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Eugene Bullard

I didn’t learn about Eugene Bullard in school. You probably didn’t, either.

Eugene James “Jacques” Bullard (1895-1961) was the first African-American combat pilot and the only black pilot who fought in World War I. He flew for the French, not the US, and his story is remarkable.

Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, the son of a Haitian father and a Creek mother. He had an especially troubled childhood. He ran away from home regularly, only to endure beatings by his father when he was caught. In 1906, at age 11, he ran away for good and made his way to Atlanta.

There, he fell in with a band of gypsies and tended their horses as they traveled the South. In 1912, at age 17, he stowed away on a German freighter bound for Aberdeen, Scotland. He went to London, where he worked as a boxer and a slapstick performer in a black entertainment troupe.

Bullard first visited Paris in 1913 for a boxing match. He was captivated by the city and resolved to make Paris his home. He wrote years later, “It seemed to me that French democracy influenced the minds of both black and white Americans there and helped us all act like brothers.”

Bullard was 19 when World War I began. He joined the French Foreign Legion and served as a machinegunner in a regiment that fought in the Battle of Verdun, the longest battle of the war. He was seriously wounded twice and was awarded two medals for bravery, including the Croix de Guerre.

His wounds prevented him from further infantry duty, so he applied for, he was accepted into, the French flying service, the Aéronautique Militaire. He attended flight school, got his wings in 1917, and quickly earned a reputation for his courage and skill. He flew 25-plus combat missions, usually with his pet rhesus monkey Jimmy on his shoulder.

The Germans called Bullard “The Black Swallow of Death.” He had two confirmed kills and earned 15 medals.

When the US entered the war, he and other Americans in the Aéronautique Militaire, applied to transfer to the US military. Most were accepted, but Bullard was not because the US did not allow blacks to serve as pilots or aircraft mechanics.

Specifically, US policy was that black soldiers were not intelligent enough to understand aircraft mechanics or to pilot an aircraft. Seriously.

Moreover, under US pressure, the French removed Bullard from aviation duty.

When the war ended and Bullard was discharged from military service, he became part owner of a Paris nightclub, Le Grand Duc. The club became a popular hangout for the rich and famous, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Pablo Picasso, the Prince of Wales, and Ernest Hemingway.

Soon, he opened a second club, and in 1923, he married Marcelle Straumann, the daughter of a French countess. They had a son, who died in childhood, and two daughters. The Bullards were divorced in 1931.

When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, Bullard quietly joined the French resistance as a spy. By then, he was fluent in German and was able to eavesdrop on unsuspecting German officers, with whom his nightclubs were popular, and who had no idea Bullard spoke German.

Later in 1940, possibly because his ties to the resistance became known, Bullard fled Paris with his two daughters. On the way to Spain, he joined a group of French soldiers defending Orléans and suffered a severe spinal wound. He and his daughters returned to the US, where he recuperated in a New York hospital.

In France, Bullard had been a national hero; in America, he was just another black man. Using a financial grant from the French government, he bought a small apartment in Harlem. Both of his daughters married, and Bullard lived alone.

He never fully recovered from his back injury, and his mobility was restricted. He supported himself by serving as an occasional French interpreter for Louis Armstrong, working as a security guard, and selling perfume. His final job was as an elevator operator at Rockefeller Center.

In 1960, while in New York, French President Charles de Gaulle visited Bullard, named him a Knight of the French Legion of Honor, and called him a “true French hero.” Bullard’s achievements were never recognized by the US.

He died in Harlem of stomach cancer in 1961. He was buried in the French War Veterans’ section of Flushing Cemetery in Queens and was given full military honors by the Federation of French War Officers.

In 1994, the US Air Force finally gave Bullard official recognition of sorts by giving him a posthumous commission as a second lieutenant.

Why did the US pressure the French government to ground Eugene Bullard, and why did the US government fail to recognize and honor his achievements?

Racism. What else?


Bullard’s French military decorations from WWI and WWII, as displayed in his Harlem apartment.

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Pix o’ the Day

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Hot Potato

The House of Windsor, the reigning royal family of the UK and the Commonwealth, dates back to 1901, when the son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became King Edward VII, and the reign of the House of Hanover came to an end.

At the time, no “House of Windsor” existed. Albert and Edward were of the “House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,” a German family (or clan, or tribe, or whatever best describes it).

