Saturday, March 31, 2018

Nice quote from Sea Hunt TV show

"All our knowledge of the sea came from people who were more curious than afraid."


"About [the year] 1300, of total exports of about 30,000 pounds, all but 20,000 pounds came from wool; and the chancellor today sits on the 'woolsack,' when he presides over the house of Lords, as symbolic of that early economic foundation." (from A History of England and the British Empire) In the picture below the woolsack can be seen facing the throne in the upper foreground.

Friday, March 30, 2018

"Saddle up"

In the TV series Combat!, you will frequently hear the person in command say, "Saddle up!" when it is time for the unit to move out. I wonder if they actually said that in World War II. I ran a quick search in the internet, but could not find anything.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The McFarland Twins Orchestra

During the period when Phil Harris was in the service, the Jack Benny radio program brought in guest orchestras, or at least guest conductors. Two of these were the McFarland Twins, Art and George.

Here is a LINK to one of their recordings.

See the source image


To the uninitiated, Bannockburn is the big event in Scottish history. The time when the underdog put a thorough whuppin' on the favorite. Robert the Bruce led 5000 to 10,000 Scots against from 13,000 to 25,000 English. The result was a decisive Scottish victory, and the Scottish equivalent of George Washington was created.

See the source image

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Casey's sidekick

One of the enjoyable radio detective series was Casey, Crime Photographer. It starred Staats Cottsworth as Casey, with Jan Miner as his sidekick, reporter Ann Williams. There are always romantic overtones between them, but their relationship is not overtly stated in any of the episodes I have heard.

Ann was played by actress Jan Miner, who also portrayed Boston Blackie's girlfriend, Mary Wesley. However, she became most famous to my generation as Madge, the manicurist in the Palmolive dish washing detergent ads.

Madge palmolive.jpg

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A great name in education

You recognize, of course, that Yodar Critch is one of the great names in American education. Oh, you did not realize that? He was the founder of Madison High School, the employer of Our Miss Brooks and her would-be sweetheart, Mr. Phillip Boynton.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Where was the Medal of Honor?

In the Combat! television series, Sgt. Saunders was quite a hero. Week after week. In one of the inconsistencies of television that is required by its very nature, if Saunders had done in real life what he did on television, he would have been a Medal of Honor winner many times over. And given the leadership and good judgment he displayed, he almost certainly would have had a battlefield promotion.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

British military philosophy

Hubert de Burgh, the doughty commander at Dover, appreciated - as have all Englishmen in recent centuries - that the best way to handle invaders was to "drown them in the sea before they ever could set foot on the land."

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

"Robin Hood" was right

The beginning of the movie Robin Hood (the real one, starring Errol Flynn) shows a scene of atrocities being committed by the soldiers of Prince John (played by Claude Rains). It is tempting to ignore those as Hollywood hyperbole; but A History of England and the British Empire confirms that much, and worse, after John became king:

Before long, however, the country was seething with discontent, since John created such a reign of terror that, as one chronicler put it, "No one durst speak." The chronicles were discreetly silent about this period; but a few stories, passed around, demonstrate that it was extremely risky to criticize the king. One unfortunate archdeacon was so ill-advised as to wonder, aloud, whether he ought to stay in the service of an excommunicated king. With an appallingly heavy weight of lead fastened to his head, he was incarcerated in a cell, too small for either sitting or standing, until he starved to death.

See the source image

Friday, March 23, 2018

She came to a sad end

Actress Jean Hagen was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Lina Lamont in the movie Singin' In The Rain. Then she was nominated three times for an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Danny Thomas' wife on Make Room For Daddy.

Hagen's drinking problem became to bad that she finally lapsed into a coma in the UCLA medical center. She later recovered and never drank again. However, she contracted throat cancer and died of that at the age of 54.

Jean Hagen 1955.jpg

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Jury duty originally

The original juryman, it should be remembered, was more a witness than a passive judge of right and wrong. Witnesses, as distinct from jurors, were not introduced into regular English law trials until nearly 1500. Any facts which they did not know already the old jurors were supposed to find out for themselves, outside of court, from general information or gossip presumably spread throughout any small community.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

He has an advantage

Granny Clampett: "Skipper (the chimp) sure does look nice, don't he?

Jethro: "Of course he does. He's got on my best tie."

Jed: "Dogged if he don't tie it better'n you do.

Jethro: "If I had four hands, I could do some fancy tying, too!"

(from The Beverly Hillbillies)

Henry II

Nearly every schoolboy is acquainted with the reputation of Richard the Lion-Hearted and the wicked John; but scarcely anyone, until he studies English history, hears of their father, Henry II. Nevertheless, the importance of the second Henry to England transcends that of both these sons; for Henry, by creating an effective legal system, made one of the most valuable permanent contributions to England's development. He has been called "one of the conscious creators of England's greatness."

