Friday Reads: Cold Weather Distractions

winter moonlightGood Morning!

I’ve been trying to find some distractions recently.  I’m going through one of those periods where I’d rather hole up and not see what’s going on around me.  I’ll snap out of it once we’re passed 12th night and the carnival season ramps up.  It’s difficult to ignore random parades and continual parties. I love the season up until about the last two weeks when the tourists come and the celebration becomes less personal and a lot more fake.

So, here’s a few things to keep you distracted.

Evidently, some one decided to keep track of bizarre deaths listed in news papers from the Victorian Era. Some of them are really strange.

An equation familiar to anyone who’s sat through a few old episodes of Tom and Jerry. Women + Mice = localised uproar. It’s a sexist old TV trope, of course, but it played out for real in England in 1875, when a mouse dashed suddenly on to a work table in a south London factory.

Into the general commotion which followed, a gallant young man stepped forward and seized the rodent. For a glorious moment, he was the saviour of the women who’d scattered. It didn’t last. The mouse slipped out of his grasp, ran up his sleeve and scurried out again at the open neck of his shirt. In his surprise, his mouth was agape. In its surprise, the mouse dashed in. In his continued surprise, the man swallowed.

“That a mouse can exist for a considerable time without much air has long been a popular belief and was unfortunately proved to be a fact in the present instance,” noted the Manchester Evening News, “for the mouse began to tear and bite inside the man’s throat and chest, and the result was that the unfortunate fellow died after a little time in horrible agony.”

That was a follow up to this weird list of 10 dangerous things found in Victorian and Edwardian homes.

When basic staples like bread started to be produced cheaply and in large quantities for the new city dwellers, Victorian manufacturers seized on the opportunity to maximise profit by switching ingredients for cheaper substitutes that would add weight and bulk. Bread was adulterated with plaster of Paris, bean flour, chalk or alum. Alum is an aluminium-based compound, today used in detergent, but then it was used to make bread desirably whiter and heavier. Not only did such adulteration lead to problems of malnutrition, but alum produced bowel problems and constipation or chronic diarrhoea, which was often fatal for children.

Aren’t you a little more appreciative of government regulations and inspections now? Well, there’s a lot of defunding of basic public goods going on.  Here’s one weird little story.the white hotel

A small town in Oregon has become the victim of so much austerity that it’s police department has become completely dysfunctional. So, they’re relying on private posses now.  That sounds like a town that some one like George Zimmerman would just love.

The North Valley Community Watch (NVCW,) a private volunteer public safety group in northern Josephine County, has announced plans to attempt to “fill the gaps” left in law enforcement, which have come about as a result of recent budget cuts related to the ongoing deficit reduction. The group, of which many of it’s members perform their self assumed law enforcement support roles armed, are expanding on the duties more typically performed by community watch organizations, by actively responding to calls as police might normally. Following the end to federal subsidies which sought to promote timber harvesting while balancing the costs derived from their own environmental regulations, the largely rural Josephine County found itself facing a revenue crisis similar to many going on throughout the nation. After a vote seeking to raise revenues failed, the Sheriff’s office released as statement announcing that it would only be able to respond to “life threatening situations” and went on to advise that those who feared they were in danger to consider relocating. In response, former Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Selig, who lost his position as a result of the cuts, formed the NVCW with friend Pete Scaglioni. In addition to the standard patrols and flier circulations that community watch groups are know for however, Selig and Scaglioni are looking now to take neighborhood watch duties to the next level by creating a “response team” of, sometimes armed, civilian first responders to respond to burglaries and other suspected crimes. While the effort of private citizens to assume public duties in the absence of sworn law enforcement personnel is admirable, many, including County Commissioner Keith Heck, are worried that the forming of private posses like these could lead to “aggressive” behavior and dangerous situations.

charles-burchfield1893-1967street-vista-in-winter-1360520143_bThe Cleveland Public Library has discovered a lost first edition of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

Cleveland librarian Kelly Brown had far more modest plans when she first began collecting items for a holiday traditions display at the Cleveland Public Library. But when she began poking around the stacks, she stumbled on a fairly unexpected Yuletide surprise: a first-edition copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The leather-bound book, donated at one point but soon forgotten about, is one of only 6,000 first-run copies printed on Dec. 17, 1843. At the time, it cost a modest 5 shillings. In the last few years, first editions have sold at auction for several thousand dollars.