Anyway, starting in 1901, the British royal family was the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1917, due to the understandable anti-German sentiment resulting from WWI, the royal family dropped the House of S-C & G name like a hot potato and renamed itself the House of Windsor.

The name Windsor was chosen because of family ties to the City of Windsor and, of course, to Windsor Castle, the royal residence.

Plus, Windsor is easier to remember and spell than Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.


Coat of Arms of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Problem, Solution

Last year, my little town of Jefferson declared that we have a speeding problem in school zones. Consequently, speed cameras were installed to catch the culprits.

The new automatic system is impressive. It calculates a vehicle’s speed, snaps a photo of the license plate if the vehicle is speeding, looks up the owner, and mails out a ticket.

I was skeptical, frankly, that the speeding problem is real, inasmuch as a speed camera company, Blue Line Solutions, sold the idea to the City Council. (Jefferson has a history of getting involved in hare-brained schemes in hopes of making money.) Blue Line built and operates the system, collects the money, and splits the take 50-50 with the city. A sweet deal, right?

To be fair, the system is quite generous. It won’t ticket you unless your speed is 10 MPH above the posted limit.

For example, in the school zone in front of the high school, which is a mere six blocks from the town square, the speed limit is 45 MPH. You’d have to be rocketing along at 55 MPH to get fined. People don’t drive that fast in town, right?

Au contraire, mes amis. Blue Line is ticketing some 200 speeders a day — 85 percent of them in front of the high school.

If Blue Line were fudging the numbers, people would be in an uproar, furiously protesting their innocence and suing the city. That hasn’t happened. The perps just pay the fines.

I am skeptical no longer.

The Bodélé Depression

Nothing is simple.

The Bodélé Depression in Chad is a bone-dry region on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, created over the last several thousand years as Lake Chad has slowly dried up. The depression consists of silt and sand that, about 100 days per year, is carried aloft and blown west across the continent in massive dust storms.

Because of the dust, the infant mortality rate in West Africa is especially high. In 2020, a study concluded that a 25 percent decrease in the dust would lower the infant mortality rate by 18 percent. Specifically, if irrigation were used to dampen the dust (as is done to Owens Lake in California), Africa would have 37,000 fewer infant deaths annually.

But there’s a catch. Over the eons, Lake Chad teemed with all kinds of plant and animal life — algae, diatoms, fish, and whatnot — and the Bodélé is rich in their remains. The dust that causes such harm in Africa also blows across the Atlantic Ocean, where it is a major source of nutrients for the Amazon rain forest.

Nothing is simple.

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Checking the Mail

When I ask my dog Jake, “Wanna go check the mail?” he is delirious with joy. Jake has access to the back yard via the dog door, but being in the front yard is special: while I proceed to the mailbox, Jake can look for cats.

The neighborhood cats — we seem to have eight or 10 — are aware that Jake is constrained by the back yard fence. But when he is loose in the front yard, it’s every cat for itself. Jake has surprised many a cat in the open or flushed it from hiding, and the ensuing chases are epic.

Inevitably, after a few moments of pandemonium, the cat is treed. Jake parks himself at the base of the tree, looking pleased with himself, and remains on guard until we go back inside.

Because of all this, a new ritual has evolved. While I check the mail, Jake makes a circuit of the front yard, systematically checking every spot where he has seen or smelled a cat in the past.

Following the same route every time, he stops to look behind certain hedges and shrubs. He peers inside the drainpipe that runs under the driveway. He peeks under vehicles and behind the trash cans. He scans the treetops.

Jake takes the matter of cats very seriously.

Saint Isidore

Isidore of Seville (560-636), the Archbishop of Seville, Spain, dedicated most of his adult life to preserving the knowledge handed down by the Greeks, Romans, and other early civilizations. Had he not done this, most of what we know from antiquity likely would have been lost.

Born into a rich and influential family, Isidore undertook the project of compiling a massive “encyclopedia of knowledge” that compiled virtually everything of consequence known at the time. It was called the Etymologiae, and it was decades in the making. The work consisted of 20 volumes and 448 chapters. For centuries thereafter, it was a staple of medieval libraries.

Isidore had underlings to do the tedious work, of course, but he is known to have been deeply involved is the project. Along the way, he also is credited with inventing the period, the comma, and the colon, which is pretty cool.

In 1997, as the internet was becoming an important thing in the world, Pope John Paul II recognized Isidore’s devotion to knowledge by naming him the patron saint of the internet.

