Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our Newest Ranger

When my daughter was dating, I did my best to not get involved. It drove Mrs. T nuts. "Why don't you get to know that lad", she'd ask. "Someday I'll be told to know this one, until then my mind is an empty vessel" and so it was.

Same thing with my bonus daughter. She's show up with one pimply faced, beer stealing dweeb after another, and I'd wonder to myself, as only a bonus dad can or should do.

But one was different. You could see it in his eyes. Barely old enough to drive, the kid had fire. He was going places, he knew it, and made certain all around him knew it to.

High school over, they drifted apart and went their separate ways for college, she to Boston, he took an Army scholarship to the Virginia Military Institute. Last May, he graduated near the top of his class and was commissioned an Army second lieutenant.

He never lost that look.

For the past 2+ months he has been in an intense training course. Friday he will be certified by the Army as Ranger Ready and will have earned the tan beret of an Army Ranger, a member of a very elite military organization.

I always liked that boy. I'm proud of him, and proud to know him. His troops are in good hands.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday- Jaguar XK-E

1961 was an optimistic year in the UK. The last of the war ration restrictions were lifted, automakers were once again busy, the swinging sixties would usher in the golden age of the British motorcar. At the Geneva Auto Show in March, 1961 Jaguar introduced the XK-E type, which immediately won "Best car of the show" honors.

Derived from the Le Mans winning D Type

The Jaguar E Type was the best of cars, it was the worst of cars.

The good parts. The E type roadster is stunningly beautiful. Nothing looked like it, its 3.8 litre 6 cylinder OHC engine was a reliable work horse which sounded great, top speed was advertised at 150 MPH. The interior was comfortable and well laid out.

Just enough useful storage was on hand to make it semi-practical, and at 1500 GBP ($7000 US) a good value for such a stunning car.

The Bad parts: The car was built for export, in a hurry. Jaguar relied on their customers to work the kinks out, and to tell the factory what worked and didn't, although they were too busy building cars to pay much attention. Like most pre-Ford Jags reliability was never taken seriously. Dealer support near non existent. Owners reported the sound of rust eating their car kept them up nights, disturbing their slumbers.

Automobile aerodynamics was an unheard of field in 1961. Clever engineers would test designs using skills they learned on aircraft during the war, but no one took it very seriously. It's a shame, for the E type Jag for all its flowing lines is a brick.

Long ago, I had dinner with former Managing Director, Lofty England, and asked him why they built such crap. His honest reply was that they were afraid to slow down. He then asked me why Americans were so interested in such old cars. I've had 2 Jags but never had an E. It's a car I would like to have in the garage, if only to remind me of Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, or the 72 NHL Champion Boston Bruin line, Bob (Orr) and Carol (Vadnais) and Ted (Green) and Dallas (Smith) but have no desire to own.

Should you be interested, every single part, of every E type, and all post war Jags is available for sale, at mostly not unreasonable prices. But you knew that.

Happy 50th. I wish I looked as good.

Monday, March 28, 2011

70 years ago today

Virginia Woolf died.

I know more about her life and death via Vita Sackville-West than through her literature, A Room of One's Own being the only work of hers I've completed. Orlando and Flush I've begun many times yet they remain unfinished. I'll work harder this year. Secretly, I wonder if she represents that part of the canon more readers claim to have read than have actually done so. Is that a male point of view, or just plain stupid. I'd admit to either, and would appreciate a guiding light.

Knowing you're becoming unhinged is a terrible cross to bear.

In her last note to her husband she wrote:

Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.

Virginia then put on her overcoat, filled the pockets with stones and walked into the nearby River Ouse. Her body wasn't recovered for 3 weeks. Hopefully, she found the peace she searched so long for.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

In like a lion...

View from my chambers, 26 March

Out the front door... Saturday

Last weekend near 80 (26C). Yesterday 32 and snow (0). Seems backwards to me.


Thank you, Flo

The purple turtleneck you recommended has been here several weeks but I saved it for my birthday. Great choice!

The Toole's- redux

statue of Ignatius J. Reilly

I understand from learned friends that winning a Pulitzer prize requires more than talent. It takes a champion, and a great deal of luck. Winning posthumously magnifies the difficulty. Winning 12 years after your death is unheard of.