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

See the source image

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Thinking men are free men

          "The fifth column is strong in Colombia." Mayo studied the figure ahead of him.
          "Naturalmente. Everywhere. But my country could never be a Nazi domain. There are more book shops in Bogota than cars. Think of that, amigo. Men who read are not Nazis."

(from "Wings Over Brazil," by Louis L'Amour)

Monday, March 19, 2018

How the king handled matters of the treasury

Finally the situation became so bad, according to the chroniclers, that anyone going to market with a whole pound of pennies could find scarcely twelves acceptable to the merchants. News of this reached Henry in Normandy. It troubled him, for bad coins meant a loss of revenue. He had all the moneyers gathered at Winchester, where each had his right hand amputated in addition to other serious mutilation. Thus Henry upheld the important principle of a sound treasury.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Women are trouble

Sometimes ropin' a girl was like ropin' a grizzly. There might be great sport in the catching, but it was hard to figure out what to do with one once caught.

(from "The Cactus Kid," by Louis L'amour)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

No kin that I know of

No, folks, my own dear mother is no close kin to Irene Ryan (Granny Clampett), even though their physical stature is very similar.

See the source image

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pickled crow gizzards

A Granny Clampett specialty. Don't you wish you had some right now?

See the source image

Rule by oligarchy

"[William] the Conqueror had gathered the central power into his own hands, but even he needed ministers to conduct his government efficiently."

Except for the very smallest local situations in which a man can terrorize the population by his own physical force, every form of government is essentially an oligarchy. Since he cannot do everything by himself, the top man must have a small group of wealthy or powerful people who will support him. And, the ruler must have the support of the military leadership. In order to keep the military in line, he must have the support of a secret service or Gestapo or KGB. In free countries, the candidate must have the support of party leaders. So, in each form of government, it boils down to the rule of the few, or an oligarchy.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The amazing case of Wernher von Braun

To me, one of the most amazing decisions ever made by a United States official was the one that put former Nazi Wernher von Braun essentially in charge of the U. S. space program. The picture below is when he surrendered to the Americans.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dog breeds you never knew existed

Earnest T. Bass Day

Some of you will remember Earnest T., the hillbilly who had a few spots on the Andy Griffith Show. Well, according to Wikipedia:

"Ernest T. Bass' rock-throwing exploits are commemorated in the Natural Science sections of some museums and universities in the U.S. with 'Ernest T. Bass Day,' in which people who have stones they are unable to identify are encouraged to bring them in for inspection. This usually takes place on April 1, when Bass is believed to have celebrated his birthday on the show."

See the source image

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

How some English words originated

As Scott pointed out in Ivanhoe, the words for the common domestic animals - cow, calf, sheep, and pig - are Germanic, whereas the meat from those same animals - beef, veal, mutton, and pork - bears French names. The English tended the animals; but the choice roasts found their way to the high table of the [Norman] manor house.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Watch out!

"The forces of history are at work here," Tola Beg mumbled. "And that is something to avoid."

(from "May There Be a Road," by Louis L'Amour) When those large, history-altering events occur, generally speaking it is true that a lot of people get hurt one way or another.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


For the next three centuries [after the Normans invaded], three different languages were heard in England. The churchmen, the scholars, and sometimes the lawyers used the international language, Latin. English remained the tongue of the bulk of the population; for we must remember that there were perhaps a million native English (Anglo-Saxons) and only a few thousand Normans. The new Norman French was the polite tongue of the royal court and of the dominant feudal minority.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The hypocrisy of power

King William [the Conqueror] had been, and still continued to be, as bad a vassal to his liege lord, the king of France, as it was possible to imagine; but he had no intention of being so treated by any of his own vassals. . . . William, as duke of Normandy, held the allegiance of his vassals and let them "legally" against the French king; William as king of England saw to it that no vassal could do the same to him.

(from A History of England and the British Empire]

Friday, March 09, 2018

Thoughts On Speaking

Language should flow. As we express our thoughts, ideally the thoughts should not have to wait for the words (unless the subject matter is in some wise "touchy" and we must accordingly be especially careful of our words). Therefore, most people speak in their common language - the jargon of their peers. "How're ya gittin' along?" would be an example. We do not think about the precise manner of expression, as long as the words are sufficient to get across the thoughts we intend. In everyday affairs, the matters facing us are not ticklish enough that we must be overly picky about our speech.

HOWEVER, every man ought to know how to express himself precisely. Notice that I said "precisely," and not necessarily correctly. Grammar and syntax are fashion; they are not science. However, there are times when it does matter how things are said. "I told him he ought to get his car fixed yesterday." "I told him yesterday that he ought to get his car fixed." It makes a difference in the meaning where the "yesterday" is inserted, doesn't it? So, whether or not a man's language is elegant and fashionable, it needs to be accurate. Every man needs to know how to say what he intends to say, and the man who never gives thought to his speech will not know that.

