PT Boat vets hold last meeting

April 30, 2007

Fading memories of World War II — In December it was the Pearl Harbor Veterans who held their last planned reunion — too many of the vets wer too old to think many could comfortably travel to another reunion. This week, it’s the PT boat veterans who held their last planned gathering, for the same reasons. Those who have the most vivid memories of the war dwindle in number to a precious few.

According to the Associated Press in the Navy Times:

The 16 elderly survivors — down from 21 last year — of Peter Tare, Inc., an organization for former officers of PT boats, lined up next to the boat Friday, taking one last sail down memory lane.

For them, World War II is really almost over now.

“It’s sort of pitiful the way the crowd has dwindled,” said William Paynter, 90, who commanded both a PT boat and a squadron in the South Pacific.

“The executive secretary is just getting over a stroke and it seemed like the best time to do it,” he said of this past week’s reunion.

The group, which began meeting in 1947, has better than $25,000 in assets, Paynter said. Originally the plan was to turn the assets over to the sole survivor, but as the years passed, that seemed impractical.

Of course, there’s a story about “Peter Tare,” too:  Read the rest of this entry »


Marfa lights — seriously, does anyone know what they are?

April 30, 2007

Another of the great quirks that makes Texas, Texas, is the Marfa lights. Marfa is in far west Texas — alone, a tiny city in a very arid area. It’s desolate enough that Hollywood thought it would be a great place to film much of the movie “Giant,” which needed to use part of Godforsaken* County to make a point about how desolate Texas can be.

And way out there, there is a hill where one can stop after sundown, and watch the mysterious dancing of lights coming from the not-too-distant hills. So far as I can tell, no good explanation exists for what the lights might be. Physicists have ruled out mirages, and the lights were there long before auto headlights anyway.

Marfa hosts the “Mystery Lights Festival” over Labor Day Weekend (as the story cited above notes, the same weekend as Alpine, Texas, hosts its balloon festival — two West Texas happenings in one trip, perhaps).

Marfa lights, 2004 photo by Julie McConnell

Do you know of a good explanation? Anybody got one?

  • * No, there is not really a Godforsaken County among Texas’s 254 counties. Teachers wishing to use this in the classroom may want to be aware that there is a very short video of the Marfa lights mystery on “Texas Country Reporter’s” DVD collection commemorating 25 years of stories. Texas Country Reporter also has a DVD collection of visits to Texas State Parks, which is a good source of information about Texas geography. I suspect other DVDs from this company would offer other good geography and history supplements (Texas Country Reporter is broadcast on Channel 8 in the Dallas area, and on other television stations throughout the state).

Time! Last call for contributions to Fiesta de Tejas!

April 30, 2007

Set to publish May 2, today’s the last day to submit nominations for the next carnival of Texas history and Texana, Fiesta de Tejas!

Submissions can be e-mailed to me, but better, send them via the blog carnival submission form, found here.

Thanks for the nominations you’ve made already — we can use more!

Pequin pepper plant from Little Bend Nursery

Pequin pepper plant (Capsicum anuum), photo from Little Bend Nursery, between Lago Vista and Marble Falls, Texas – all rights reserved.


Quote of the moment: Rousseau on education

April 29, 2007

Teachers, do you remember studying that Rousseau is one of the foundation writers in education theory? No, neither do I.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on education

We are born weak, we need strength; helpless we need aid; foolish we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education. Rousseau, most common portrait

This education comes from nature, from men or from things. The inner growth of our organs and faculties is the education of nature, the use we learn to make of our growth is the education of men, what we gain by our experience of our surroundings is the education of things

We are each taught by three masters. If their teaching conflicts, the scholar is ill-educated and will never be at peace with himself; if their teaching agrees, he goes straight to his goal, he lives at peace with himself, he is well-educated. Read the rest of this entry »


Typewriter of the moment: Ernest Hemingway’s Royal

April 29, 2007

Hemingway's typewriter in Sun Valley, Idaho


Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter, at the window to his house in Sun Valley, Idaho. Photo image by U.S. Plan B, Inc., a provider of “B-roll” film and video.