Forty two years ago this weekend, John Kennedy Toole, a young, unpublished writer, overcome by migraines, depression and a liquid diet, decided that Biloxi, Mississippi was as good a place as any to end it all. I was in Biloxi at the time, fighting the battle of Keesler AFB, and wouldn't have disagreed.

Ten years later,his mother Thelma, found a smeared carbon copy of her son's unpublished novel in a drawer. Only through her determination, and regularly badgering Walker Percy to read her son's novel, Mr. Percy's unexpected understanding of the inherent worth of the work, and push to have it published, led to Ken Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" eventual status as an American classic novel.

For this we thank a mother's love and what a piece of work she was. At best narcissistic, at worst wildly eccentric, she had a brief career appearing on afternoon and late night television shows, regaling all who would listen with stories of her now famous son. It is said she never told the same story, the same way, twice.

After appearing on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show, she returned to her hotel room to watch the program. She told interviewers " that she would love to meet the woman on the show. She seemed so nice." Snyder invited her back on the show, suggesting he would provide drinks and snacks. " Only Champagne Tom", she replied, "I'm not just someone you can drag in off the streets." Eventually, the real Toole became unknowable. His mother's hagiography obliterated most of the real man behind the words.

If somehow you haven't read it, please do. Pour a cold drink,wear a white suit, pretend you are in New Orleans, and let the story take over.

Ken where ever you are, thank you.

British friends: don't forget your clocks!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I once heard said that one thing that distinguishes Southerners is they know where their grandparents are buried. That hurt. I barely claim Southerness, but there are a few things every man should know, this is one and I don't.

I know where my parents are buried. I know where my paternal grandfather is, but hadn't a clue where my other 3 grandparents were. I became a man on a mission.

Beginning with the obvious, I went to visit Grandpa, hoping for clues. My parents didn't talk of their parents. Their mothers died much too early, their fathers sad, old men before their time, working too hard, for too little.

My paternal grandfather is buried in a cemetery which was formerly a family farm owned by Henry Clay. After a 1848 cholera epidemic, church yards in the city were closed, and new cemeteries were built taking advantage of the then new, garden plan, outside city limits. Today, it's a neighborhood few would linger, but I did, and am glad of it.

Although I hadn't been there in 40 years, I found Grandpa pretty quickly. Unsurprisingly, his wife and parents are there too. While I always think of myself as the oldest sibling, my parents had a son before me who died soon after birth. He too is buried there. We have the exact name. Looking at your name on a tombstone is eerie at my age. Little Toad is buried next to my great grandmother.

On great grandmother's other side is lies my first wife's, the mother of my children's, great grandmother. A coincidence more likely found in a small village than in a once thriving metropolis. Are marriages made in heaven?

Nearby, lie my kids maternal great grandparents as well.

That part was easy so I took a stroll to see who else lived in the neighborhood.

A few steps away is birthday boy, Tennessee Williams, who is celebrating his 100th today.

and his mother, sister Rose and brother Dakin. Dakin was a neighbor in our old 'hood before we moved.

I always thought of him as his generation's Ringo. He'd attend an envelope opening if money passed.

I much prefer his brother. TCM has broadcast several movies made from his work this week. Is anything creepier than Baby Doll?

Dear to any Southerner's heart, a short walk up the road leads to the final resting place of General William T. Sherman, scourge of Georgia, along with his wife and children.

Directly across the road lie 2 other Generals from the war of Union aggression, 1 from each side.

General Daniel M. Frost,CSA

and General John Wesley Turner, USA

You pass Dred Scott on your way out.

Keep walking and you run into Charles and Ray Eames. I had forgotten they were local kids.

Male that I am, what may surprise many, is that while there I did ASK the concierge about my maternal grandparents. Turns out they too are here and doing well, although they don't get out much. Proof positive I know where my grandparents and half of my great grandparents are buried. Can one become Southern? I passed the test.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Quarter day

"Justice delayed is injustice."

The above quote from the Magna Carta, is the foundation of English and later American common law. The rule of law requires a day of reckoning must come, sooner rather than later. Debts need be paid, trials held, unresolved conflicts settled. The ever practical British established Quarter Days to codify when justice was to be served.

Quarter Days fall every 3 months, on or near religious holidays falling near an equinox or solstice. Today marks the first quarter day of the year. While its use has diminished over time, it the day set aside to pay rent, hire servants, to settle accounts.

