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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tuesday links

October 25 is the anniversary of 3 major battles: Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf.

Secret Nazi military base discovered by Russian scientists in the Arctic. Related, The Gigantic Nazi City that Was Never Built, and the always (or never) appropriate Nazis with cats.

25 Easy DIY Halloween Costumes You Can Make Last Minute.

Just in time for Christmas - the 2017 Vladimir Putin calendar.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a gallery of photos from the carving of Mount Rushmore (1927-1941), animals who look as if they had a few too many, the history of the pencil, and the anniversary of Trafalgar Day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

October 25 is the anniversary of 3 major battles: Agincourt, the charge of the Light Brigade and Leyte Gulf

A day for battles: 

Battle of Agincourt
He which hath no stomach for this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispin:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see his old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say "Tomorrow is Saint Crispin":
Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."

Henry at Agincourt
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names
Familiar in his mouth as household words:
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us on Saint Crispin's day.* 

~ William Shakespeare (1564-1616)  (King Henry V, Act 4, Sc. 3) 

Light Brigade battle map: Click here to embiggen
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward the Light Brigade!"
"Charge for the gund!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Light Brigade at Balaclava
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder;d.
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson (wiki) (1809-1892) ("The Charge of the Light Brigade," stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 6) **

Our ships have been salvaged and are retiring at high speed toward the Japanese fleet. 

~ Admiral William Halsey (1882-1959) (remark, 26 October 1944, in response to an enemy report that his 3rd Fleet had been sunk or was fleeing Leyte Gulf.) 

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt (wiki) in 1415, when the English under King Henry V defeated the French on St. Crispin's Day (25 October) of that year. Henry (1387-1422) followed his father King Henry IV to the throne in 1413 and two years later announced his claim to the French throne and rekindled the Hundred Years War by invading Normandy. 

In a post-battle compromise, Henry later married Catherine of Valois and was named by France's Charles VI as his successor, but Henry's untimely death to illness in 1422 prevented him from assuming the French kingship. In Shakespeare's famous passage above, Henry rouses his troops for the conflict the night before Agincourt. 

Light Brigade
This is also the anniversary of the "the charge of the Light Brigade" (wiki) at the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. Although of relatively little importance in the larger context of the Crimean War, Balaclava has emerged as its most famous encounter because of Tennyson's poem, which immortalizes the brave, but foolhardy, British light cavalry assault on massed Russian guns and infantry at the end of a shallow valley near Sevastapol. Of the 673 men who started out, 118 were killed outright, and only 195 remained on horseback at the end of the encounter. French marshall Pierre Bosquet, who observed the action, famously remarked, 

"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas le guerre." 
(It is magnificent, but it is not war.)
Map of Leyte Gulf battle
And finally, today is the anniversary of the largest naval encounter of World War II in the Pacific, the Battle of Leyte Gulf (wiki) (which actually lasted from 23 to 26 October 1944), in which the U.S. Third and Seventh Fleets decisively defeated the Japanese Combined Fleet after the latter sortied in an attempt to destroy the forces supporting the ongoing Allied invasion of the Philippine Islands. The U.S. victory at Leyte Gulf essentially destroyed the Japanese Navy as a fighting force, and its remnants posed little threat for the remaining months of the war.

* N.B. Saint Crispin's day honors the memory of two Christian twins - Crispin and Crispinian - who were martyred by the Romans in Britain, ca. A.D. 286.

I'm a HUGE fan of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V - here's the speech quoted above (watch full screen):

The rather fascinating story of Henry V's injury at the age of 16 - he took an arrow to the face in the battle of Shrewsbury - and the surgical treatment that saved his life, are recounted in the video below and in this excellent article: Prince Hal’s Head-Wound: Cause and Effect.

** This Documentary on the Charge of the Light Brigade includes graphic quotes from survivors, and includes the original 1890 recording (made by Thomas Edison) of Alfred Tennyson reading part of his famous poem:

And here's a brief documentary on Leyte Gulf:

Based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, distributed via email only. Leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday links

October 21 is Trafalgar Day: history, videos, art and links.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include instructions on tracking humans, Dave Barry's 1996 Halloween column, debunking the 5-second rule, photos and videos of ships vs big waves, and, for Rita Hayworth's birthday, an excellent compilation of her dancing.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Quote of the day

Dennis Miller: 
"Our founding fathers would have never tolerated any of this crap. For God’s sake, they were blowing peoples’ heads off because they put a tax on their breakfast beverage. And it wasn’t even coffee"

October 21 is Trafalgar Day: history, videos, art and links

May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Horatio, Lord Nelson (wiki) (his prayer, 20 October 1805, on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar) 

No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy.