Chess history: Rousseau vs. Hume

April 29, 2007

Certain corners of history hold records in great detail, going back long periods of time.

In the world of chess, for example, games several centuries old are documented, move by move, and available for analysis.

Here is a site that claims to have the record of a chess match between the philosophers David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Did such a game ever actually happen? Perhaps, in 1766, in England, before the two philosophers fell out.  The ChessGames.com site lists the date of the game as 1765, a date which I think would be impossible.

What sorts of records would we use to corroborate, or debunk? Rousseau’s Dog by David Edmonds and John Eidinow might be a book that answers the question — the two collaborated on an earlier book about chess in history, including Bobby Fischer Goes to War.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Daily Harold at Chicago Reader.


Why we miss Molly Ivins

April 29, 2007

Molly Ivins’ ghost works overtime (link not safe for work, or school), but ghosts have reduced influence in the land of the living. Exactly how great a tragedy that Ivins died just as the Texas Lege was coming into session and the Bush Administration scandals began their geometric expansion, will never be fully comprehended.

But we can catch glimpses.

Would you believe Warren Chisum cutting off debate on a free speech bill? The Burnt Orange Report makes a commendable effort to channel Ivins, and it’s well worth the read. One of the reasons Texas produces great writers, and great humorists, is the simple fact that there are so many unbelievable stories happening in Texas all the time, stories so breathtaking in their inanity (usually) that the only rational response is laughter.

Chisum and his friends got an idea from somewhere that kids in Texas have a difficult time expressing their Christian faith.  Chisum, it appears, has not been in a Texas school room since at least 1900, or he’d know better — but he is a powerful legislator and so his particular flights from reality often end up written out as legislation.

It’s unusual, I know, that in a state where millions of kids don’t have a prayer of getting health care because they don’t have a prayer of getting health insurance, and where kids from poorer school districts have little more than a prayer of getting an equal education, the legislature focuses on the prayer part of the deficits, instead of fixing anything else fixable.

It’s not that the kids don’t pray — it’s that few in the state legislature listen.  The kids don’t need a bill to make it legal to do what they already do that is already legal; the kids need a bill that would make the Lege pay attention and do something about the problems.

Blogging has been limited lately; there is much to blog about.  Is there enough time to catch up?


John Reed at his typewriter

April 28, 2007

John Reed at his typewriter, Oregon Historical SocietyUndated photograph of John Reed (1880-1927) at this typewriter, from the Oregon Historical Society, “Oregon Biographies.”


Tangled web

April 26, 2007

In the middle of the Ray Donovan mess* I was dispatched one afternoon to the Labor Department to see Donovan’s press conference on some complaint the Senate Labor Committee had misrepresented the misrepresentations about testimony offered to the committee. Donovan was mad, but I didn’t realize just how mad until I was stopped at the door — my I.D. was flagged as persona non grata, apparently. Either that or they thought Sen. Orrin Hatch would try to sneak a subpoena in with his press guy.

A friendly reporter standing behind me in line added me to his crew, and I got the handouts.

That was retail, face-to-face scandal. Nothing like this:

Anything like “OllieNorthinthebasement.net?”

* It’s amazing how little of this history is available on line.


Long, long quote of the moment: Charles Darwin

April 25, 2007

What did Darwin say about natural selection and humans? Creationists frequently claim Darwin as an advocate of eugenics. Here, below is the section from Descent of Man that they usually quote; and below the fold is the entire quote in its greater context, in which Darwin is shown as an anti-eugenics advocate, at least for humans. Darwin, from Victorian Web

Darwin died 125 years ago, on April 19, 1882.