Wedding Day

For years before I retired, I spent nearly every Saturday or Sunday, sometimes both, hiking and kayaking in the mountains of North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. That was my thing.

From where I lived, the most direct route north was US 441, which, for much of the way, is a divided four-lane highway. I would start out on 441 and peel off on other routes depending on the destination.

US 441 passes through Demorest, Georgia, which is notable for the picturesque campus of Piedmont College in the center of town. Driving through Demorest is always pleasant.

I recall one weekend that was especially memorable. Driving home from a hike somewhere, I passed through Demorest and saw that a wedding was in progress in a city park adjacent to the campus.

This, I said to myself, is worth a stop. I parked and walked back to a spot overlooking the site of the wedding, a small gazebo in the park. I sat down on a bench and watched the remainder of the ceremony.

The afternoon was sunny and warm. Fifty or so guests were in attendance. The bride was radiant, the groom was handsome.

The scene was moving, and I became rather emotional. Never mind that I had no idea who those people were.

The gazebo in Demorest.

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The Questions…

1. What breed of dog is the speediest?

2. Which state is the flattest, and which is the most mountainous?

3. The three angles in a triangle always add up to how many degrees?

4. When filmmaker George Lucas was in high school, what career did he plan to pursue?

5. What’s the difference between herbs and spices?

The Answers…

1. The Greyhound. In competitive racing, Greyhounds run at up to 45 mph. From a standing start, they can attain top speed in six strides.

2. Florida is the flattest, followed by Illinois, North Dakota, and Louisiana. West Virginia is, on average, the most mountainous. The mountains of Alaska, California, and Colorado are higher, but the valleys and plains in those states lower the average.

3. 180.

4. Young George was obsessed with motorcycles and fast cars, and he wanted to be a professional race car driver. His mind got changed three days before graduation when he barely survived a car wreck and spent months in a hospital. He went to film school instead.

5. Both come from plants, but herbs are from the fleshy, leafy parts, and spices are from dried, woody parts — root, stalk, seed, etc.

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This Just In

SAULT STE. MARIE, MICHIGAN — Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of words and terms that should be banned because they are over-used and irritating.

The 10 banishments for 2021 are COVID-19 (plus rona, coronavirus, and other variations), social distancing, we’re all in this together, in an abundance of caution, in these uncertain times, pivot, unprecedented, Karen, sus (short for suspicious), and I know, right?

The university has released the list since 1976 to “uphold, protect, and support excellence in language by encouraging avoidance of words and terms that are overworked, redundant, oxymoronic, clichéd, illogical, nonsensical — and otherwise ineffective, baffling, or irritating.”

The list has grown to over 1,000 offending words and terms. They are listed here by year.

LSSU President Rodney Hanley said the terms flatten the curve and new normal almost made the list, but not quite.

RIO LINDA, CALIFORNIA — A local man dressed as Santa Claus was rescued after he crashed his motorized parachute into power lines and became entangled, authorities said.

The incident happened shortly before Christmas as the man was flying to a school to deliver candy canes to the children. He swerved too late to avoid the power lines and wound up trapped and dangling upside down. Power to about 200 customers was shut off during the rescue.

Neighbors said the man flies his parachute around the area regularly, but this was his first time playing Santa for students. He was not injured in the accident.

BEIJING, CHINA — McDonald’s restaurants in China are selling a new “Lunchmeat Burger” consisting of a hamburger bun topped with two slices of Spam, crushed Oreo cookies, and a dollop of mayonnaise.

McDonald’s said the menu addition will be for a limited time and only available on Mondays.

Global brands in several fields are known to introduce offbeat, attention-getting products in China.

Based on comments on the McDonald’s website, Chinese customers have not reacted positively. One comment said the new item is ideal for “when you hate someone, but have to invite him to dinner.”

A comment that read, “There is no need to release unnecessary products” received over 2,000 “likes.”

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The Questions…

1. What is the only breed of dog that doesn’t bark?

2. Carrots weren’t always orange. The orange color appeared in the 1600s, when Dutch farmers began cultivating mutant strains, and the orange version turned out to be higher yielding and better tasting. What color were carrots originally?