~ Nelson (memorandum, written onboard HMS Victory, off Cadiz, 9 October 1805) 


~ Nelson's favorite signal* (made "general" to the fleet by him for the last time at 1156 on 21 October 1805) 

October 21 is Trafalgar Day (wiki), the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of England's greatest naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson (wiki) on 21 October 1805. Fought off the southwest coast of Spain, Trafalgar was the greatest naval victory of the Napoleonic wars and essentially destroyed the sea power of France in a single engagement. Nelson and the British fleet had been blockading the French and Spanish fleet under Villeneuve in Cadiz after pursuing it to the Caribbean and back. When Villeneuve finally emerged to give battle, Nelson, depending on the superior seamanship and fighting skill of his "band of brothers" and the British sailor, adopted an unorthodox tactic that split the French/Spanish line into three parts and led to a general melee in which the British took 19 ships without loss.

Larger version here. One of several paintings
of the battle of Trafalgar by English
 artist J. M. W. Turner's (wiki) (1875-1851) 
At the height of the battle however, Nelson was cut down by a French sharpshooter's bullet, and he died a few hours later. In his History of Modern Europe (1883), Charles Alan Fyfe wrote, 

"Trafalgar was not only the greatest naval victory, it was the greatest and the most momentous victory either by land or by sea during the whole of the Revolutionary War.** No victory, and no series of victories, of Napoleon produced the same effect upon Europe... Nelson's last triumph left England in such a position that no means remained to injure her."

* N.B. However, much more famous was his signal at the start of the battle:


Per the online searchable version of Chambers' Book of Days (1869):
There are three accounts of the matter one by Mr. James, in his Naval History; one by Captain Blackwood, who commanded the Euryalus at the battle of Trafalgar; and one by Captain Pasco, who had been Nelson's flag-lieutenant in the Victory. Sir Harris Nicolas accepts Pasco's version, because that officer had himself to signal the words by means of flags. His account runs thus: 'His lordship came to me on the poop, and after ordering certain signals to be made, about a quarter to noon he said: "Mr. Pasco, I wish to say to the fleet, 'England confides that every man will do his duty;' and he added, "you must be quick, for I have one more to make, which is for close action." I replied: "If your lordship will permit me to substitute 'expects,' for confides! the signal will soon be completed, because the word 'expects' is in the vocabulary, whereas the word 'confides' must be spelled?" His lordship replied in haste, and with scenting satisfaction: "That will do, Pasco; make it directly!"
In signal flags, this appeared as:

** Meaning here, the conflicts that followed the French revolution in 1789.

BBC's Battlefield Academy: Refight Trafalgar! - Refight Nelson's greatest battle against the remorseless Artificial Intelligence engine of the Academy.

Here's a 1955 newsreel of Queen Elizabeth celebrating Trafalgar day:

A short video re-enactment:

And an excellent 8 minute synopsis of the events leading to and following the battle, as well as of the battle itself:

Since this post is largely is about Trafalgar Day the Lady Hamilton affair is left out. BBC History has more on that, if you're interested.

Also, here's their Animated Map: Battle of Trafalgar - A step-by-step guide to the battle.

Larger version of this map, which details
the names of each ship, is available here.
Additional resources:'s page on the battle.

British Battles Trafalgar page.

The Battle of Trafalgar by Andrew Lambert

The Art of War Gallery by Professor Daniel Moran

Women in Nelson's Navy by Nick Slope

Based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email. If you'd like to be added to his distribution list, leave your email address in the comments.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Animals who look as if they had a few too many

Back in the 80's, I had a VHS tape of the wildlife documentary movie Animals Are Beautiful People (highly recommended for kids and grandkids); my kids used to watch it repeatedly, which meant I saw it repeatedly, too.  One of their favorite bits was of a variety of animals getting drunk on marula fruit which had ripened and fallen to the ground, then fermented* - here's a clip:

By the way, one of my favorite authors is James Thurber, and one of my favorite (very) short stories of his (actually one of his fables) is about a bear who drank too much, then gave it up. I've posted it below the photos.

So, below are a few animals who are (probably) not actually drunk, but definitely look as if they've also run into some fermented fruit:

Thurber's fable The Bear Who Let It Alone:

In the woods of the Far West there once lived a brown bear who could take it or let it alone. He would go into a bar where they sold mead, a fermented drink made of honey, and he would have just two drinks. Then he would put some money on the bar and say, "See what the bears in the back room will have," and he would go home. But finally he took to drinking by himself most of the day.

