Sunday, September 27

Saturday, May 20

The state of Pennsylvania voted to relax it's "Blue Laws" a bit come November, so the smart money (as it turns out) bought an NFL franchise, because games would be allowed on Sundays. The Pittsburgh Pirates. The saga of Engelbert Dollfuss continues. Austria's ruler was a right-winger, but he wasn't batshit crazy like Hitler, nor an egomaniac like Mussolini. Seems to me he was doing his level best to unite his country in an effort to resist a German takeover. On this day he founded the Fatherland Front, making it the single legal political party in Austria, by combining the forces of the Catholic church, the military, and industry. He sort of aped the Nazi uniform (with the addition of old-time piping) and flag (modifying the swastika into a cross) and even wore a stupid mustache lik...

Friday, May 19

Today, a bombing at a crowded railway station in Tientsin, China killed more than 100 people. So far I haven't learned anything more about this incident, but I have discovered that the city had a large and well-established foreign business "presence". Portions of the city had been conceded to Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Italy and Japan, and they had been made to resemble their home countries. Working there was a pretty sweet gig for the foreigners. Not sure how the USA missed out on the deal. Was the bombing a random act of terror? There were Japanese troops nearby in Manchuria, and the Japanese had been sending planes over major Chinese cities with impunity, dropping- not bombs- but loads of pamphlets telling the people "these could be bombs if we wanted them to be" and "res...

Thursday, May 18

The Tennessee Valley Association, the TVA, was always somewhere in the background of my awareness growing up- sort of like Bob Hope. I mean, it was something that people thought was a big deal, whenever the subject came up, but as a kid, well, I sure didn't know why. I never thought Bob Hope's jokes were funny, and I assumed that everybody always had electricity. What's the big deal? Both of these things were brands, and I didn't know about brands when I was a kid. Well, I did, I was surrounded by them, but I didn't know that they had to be carefully created and nurtured, like exotic flowers or something. The TVA was probably oversold a bit, but maybe not. From anything I've seen from 1933, from the Golden Gate Bridge, to Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, to the White Sea- Baltic canal in ...

Wednesday, May 17

This is a big find- the radio program One Man's Family hit America's eardrums today and wormed its way into the nation's image of itself for the next couple of decades. Be sure to have a listen to the girl talk I've sampled- did anyone actually believe this drivel? What kept this program on the air for so long? I suppose it expressed ideas that radio listeners wanted to believe about themselves. Fantasyland. The same goes for Norway's Quisling, whose name, like Dr. Mudd, has become shorthand for a certain type of underhanded behavior. Quisling, like Dollfuss in Austria, thought that he could set himself up as dictator. But while Dollfuss actually had the position and the smarts to make a creditable attempt, Quisling had nothing but the uniform, flags and emblems, and the crappy bel...

Tuesday, May 16

More photos taken in Havana by Walker Evans. Did I mention that he was hanging out with Ernest Hemingway at the time? There had to have been drinking involved.Things were not going well for President Machado- who Time labeled "dictator". Machado had been democratically elected, but had run for a second term (against his earlier promise not to, surprise!) of 6 years. The political unity he had brought to Cuba was disintegrating, despite (or maybe because of) the dollars he brought into the country from tourists attracted to the drinking, gambling, and prostitution he encouraged. (spoiler alert- he doesn't make it to '34)He had a visitor in May- one tall, distinguished looking American statesman by the name of Sumner Welles. Sumner Welles was an interesting character throughout the fi...

Monday, May 15

Took a little trip along the trolleys of Maine this morning. They were still running there up through the late 30's at least, maybe later. I would not have thought that trolley lines (that is, inter-urban lines) were still a thing then, but a look at a schedule shows that it was a pretty cheap way to travel if you didn't have a car (and if you didn't mind a 40 mile trip taking 2 1/2 hours!)Anyhoo, Adventure! I like that there were maybe a dozen of these pulps out there in 1933. I enjoy looking at the covers and imagining the storylines they illustrate- the thief in the Arabian Bazaar, the Canadian Mountie after his man, or the old, old favorite, the Highwayman.We love stories of highwaymen, mainly because we like those who flout the law (as long as they're only robbing from the rich, ...

Sunday, May 14

Science fiction was science fact in 1933. Sure, many scoffed and laughed at the little rocket clubs with their dreams of interplanetary flight. Zucker had what might have been a practical plan of delivering mail to remote islands via rockets- in fact he nearly sold the British Postal Service on the idea. But lacking any real understanding of propulsion and guidance he wasn't enough of a rocket geek to actually figure out how to do it.Wernher von Braun was the geek to do it, and his rockets delivered a lot of "mail" to Britain toward the end of WWII, but of course, he's become something of a hero now. Would have been interesting if he had refused to create death machines, right? There's another interesting bunch of geeks who were getting it on out in sunny California at this time. T...

Saturday, May 13

Browsing through the May 6, 1933 issue of the New Yorker I was struck by this short story. It has a "voice" that you don't hear these days, although it was one which was highly regarded when I was growing up. It's sort of dispassionate, sort of removed, what you might call an objective voice. Matter-of-fact.I've written a short story in this voice. I worked hard on it, trying to capture the intensity of an experience I'd had. When I had the thing written as clearly as I could, when I had honed and refined it until I felt like "yeah, this is it!" ----I gave it to another writer to check out. She said "it reads like stage directions." Not so good, not the effect I was hoping for. "The Short Life of Emily" is the sort of thing I was hoping for. I didn't expect it in a magazine from ...

Friday, May 12

Under Roosevelt, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration was tasked with granting money to the states for the purpose of giving jobs to people. There had been relief programs in place before this, but it's above my pay grade to explain the differences- maybe it was a question of scale. Over the next 20 months this program distributed the equivalent of $55.4 billion for programs to train and provide employment to people. The New Deal's success or failure and its implications for "Free Enterprise", "America", "Democracy", or "Economics" are now more a matter of opinion than of objective reality. The reality that I understand is that through this program people were given, more or less directly, a means to live honorably, which "The Market" had failed to provide for them. As always,...

Thursday, May 11

On this day the House of Saud invested a Crown Prince. Sadly, I can find no photographs of Saud of Saud at his investment, but in general the royals seemed to love their children, and had a lot of them. This young man had to wait 20 years to become King. There were more tornadoes in the USA today, killing 54 people in Tennessee and Kentucky. This was the seventh major storm series already in 1933. Quite a bad season. I'm posting less date-specific images today however. The cartoonist who produced the hilarious image of Emily Post sipping tea with her feet up on the table created the Tree of Modern Art with its upper branches entwined. Miguel Covarrubias is well worth a goog, he's smart and funny and seems to capture the off-balance feeling of the times.The photograph below the tre...