3. In what month is Earth closest to the sun?

4. What is responsible for more allergic reactions than any other food or drink?

5. The ratel is a small mammal native to Africa, Asia, and India. By what name is the ratel better known?

The Answers…

1. The Basenji, a small hunting dog closely related to the non-domesticated Australian dingo. Basenjis and dingos vocalize with howls and yodels, but do not bark like most dog breeds.

2. Purple.

3. January. Paradoxically, we experience winter then because the earth’s axis is tilted, and the sun’s rays hit the planet at an angle at that time of year. In July, when we are farthest from the sun, its rays hit us more directly, and we have summer. Science.

4. Cow’s milk.

5. AKA the honey badger, a bad-tempered relative of weasels and martens. The label badger is a misnomer.

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In Florida

In late December, a resident of The Villages, a community for seniors in central Florida, submitted the icy letter below to Villages-News.com.

I can relate. I feel her anger and indignation and share it. Huge numbers of Americans indeed have “monstrous beliefs.” And they feel free to act on them, thanks to being emboldened by an unhinged president and an insane political right wing.

———

To the Editor:

No, Biden’s rallies weren’t bigger. No, you didn’t see any Biden flags on houses or Biden bumper stickers on cars. No, you don’t know a single person on your street or at your church who supports Biden. But guess what? We’re here.


Biden’s rallies were small because people who live in reality don’t want to expose themselves to the virus you continue to downplay or deny.

We don’t fly Biden flags because we don’t want our houses burned down. We don’t put Biden bumper stickers on our cars because we want to avoid becoming targets for road rage. We don’t trust you. We decided to minimize our interactions with people who cannot be reasoned with. This is for our own safety.

In private groups — where you’re not invited — we share our bewilderment of your descent into madness. We all have stories about how we’ve cut ties with you, our family and former friends, because we don’t want your hatred poisoning our social media streams. We can’t stand to listen to you vomiting the lies of your cult, day after day.

You used to be different. We liked you. But now that we know what was inside you heart all along, we’ve decided you don’t deserve to know about our lives.

We’ll skip family reunions, even after we get the vaccine. We’ll make up some excuse just to be polite. But in reality, we just don’t feel like sitting around eating potato salad and making small talk with people who have such monstrous beliefs.

To all the brothers and aunts and cousins and dads and neighbors out there who just can’t wrap their heads around what this means going forward, know that these scars aren’t going away anytime soon. We won’t be reaching out, and we won’t be mending fences. Its not up to us to apologize for the wounds you have gleefully inflicted upon us and our friends.

You poured the gasoline, you lit the match. You burned this to the ground. So if we seem different from now on, I guess we are, in a way. We’ve seen your truth laid bare, and we’re horrified. I hope Trump was worth it.

Katie Schnessel
Village of Polo Ridge

———

In Georgia

According to my local newspaper the Jackson Herald, county officials here and in several other Georgia counties received a threatening email just prior to the January 5 Georgia runoff election.

The Herald was kind enough to share with us the text of the email, redacted for sensitive readers. Buckle up.

———

F_CKING HEAR THIS JACKSON COUNTY OR D!E

This election is f_cking rigged. You all know it and all of you are COMPLICIT as F_CK! No one should vote for these corrupt RINOs who abandoned Trump and our party when he needed them the most, and when its clear something fishy as f_ck happened here.

There is NO WAY Biden won the most votes in history. That is totally bullsh_t and self-evident. And then B_TCH McConnell wants to only give us $600 of OUR money when our businesses are dying? When even the DEMONcrats are pushing for more, your doing something WRONG.

Even Pence has shown he’s just a big p_ssy that will roll over on Trump. Where the F_CK is the loyalty? WHAT F_CKING HAPPENED to our party??? This corrupt party has left our Moral Authority, lost its d_mn balls and forgotten its most loyal supporters.

We cannot trust RINO Kemp or Loeffler or Perdue or ANYONE who is not 100% standing by OUR PRESIDENT. This sh_t is rigged, Trump called it MONTHS ago, and until Trump is guaranteed to be POTUS until 2024 like he should be, we will bring death and destruction to defend this country if needed and get our voices heard.

Anything and anyone in this county that stands in his and our way is an enemy to us and DEMOCRACY. We need signature verification. We need a special session. We need a Constitutional Amendment to make sure this bullsh_t never happens again. Loeffler and Perdue and the rest of our state’s SH_TTY politicians have shown their true colors in November and are clearly NOT on the side of OUR PRESIDENT.