The 4 English quarter days are:
Lady's Day - March 25
Midsummer day = June 24
Michaelmas - September 29
Christmas - December 25

The March Quarter Day has historically been the least favored. In the old calendar it marked the beginning of the English tax year. Prior to the end of WW2, in a rural farming village, the cupboard was bare by the end of March. Rent and debt payments may be due, but last years crop had been long sold, and this year's lambs too young to sell. Farmers are unwilling or unable to sell their seed. It was a black day indeed.

So what is Lady's Day?

Lady's Day, also known as Annunciation Day, and/or Incarnation Day, falls exactly 9 months before Christmas. It's was a date set aside by the Roman church to honor the mother of Jesus.

When the Roman church ruled the world, the calendar in use declared March 25 the first day of the new year, so Happy New Year to each and every one of you. In 1582 the beloved Georgian calendar took effect, restoring January 1 as the beginning of the new year.

Remember your early American history class and George Washington's birthday celebrations? George's big day used to be one date, then the calendar changed and became another? The Brits didn't change to the Georgian calendar until 1752 which is why George's birthday and tax day moved.

Knowing that, those who have read this far, and who have the slightest understanding of Latin will now be able to explain to their loved ones how/why the positioning of months September-December are out of synch with their names.

on the re-anniversary of his 39th birthday and the Suburban Princess's 25th

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Only in England - The Tichborne dole

Tichborne Dole-1671

As the New Yorker says, there will always be an England. This is one of the thousands of reasons why.

The Tichborne dole, predating the Plague by 200 years, dates from 1150 during the reign of England's King Henry II (1133-89).

Held every Lady's Day, March 25th, regardless of the day of the week, some two tons of high-grade self-raising flour is dispensed. Villagers bring carrier bags, pillow cases and any other suitable receptacle. Their booty - a family of six merits the maximum of 28lbs - is particularly welcome to the elderly and needy. Only those families in Tichborne, Cheriton and Lane End are entitled to play.

Before the flour is apportioned it is blessed and the huge flour box is sprinkled with incense and holy water. Then a blessing is made on the soul of Lady Mabel Tichborne, who started it all.

Lady Mabel, a woman noted for her charity and piety, was married to Roger de Tichborne (the Tichborne's and their descendants have owned Tichborne Manor since 909). Roger, was her opposite. Even the imminent death of his wife failed to arouse his compassion.

Mabel's last request that the value of a small portion of the Tichborne estates be given annually to the poor of the parish in the form of a dole, was poorly received. No supporter of charity, Roger answered his dying wife's plea by saying that he would agree to give every year, the value of as much land as she could encircle while holding a burning torch to light her way. March being windy, she being lame and near death, Roger felt he was playing a strong hand.

Marabel's curse

Legend has it that the wind abated, as Mabel crawled around 23 acres of land, while carrying the burning ember, after which she charged her husband and his heirs to forever give the produce value of that land to the poor. To this day there is a a field at Tichborne known as "The Crawls."

Mabel added a rider to her demand. She said that should the dole ever be stopped then seven sons would be born to the house, followed immediately by a generation of seven daughters, after which the name would die out and the ancient house fall into ruin.

The custom of giving the dole, in the form of bread, continued unbroken until 1794, when having had forgotten the curse, Sir Henry Tichborne, father of seven sons, stopped the dole.

In 1802, George, his sixth son, died at the age of 13; and the same year the old house partly fell and was partly pulled down. Four years later, John, the fifth son died unmarried in the East Indies. Another four years saw Benjamin, the second son, die in China. He, too, had been a bachelor. A few years later, seventh son Roger died. He was married without children. However, Henry, the eldest son, managed to father seven children - all girls.

Edward, the third son, changed his name to Doughty in 1826. He produced the male heir so badly needed. But in 1835 his son, the six-year-old Henry suddenly died. Edward Doughty immediately revived the Dole.

James, the fourth son, had married in 1827 and produced two sons, one born before and the other after the restoration of the Dole. The eldest, Roger Charles Tichborne, was lost at sea in 1845.

Alfred Joseph, the youngest of James's sons, born after the revival, was the only one to survive Mabel's deathbed curse. The family line continued until July 1968 when the last Baronet, Sir Anthony Doughty-Tichborne died without a male descendant. The family estate has since passed through the female line, and the crumbling manor house is now available for rent. Death duties and divorce are taking their toll. Yet the dole will be held tomorrow.