I borrowed the text from one of the on-line full-text versions of the book. This excerpt is from Chapter 5, “On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties During Primeval and Civilised Times,” one of the chapters most frequently cited and most often misquoted out of Darwin’s works. Note Darwin’s rather extensive citing to other works of research to support his arguments:

In regard to the moral qualities, some elimination of the worst dispositions is always in progress even in the most civilised nations. Malefactors are executed, or imprisoned for long periods, so that they cannot freely transmit their bad qualities. Melancholic and insane persons are confined, or commit suicide. Violent and quarrelsome men often come to a bloody end. The restless who will not follow any steady occupation–and this relic of barbarism is a great check to civilisation (17. ‘Hereditary Genius,’ 1870, p. 347.)–emigrate to newly-settled countries; where they prove useful pioneers. Intemperance is so highly destructive, that the expectation of life of the intemperate, at the age of thirty for instance, is only 13.8 years; whilst for the rural labourers of England at the same age it is 40.59 years. (18. E. Ray Lankester, ‘Comparative Longevity,’ 1870, p. 115. The table of the intemperate is from Neison’s ‘Vital Statistics.’ In regard to profligacy, see Dr. Farr, ‘Influence of Marriage on Mortality,’ ‘Nat. Assoc. for the Promotion of Social Science,’ 1858.) Profligate women bear few children, and profligate men rarely marry; both suffer from disease. In the breeding of domestic animals, the elimination of those individuals, though few in number, which are in any marked manner inferior, is by no means an unimportant element towards success. This especially holds good with injurious characters which tend to reappear through reversion, such as blackness in sheep; and with mankind some of the worst dispositions, which occasionally without any assignable cause make their appearance in families, may perhaps be reversions to a savage state, from which we are not removed by very many generations. This view seems indeed recognised in the common expression that such men are the black sheep of the family. Read the rest of this entry »


“April is the cruellest month” – poem for the moment

April 25, 2007

No, not here.

Clio Bluestocking has it up at her blog; Eliot and Picasso, together — go see. An interesting partnering of painting and poetry, for another National Poetry Month celebration.


Janis Joplin tour invites fans to Texas

April 24, 2007

Janis Joplin in concert

Good News Comes in Small Packages Division: This was the entirety of the article in the Dallas Morning News travel section Sunday:

Come on down for a Janis Joplin tour

Head down to Port Arthur – in a Mercedes Benz, if possible – for a new self-guided Janis Joplin driving tour. The 15 stops include her childhood home, churches, schools and the Museum of the Gulf Coast, which has an exhibit devoted to the rock and blues singer. For the tour brochure, call 1-800-235-7822.

Is there more? Sure — below the fold. Summertime’s a good time to make the tour — but so is spring, fall, and winter.

Read the rest of this entry »


Civil War symposium for high school teachers, in Denton, Texas

April 22, 2007

A history symposium aimed at high school teachers is set for next Saturday, April 28, at the University of North Texas in Denton. Featured speakers include Ft. Worth Star-Telegram vice president Bob Ray Sanders, and Civil War historian Carl Moneyhon, from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Details from the university’s press release below the fold.  Read the rest of this entry »


San Jacinto Day, April 21

April 21, 2007

Don’t Mess with Taxes already has up the post on San Jacinto Day that I should have had — so go there to read up.

Great candidate for the coming Fiesta de Tejas! blog carnival, don’t you think? If you find others, nominate them for the carnival, here.

Remember the Alamo! And learn the lessons of San Jacinto, including especially this one: Don’t get caught with your pants down. But of course, you need to know the story of the Yellow Rose of Texas to get that reference, yes?


Get the kids outside

April 20, 2007

It’s almost over for this year, but the lesson plans at the site for National Environmental Education Week don’t have to be done in April only. Texas will have a new beefed up science requirement kick in, in a couple of years. Until then, however, this is a good set of ideas, even for social studies, especially if no other class is delivering the material well.

Environmental protection weaves science — biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, and more — with applied social studies, especially history, economics and government, to make changes. For younger students studies of recycling can be a lot of fun and give students something to take with them for the rest of the life. Similarly, a study of migratory birds and the policy issues related to them (tall buildings, cellular communications towers, oil well sumps, lights in cities, hunting and the Treaty of 1948, etc., etc.) offers a lot of ways to get kids interested, if not excited, about these so-called dry topics. An advanced class in high school might analyze the Supreme Court decisions that brought down the price of shipping of recycled metals, making recycling economically feasible.

Whatever you do, don’t despair: International Migratory Bird Day is just a couple of weeks away.  Birding is one of the more fun areas one can use in discussions of climate change and global warming; the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History points the way to good resources.


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