We don’t need more power-hungry anti-democracy RINOs. Anyone who supports them or the COMMUNISTS can f_cking die. All of you and anyone who supports this vile sh_t. We are past playing nice. We’ll make the Boston bombings look like child’s play at the poll sites in this county. You just f_cking WAIT.

This country was founded on righteous war, and if this is what is required of us to defend our very democracy, we will step forward. We will hit every poll site, government office and beyond until every RINO is out of office and Trump stays where he f_cking belongs.

Whoever does not support OUR PRESIDENT does not deserve to call themselves a REPUBLICAN. You all are FAKER than the FAKE NEWS. F_CK Loeffler and Perdue and Kike-lover Kemp and our Secretary of SH_T. Give us some d_mn integrity. We WILL secure our EXISTENCE from your twink agenda. Only state in the South that went to Biden? Yeah F_CKING right! Not suspicious at all!!

Throw out the corruption immediately or we Patriots will END YOU all. And everyone who supports this SH_T. You have less than 3 days. LOOK UP TATP motherF_CKERS…we’re ready.

(Note: TATP is triacetone triperoxide, an explosive.)

ANYONE WHO VOTES FOR DEMONCRATS OR THESE CORRUPT-AS-F_CK RINOS PERDUE AND LOEFFER, who won’t support OUR RIGHTFUL PRESIDENT and loudly boycott this COUP of our party and country, are unworthy to live in this Great Country.

Therefore ANYONE at these poll sites is worthy of our wrath. Detonations will occur at every polling site set up in this county. No one at these places will be spared unless and until Trump is guaranteed to be POTUS again… anyone who votes for either corrupt-as-F_CK party until then is a traitor to the Constitution and our greatest enemy. You will face our righteous wrath.

You too f_cking bucktooth N_GGER CUNT ABRAMS and KORRUPT KEMP and ANY other SO-CALLED REPUBLICAN who supports this coup. DEATH TO THE SOCIALIST KIKES AND RINOS.

If you think we’re bluffing, f_cking TRY us. Youve been warned. We will end you all. See you soon.

#thisistyranny #libertyordeath #wethePATRIOTS

———

Goodness gracious.

According to the Herald, the closing hashtags are “affiliated with right-wing social media and conspiracy sites.” It also said law enforcement was aware of the threat to bomb polling places and had taken unspecified precautions.

Being a journalism major and not a mental health professional, I can’t adequately explain the mentality on display here. But I did minor in psychology, and I have some suspicions regarding overcompensation for perceived personal shortcomings.

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This Just In

MILAN, ITALY — Customs officials in Milan intercepted a suspicious package from Colombia and found 130 grams of cocaine hidden inside hollowed-out coffee beans.

The officials investigated because the package was addressed to a crime boss in a John Wick movie. Members of the Guardia di Finanza, which deals with financial crimes and smuggling, observed that the package was addressed to Santino D’Antonio, a character from the movie John Wick: Chapter 2.

The package contained over 500 coffee beans that had been scooped out, filled with powdered cocaine, and resealed with brown tape.

The cocaine was confiscated, and the package was delivered to its final destination, a tobacco shop in Florence. A 50-year-old man who showed up to claim the package was arrested.

OLATHE, KANSAS — A dog that disappeared from her family’s home in Olathe was found a week later at the family’s previous residence 60 miles away in Lawson, Missouri.

Cleo, a four-year-old golden retriever, turned up at the Lawson home of Colton Michael. Cleo’s microchip revealed that she belonged to Drew Feeback, who had sold the house to Michael two years earlier.

Michael checked Facebook, found a post from Feeback about the missing dog, and Cleo was returned to her family.

Olathe, Kansas, and Lawson, Missouri, are located on opposite sides of the Kansas City metro area and on opposite banks of the Missouri River. No one knows how Cleo made the journey.

UEHLFELD, GERMANY — A Uehlfeld brewery has been forced to halt beer production because storks, a protected species in Germany, built a nest in one of the factory’s chimneys.

A family of storks built the nest at the Zwanzger Brewery in early spring, and the baby storks have since hatched. The brewery planned to relocate the nest so production could resume, but new coronavirus restrictions temporarily prevented it.

Brewer Christian Zwanzger said his stock of beer is running low, but he thinks production will be back to normal shortly. He said Uehlfeld is fond of the storks, which often return to the same spots every year. The town has about 35 nests.

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