He would reel home at night, kick over the umbrella stand, knock down the bridge lamps, and ram his elbows through the windows. Then he would collapse on the floor and lie there until he went to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

At length the bear saw the error of his ways and began to reform. In the end he became a famous teetotaler and a persistent temperance lecturer. He would tell everybody that came to his house about the awful effects of drink, and he would boast about how strong and well he had become since he gave up touching the stuff. To demonstrate this, he would stand on his head and on his hands and he would turn cartwheels in the house, kicking over the umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming his elbows through the windows.

Then he would lie down on the floor, tired by his healthful exercise, and go to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

Moral: You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.

*NatGeo says that this doesn't really happen, but it's still a great clip.

More drunken animal photos here and here.

Monday links

Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth: this excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive, will brighten your day.

Dave Barry's Halloween column from 1996: Night Of The Living Chocolate. And, from 1873: How to Make a Turnip Jack-o-Lantern, plus The Oracle of the Nuts.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include a coffee-beer hybrid, the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, making raisins before seedless grapes, and where the Nazis hung out in occupied Paris.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday links

The Battle of Hastings occurred 950 years ago on October 14, 1066: history, videos, maps, and links.

Heh - I guess it made sense at the time: Why Alcohol Is Not Always Your Best Friend.

The 1970s Monster Cereal That Caused a Pink Poop Panic.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include an explanation of the significance of the Economic Nobel Prize winners’ work, the science of why you love cheese, how water towers work, and how you could end up in an insane asylum circa 1890.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 14, 1066 was the Battle of Hastings: history, quotes, videos, maps, and links

 If the Normans are disciplined under a just and firm rule, they are men of great valor, who... fight resolutely to overcome all enemies. But without such rule they tear each other to pieces and destroy themselves, for they hanker after rebellion, cherish sedition, and are ready for any treachery.

William the Conqueror (wiki(deathbed speech, reported in Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History) 

A French bastard landing with an armed banditti and establishing himself King of England against the consent of the natives, is, in plain terms, a very paltry rascally original. 

~ Thomas Paine (1737-1809) (on the Norman Conquest, Common Sense

William next invented a system according to which everybody had to belong to somebody else, and everybody else to the king. This was called the Feutile System, and in order to prove that it was true, he wrote a book called the Doomsday Book, which contained an inventory of all the Possessions of all his subjects; after reading the book through carefully William agreed with it and signed it, indicating to everybody that the Possessions mentioned in it were now his.

~ W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman (1066 and All That, Ch. XI*)

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (wiki) in 1066, in which William the Conqueror (wiki) initiated the Norman conquest of England by defeating the forces of the Anglo-Saxon King Harold, who was killed in the conflict (although there's been recent speculation that Harold survived). William, Duke of Normandy, had been promised the English throne by his cousin, Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042-1066), and Harold, earl of Wessex, had sworn agreement to that succession. However, with the death of Edward, Harold crowned himself king, leading William to mount a sea-borne invasion to assert his own right. 

Larger version here.
Landing his army on the south coast of England, he confronted Harold at Hastings, routed the Anglo-Saxon army, declared himself King William I, and ultimately established Norman hegemony over all of England.**

By establishing a network of castles and strong points, including the Tower of London, William brought order to the country and reigned until 1087, when he was succeeded by his son William II. The Norman invasion and the events leading up to it are exquisitely portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry (actually an embroidery 75 yards long), which was made within a few years of the Conquest, likely in southern England. 
On the ceremonial gateway to the World War II British military cemetery for the dead of Normandy at Bayeux, one finds the apposite Latin inscription,


(We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land.) 

* N.B. Subtitled, "A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates." Still amusing after 80 years. 

** It is not often remembered that just prior to Hastings, Harold and his hard-pressed army had been forced to repel a Norse invasion in the north of England, and it required a forced march to the south for them to meet the Normans. 

For the Last 1,000 Years, the Same Families Have Owned Most of England:
Shortly after the Normans conquered England in 1066, their monarch, William, seized all of the lands, then divvied up control among those soldiers and nobles who helped him defeat the Anglo-Saxons (and keeping a fair bit for himself). However, as dramatic as that was, it is even more shocking that today, most of Britain remains in the hands of the descendants of those early Norman conquerors.
My favorite William bit, though, has to be his body exploding (well, bursting) at his funeral. Here's another account of the events.

Horrible Histories has a "breaking news" program from 1066, in which the news is arriving via (the Bayeaux) tapestry:

This Young Person's Guide to the Battle of Hastings is really quite informative:

This brief BBC Documentary gives all the basics..

This video, also from the BBC, covers a re-enactment which took place on October 15, 2006:

And an animated version of the Bayeaux Tapestry:

This "Eyewitness to History" site has an account of the battle with the events depicted by the individual tapestry scenes.