The newly discovered first edition may have been too valuable to make it into the library’s final display, but curious visitors can go visit the rare book in the library’s special collections department. “The Cleveland Public Library is a library, not a museum, so you actually could come here and sit with it if you wanted to,” Brown told Cleveland’s Fox 8.

The relations between the Japanese and Chinese have not been good recently. Japanese PM Abe has visited a shrine to Japanese soldiers from World War 2 that has them really upset.  It’s also upset the Koreans.  So, what’s the deal?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has enraged the Chinese and South Korean governments and ignited – no surprise – a firestorm of protest across Asia. The shrine, which honors more than a thousand indicted war criminals who took part in Japan’s disastrous war in Asia, remains a place of fascination for Japanese rightists, who persist in claiming that Japan’s war in Asia was a war of liberation against Western imperialism.

This claim sounds particularly hollow in China and Korea, which suffered horrifically from Imperial Japan’s invasion and occupation of much of Asia. Yet there has always been a jarring element in official Chinese protests against the Yasukuni Shrine visits. Such visits are condemned as insensitive to the feelings of the Chinese people. But, just as Japanese conservatives are rightly taken to task for refusing to acknowledge the horrors of their country’s colonialist past, so China would do well to expand discussion of its own wartime history at home.

For many decades, under Mao Zedong, the only acceptable version of China’s wartime experience was that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) spearheaded the resistance against the Japanese, honing its armies while preparing one of the world’s most significant social revolutions. Meanwhile, China’s Nationalist (Kuomintang) government under Chiang Kai-shek, weakened by incompetence and corruption, did little to oppose the Japanese.

Yet, in recent years, research from China itself has shown the enormous scale and cost of the war against Japan. Fourteen million or more Chinese were killed from 1937 to 1945, and 80-100 million became refugees. And the invasion destroyed China’s roads, railways, and factories.

But other significant changes also began to occur during that period. As the bombs fell on China’s wartime Nationalist capital, Chongqing, the social contract between state and society became more important. The state demanded more from its people, including conscription and ever-higher taxes; but the people also began to demand more from their government, including adequate food provision, hygiene, and medical care. To understand why the war changed China so profoundly, historians had to move away from treating the 1937-1945 period as a simple story of an inevitable Communist victory.

Thus, in the last two decades, China has started remembering its own war history anew.

That’s the background, here’s the current controversy.

Chinese newspapers rounded on the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Friday, describing his visit to the Yasukuni war 1298449441_large-image_charles_burchfield_houses_in_snowy_winter_landscape_1920_023_oil_painting_largedead shrine as “paying homage to devils” and warning that China had the ability to crush “provocative militarism”.

On Thursday Abe visited Yasukuni, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal after the second world war are honoured along with those who died in battle. The move has infuriated China and South Korea, both of which were occupied by Japanese forces until the end of the war, and prompted concern from the United States about deteriorating ties between the Asian neighbours.

In an editorial headlined “Abe’s paying homage to the devils makes people outraged”, the People’s Liberation Army Daily said Abe’s actions had “seriously undermined the stability of the region”.

“On one hand, Abe is paying homage to war criminals, and on the other hand he talks about improving relations with China, South Korea and other countries,” the newspaper said. “It is simply a sham, a mouthful of lies.

“Today, the Chinese people have the ability to defend peace and they have a greater ability to stop all provocative militarism.”

In a separate commentary published under the pen name Zhong Sheng, or “voice of China”, the Communist Party’s People’s Daily said: “History tells us that if people do not correctly understand the evils of the fascist war, cannot reflect on war crimes, a country can never [achieve] true rejuvenation.”


I decided to feature the artwork of Charles Burchfield.  Some of his paintings of winter scenes are really fanciful.  I’ve always been fascinated by his work.  Many of his paintings of trees and nature look like images of natural cathedrals.