True story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Reaction- polo drivers

My first reaction is that they are beautiful. The linen is more tan than the photo shows, great with Khaki's, not so much with whites.

Soft, pliable, great smelling leather.

No roll, Flo.

Overall a great driving shoe.

Only one minor criticism, and I'll wait till morning, and try again before deciding what to do.

I ordered in "my" size.

I may need a whole size more. We'll see.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jersey Circus

I suspect more than a few of you are more than a little bent. Those less twisted may find Jersey Circus a bit suspect.

Just sayin'

Monday, March 21, 2011

Save me, Please

Someone buy this please and save me from temptation. Buy it now $134.99 US.


POLO men's spring/summer shoes

Spring (or fall) has sprung, hallelujah!

How was the full moon? It rained here, so we missed it. It did get me thinking of all the Merlin's eons ago building their solar temples to gods long forgotten. How many waited all year for the equinox or solstice's first light, vital for placement of the all important observatory, only for the day to be overcast?

Overseer at Stonehenge telling the boys to go away until next year, maybe they'll have better luck. Until then, Merlin is on notice.

I suspect he probably got one pass, then off with his head. Who needs a cursed magician?

Now that it's Spring we can think seriously about spring raiment. Today I'm thinking shoes.

Of the many catalogs which windup here, the most like those found in airplane seat backs is Herrington's. Treasures from all corners of the earth. Treasures you are amazed you ever lived without. Treasures, and the occasional odd useful item.

Saturday's catalog had a load of Ralph's pretty good penny loafer driving mocs, in a wide variety of sizes and colors. An arguable bargain at only $99.

If you self tan, you may appreciate a pair in Porsche Orange.

I wanted the green suede but popped for the Brown/Linen number.

Happy days are here again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Things to discuss this weekend

Why, since listening to children scream and shout at one another hurts our heads and heart do we calm ourselves by turning on the television to watch rich folk scream and shout?

Why do editors no longer edit for content?

On Feb 22 Nat Geo speculated that a small nuclear war could lower global warming for years. Should we thank the Japanese nuclear energy industry for their sacrifice?

Suppose Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, any Kardashian or (name your own) were never heard from again?

Of all who ever lived, who would you want to have a long lingering lunch with?

With your mate's acquiescence, would you hook up with your first love for a weekend?

Might Earth be some other planet's hell?

How has social networking made you a better person?

As Cole Porter wrote: "Good authors too who once knew better words, Now only use four letter words, Writing prose, Anything Goes". But are we better for it?.

Is religion a necessity for belief in god?

Discuss amongst yourselves, and enjoy your weekend.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Understanding the US

I began writing this post as a private joke, however the deeper I got, the less funny and more creepy it became. Let's see what you think.

If you are not from here, America can be an incredibly hard idea to wrap your head around. We are hypocritical, we are rich, we are poor, we are libertines, we are puritans, peace lovers and war-mongers. We have the best colleges in the world and so so education below that. We're neither pushed, pulled, stressed or strained,bent, folded or mutilated. When left alone, the place works.

For all that we are, may be or want to be, there is one single map, one picture which explains in black and white or color all a non native would need or want to know about the US. It may be the single best road map to find people just like you. The telling thing is that for almost whatever topic you pick, be it political party affiliation, religious belief, support for Nascar, education level, health, wealth, teen age birth rate or number of vegetarians, the same map holds. The map above. This is a near constant in America. There's them, and then there is us.

Flummory, you say?

Let's see some examples:

"Correlation does not imply causation" is today's lesson. Repeat this mantra often, it's calming.

The high percentage of passport holders in the Mexico/Canadian border states reflects that a US passport is necessary to travel to and from those countries. Also, there are large numbers of naturalized citizens in those states.

map of private health insurance holders

map of life expectancy

Map of Prosperity levels

The diabetes map, in many ways reflects relative poverty levels. It also shows the likelihood of finding something good to eat nearby.

Church membership

Political Party affiliation by state

map of evangelical church membership

Region of Family Ancestry

Unemployment, gun permits, Muslim centers... Admittedly some of the maps show both sides of the same coin, but anyway you slice it, endemic regional poverty is a blight on the US.

Late in my explorations I came across the Mapping the Measure of America web site. I am a map junkie, and know nothing of the sponsors of the site, but found it fascinating just the same.