cents and the average annual wage was $5,000...

...you could buy a Barbie doll for $3.00 and they've sold millions of them through the years.

Of course today you'll need a few more greenbacks if you want to own an original 1959 #1 Barbie.  Depending on condition and accessories, you'll shell out anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000.

Ladies, kind of makes you wish you'd held onto her and taken a little better care of her when Mom gave you one back in 1959, hey?

Anyway, happy Birthday Barbie...
...looking fine at 59...but p.s., you can do a lot better than Ken...

later, mcm fans...


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