Charles Burchfield was one of the most inventive American artists of the twentieth century. Throughout most of his career, watercolor was his medium of choice, sometimes used in combination with gouache, graphite, charcoal, conté crayon, chalk, or pastel. During Burchfield’s lifetime three major periods in his work were generally acknowledged: an early period dating from roughly 1915 to 1921 when landscape was often treated in metaphysical, fantastic ways; a middle period dating from the early 1920s to the 1940s when realism reigned; and a late period which marked a return to a transcendental, mystical perspective. Some recent scholarship has challenged this view, emphasizing instead qualities evident throughout Burchfield’s entire career: his consistent aesthetic and cultural point of view, his desire to work from familiar surroundings, and the deep personal symbolism of his works, which probed the mysteries of nature in an attempt to reveal his inner emotions.

So, that’s a little bit of the bizarre news from me.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Oh, and here’s a little music for our Republican Friends:  Fitz and the Tantrums doing “Money Grabber” in honor of them stealing food from children and unemployment insurance from the long term jobless during their sacred Christmas Season.  I’m still looking for the part in the new testament where Jesus said starve the hungry and fuck little children.  I must have a bad copy or something. Oh, and ending benefits will actually cost us more in economic activity than it will save us in deficit spending.   You’re a bunch of mean one’s Republican Grinches!


32 Comments on “Friday Reads: Cold Weather Distractions”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for the post, Dak.

    The story about the first edition copy of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is great. I just hope the library didn’t put any stamps and glue on it. Then it would be worth almost nothing. It sounds like it was in the donated books room, so maybe it’s undamaged. I hope so.

  2. Morning everyone, I hope y’all are staying warm and well…sorry for the hit and runs lately, but it is very busy and Bebe is still very sick. Taking her back to doctor today.

    It’s worth thinking about how we treat people who have no roof over their heads | Opinion | McClatchy DC

    Recently, in my old hometown in Montana, a man died of exposure. According to news reports, he was a Wal-Mart employee in the town of Miles City, homeless and living in his car when the weather plunged to 27 degrees below zero.

    We tend to shrug off the homeless when we see them pushing their shopping carts or holding up signs asking for money. They’re mentally ill, we assume, or drug addicts. But I know from experience that a lot of the homeless are like that man in Montana: struggling to make it but not quite able to.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Breaking news . . .

    A federal judge ruled Friday that the National Security Agency phone surveillance program first revealed in documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is legal.

    The ruling grants the federal government’s motion to dismiss a challenge brought by civil liberties groups that sought to end the program.

    For more information…

    • bostonboomer says:

      CNN story: NSA gets win in court over bulk data collection

      People who want changes in how phone company data is treated should tell their Congresspeople to get off their asses and change the laws. This is going to have to go to SCOTUS, and who knows what they’ll do? It’s time for legislative solutions to this–and to our economic problems too!

      • bostonboomer says:

        • NW Luna says:

          I do think the NSA does far too much spying on Americans, is likely inefficient, and the existing safeguards are far too weak.

          But trashing a judge’s Wikipedia page does nothing to safeguard privacy. It only shows how sophomoric the trashers are.

          • bostonboomer says:

            If only we had more mature people fighting the battle against domestic spying. That would make me very happy. It would also help if they would report on what is actually happening instead of what could happen but isn’t.

            Unfortunately, Greenwald and colleagues are still reporting on U.S. security agreements with other countries which are legal and necessary. I would like to get some specific information on domestic spying. I’d particularly be interested if they would expose government spying on peaceful organizing. But Greenwald and Poitras don’t seem very interested in the domestic aspect of the problem. Maybe it’s because they don’t live in the U.S.

          • RalphB says:

            BB, what Greenwald and Poitras are doing fits well with Schindler’s idea that this is really not about whistle blowing at all but rather is a foreign intelligence operation. There’s not other reason to release the information on our agreements with other countries unless your goal is primarily to harm the US and our interests abroad.

      • Fannie says:

        I always get info on some sort of petition, don’t always agree with them, but some I do sign, and you are right Bostonboomer, we need public input change and make laws, and we better get to work on jobs.