God, in His infinite goodness, gave men the ability to express ourselves beautifully, as well as accurately. Anyone who has read the great speeches of Winston Churchill from 1940, or the poem, "She Walks In Beauty," by Lord Byron, has some idea of how language can be used with consummate skill to express beautifully the things that need to be said. It is good and necessary to be accurate in our speech; it is better also to be beautiful in our mode of expression - at least from time to time. Anyone who uses the King James Version of the Bible ought to have an appreciation for the fact that it is important how things are said, and not only what is said. The ultimate goal of language is that it be true, and also be lovely.

How William paid his help

In England, William had a unique opportunity to wipe the slate clean and to modify the Norman-French feudal system to his own liking. It was almost inevitable that he should continue the system, for he and his followers had known no other. Furthermore, the only thing he possessed wherewith to reward his avaricious men was land; and he needed from them the feudal return of military service, to garrison the conquered country. Consequently, he claimed that the Conquest gave him title to the estates of all Anglo-Saxons.

(from A History of England and the British People. Shades of Robin Hood, huh? No wonder the Saxons hated the Normans!)

Thursday, March 08, 2018

How the feudal system worked

Under the political feudal system all of the land of a country belonged in theory to the ruler. He always retained a portion of it as a demesne (royal domain, or crown lands), to provide himself with his direct private revenue, while the remainder was divided among his more important followers for military reasons. These retainers, in turn, likewise kept a demesne for themselves, and, if their portion was large enough, parceled out the rest to retainers of their own. This process generally continued down through at least three or four stages, until the pieces of land became so small that they could serve only as a demesne without further subdivision. The land thus transferred was known as a fief, which in Latin is feudum (hence, "feudal" system).

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Origins of the English feudal system

The most revolutionary of all the Norman changes was the transplanting to England of that system of "land tenure based on military servitude" which had gradually grown up in Europe during the two centuries following the break-up of Charlemagne's empire - the so-called feudal system. Under it the ablest fighters received estates from the king and higher nobles in return for military service. In the chaotic days which followed the barbarian invasions in Europe, the rulers lacked money but had plenty of land. The only way for a noble to become wealthy and powerful was to secure a vast acreage; for, in the absence of modern industrial and financial capital, land was almost the only source of wealth.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

William's innovations

"William made only three new laws, the most striking dealing with his reservations of vast forests for the royal hunt, for 'he loved the tall stags as if he were their father.'"

This is from A History of England and the British Empire. It is speaking of the policies instituted by William the Conqueror when he took over as King of England. This is significant in Hollywood history, because you will remember the early scene in Robin Hood when Much the Miller is about to be punished by the Sheriff of Nottingham, but Robin rescues him. It turns out that that actually is referring to a major part of law enforcement by the Normans.

See the source image

Monday, March 05, 2018

Whiplash TV series

This series, filmed in 1959-60, was based on the life of Freeman Cobb, the founder of Australia's first stagecoach line. It used only Australians as guest stars, rather than character actors. Featured prominently in the series were the aboriginal people of Australia. The star was Peter Graves, who later went on to fame as the star of Mission: Impossible.

See the source image

Sunday, March 04, 2018

They had the Green Hornet in the Middle Ages?

Some of William the Conqueror's "most oppressive acts were within the bounds of legal technicality; for although he respected law he made it his slave." The Green Hornet's great task was dealing with "criminals within the law," that is, those whom the police could not couch due to those same legal technicalities. Do you suppose, even back then . . . . .?

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Some differences in the old Anglo-Saxon legal code

In two particular features he law differed from the present. The wergild, for homicide, was determined without regard to those considerations of motive which now result in varying penalties for first-degree and second-degree murder, manslaughter, and justifiable homicide. Then, too, it was necessary for the injured party to hale the offender into court, to prosecute the case, and to collect the fine.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

Friday, March 02, 2018

The stress of commerce

I fine the work a little trying. There is too much ledger-lugging to be done for my simple tastes. I have been hauling ledgers from the safe all the morning. The cry is beginning to go round, "Psmith is willing, but can his physique stand the strain?" In the excitement of the moment just now I dropped a somewhat massive tome on to Comrade Gregory's foot, unfortunately, I understand, the foot in which he has of late been suffering twinges of gout. I passed the thing off with ready tact, but I cannot deny that there was a certain temporary coolness, which, indeed, is not yet past. These things, Comrade Jackson, are the whirlpools in the quiet stream of commercial life.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Less than dignified

Mr. Bickersdyke was reclining in an easy-chair in the first room, staring before him in the boiled-fish manner customary in a Turkish Bath. Psmith dropped into the next seat with a cherry, "Good evening." The manager started as if some firm hand had driven a bradawl into him. He looked at Psmith with what was intended to be a dignified stare. But dignity is hard to achieve in a couple of parti-coloured towels. The stare did not differ two any great extent from the conventional boiled-fish look, alluded to above.

(from Psmith in the City, by Sir Pelham Wodehouse)