  4. Fannie says:

    I always love a walk back to the Victorian Era, the Georgian Period, and Edwardian Period. I love Eastlake furniture. Dak, I know you live in place where many prized pieces from England, and France exist. I’d be drooling over the amount of the history found in your city. Those old Victorians are gorgeous, not to mention all the rooms, the stairs, the hallways, the pantries, and parlors, and drawing rooms. I’ve seen some mighty fine game room pieces, and wonderful art deco. I remember seeing Gertrude Stein’s Drawing room, and visiting the Dallas Museum of Art…………….wonderful stuff, every now and then I do fine a few old treasures, and will set the table for my grandchildren to have a “tea party” with all the goodies of the era, including tea cakes. One tour I did take some years ago was in Eureka, California, gorgeous homes.

    Then I think about to my ancestry, the Irish, the English, the Scots, who came over as convicts to America, who lived in horrible slums, and forced into child labor, and most mothers dying after having so many kids in a short period of time. My mother told me about family members who died from eating dirt. Must have been the clay in the south. Then their was a cousin who went on picnic and died sitting on the dirt, her suitor was accused of killing her, as they couldn’t find out why she died. He went back to that location, and dug up the dirt, to find a den of baby rattle snakes that was the cause of her death. Strange huh. I remember the chalk and paint that I was exposed to at the old Mcdonough schools in New Orleans, all that led. Yes, I am glad that my grandchildren aren’t exposed, but many many kids still are, there are many slums today that are ignored, the old saying “out of site, out of mind” applies to this day.

    Good reading.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s a big Duh! story for 99% of us and confusing news for the Villagers and the rest of the top 1%.

    Many Americans feel economy isn’t improving

    A new CNN/ORC poll released Friday showed people were pessimistic that the economy was improving. Nearly 70% said the economy is generally in poor shape, and only 32% rated it good.

    Two-thirds of respondents said most of the economic news they’ve heard recently was bad news. More rural than urban dwellers said the economy was in poor shape.
    And just over half expected the economy to remain in poor shape a year from now.

    Duh! But the villagers and corporate media are so confused. Why isn’t austerity working? We must need more austerity.

    • bostonboomer says:

      By some metrics, the economy has moved ahead this year. The stock market, for example, has surged — the Nasdaq is up nearly 40% since January. Unemployment is at a five-year low point. Auto sales are at a seven-year high. Gas prices have dropped. And the housing sector, which dragged the U.S. into recession five years ago, is rebounding.

      The Federal Reserve sees signs of strength, too. In December the central bank pulled back slightly on the stimulus that has boosted investor confidence this year.
      But behind those numbers are the long-term unemployed, the under-employed and those who have dropped out of — or never even entered — the workforce. They’re not sharing in the surging stock market, and many are about to lose jobless benefits.

      Those people aren’t buying big-ticket items like furniture or appliances, and some were cutting back on essentials. Thirty-six percent said they were cutting back spending on food or medicine, up from 31% in late 2008, the year the housing market collapsed.


      • NW Luna says:

        Really hard for people to put money into their stock-market IRAs when they can’t even pay for food or medicine.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Dak, thanks for posting on the Burchfield paintings. He obviously felt the energy coming off of trees and the natural landscape. I wasn’t familiar with his work; glad to know now.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    A&E lifts Phil Robertson’s “Duck Dynasty” suspension

    A&E released a statement Friday saying filming on “Duck Dynasty” will resume in the spring, with the entire Robertson family on board.

    The statement, per Deadline, reads:

    As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.
    That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the “coarse language” he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.” We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

    But “Duck Dynasty” is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.

    So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming “Duck Dynasty” later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

    We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in “Duck Dynasty.” These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.

    I’m never watching A&E ever again.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Duck Dynasty supporters plan demonstration in support of bigotry and hate.

    As of early Friday afternoon, there were about 25,000 “likes” and nearly 165,000 “guests” on the Chick-Phil-A Day’s Facebook page.

    The idea, according to the Facebook campaign, is this.

    1. Wear your Duck Commander or camouflage gear.

    2. Eat at Chick-fil-A.

    Can you imagine being such a moron that you buy “Duck Commander gear”?