The Better Man

http://books.google.com/books?id=MHVNAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

In 1822, frontiersman Hugh Glass joined a corps of 100 “enterprising young men” to ascend the Missouri River on a fur-trapping expedition. At the Grand River he was attacked by a grizzly bear; he and his companions managed to kill it, but Glass was badly mauled. The expedition’s leader offered $40 for volunteers to remain with Glass until he died or could travel. The two men who accepted this charge, John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger, waited a short interval and then simply took Glass’ belongings and rejoined the expedition, reporting that they’d buried the body.

Glass awoke mutilated, alone, and unprovisioned 200 miles from the nearest settlement. He crawled south for six weeks, foraging on berries, roots, and the carcasses of buffalo, before he reached the Cheyenne River, where he fashioned a raft and floated to Fort Kiowa on the Missouri. Then he set out to seek revenge.

He found Bridger on the Yellowstone near the mouth of the Bighorn River, and decided to spare him because of his youth (Bridger had been only 17 when he’d abandoned Glass). He found Fitzgerald at Fort Atkinson, where he was serving as a private in the Sixth Infantry. George Yount recounts the climax:

Glass found the recreant individual, who had so cruelly deserted him, when he lay helpless & torn so shockingly by the Grizzly Bear–He also there recovered his favorite Rifle–To the man he only addressed himself as he did to the boy– ‘Go false man & answer to your own conscience & to your God;–I have suffered enough in all reason by your perfidy–You was well paid to have remained with me until I should be able to walk–You promised to do so–or to wait my death & decently bury my remains–I heard the bargain–Your shameful perfidy & heartless cruelty–but enough–Again I say, settle the matter with your own conscience & your God.’

He told Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, “I reckon the skunk ain’t worth shooting after all.”

Unquote

“Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. People have always been like this.” — Flaubert

Misc

  • Christopher Lee is Ian Fleming’s cousin.
  • £12.12s.8d = 12128 farthings
  • ii is real.
  • Shouldn’t Juliet have asked, “Wherefore art thou Montague?”
  • “Of soup and love, the first is the best.” — Thomas Fuller

A Living Emblem

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WIS-8th@Viclsburg.jpg

During the Civil War, the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment had a particularly patriotic mascot — a bald eagle. Named for the commander-in-chief of the Union Army, “Old Abe” accompanied his regiment into battle at the Second Battle of Corinth and the Siege of Vicksburg, screaming at the enemy and spreading his wings. Apparently he was a bit of a ham — in September 1861 the Eau Claire Free Press reported:

When the regiment marched into Camp Randall, the instant the men began to cheer, he spread his wings, and taking one of the small flags attached to his perch in his beak, he remained in that position until borne to the quarters of the late Col. Murphy.

After the war Old Abe resided in the state capitol, where he died in a fire in 1881. Today he lives on in the insignia of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Black and White

black and white - loyd mate in 2

By Sam Loyd. White to mate in two moves.

Click for Answer

First and Last

As the computer HAL is being shut down in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it begins singing the song “Daisy Bell”:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do,
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage–
I can’t afford a carriage–
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.

That’s poetic, in a way. During a visit to Bell Labs in 1961, novelist Arthur C. Clarke had witnessed the first singing computer — physicist John Kelly had programmed an IBM 704 to sing using a speech synthesizer.

The song it sang was “Daisy Bell.”

“A Parasite Tree”

http://books.google.com/books?id=FCdGAAAAcAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Sir.–I have recently, on a visit to Mr. Gee’s plantation three miles south of Quincy, Gadsden county, in this territory, observed a natural curiosity, the following description of which may be interesting to you and many of the readers of the American Journal of Arts and Science.

It is a yellow pine tree bearing another in a perfectly healthful and flourishing state, like itself and those in the woods around them. The trees, as represented in this sketch, are united about thirty five feet from the ground, where they entwine around each other. The one that is borne, (marked A,) extends down, to within about two feet of the ground, and is alive and healthful to its lowest extremity.

These trees have been, in the condition in which they now are, for a period longer back than the first settlement of the country by the present population. They were pointed out by the Indians as a curiosity to the first Americans who came to Florida. The stump of the tree which is borne, has long since disappeared, and the place which it occupied, is now grown up in small bushes and grass.

— Lt. George W. Long, Tallahassee, Fla., in American Journal of Science and Arts, July 1834

In a Word

caliginosity
n. darkness

noctivagous
adj. wandering at night

Action

Robert Altman’s 1992 film The Player opens with a tracking shot — one continuous take that lasts nearly 8 minutes.

The filmmakers shot 15 takes, and Altman used take 10 — you can see the slate at the very beginning of this clip.

Alfred Hitchcock planned to shoot his 1948 film Rope in one enormous take, but his cameras would hold only 1,000 feet of film. As it is, the 80-minute film contains only 11 takes.

“Extraordinary Flight of Leaves”

The pastoral farm of Dalgonar is situated near the source of the Skarr Water, in the parish of Penpont, Dumfriesshire. The ridge of hills on the farm as per Ordnance Survey is 1580 feet above sea-level. There are only five trees on the farm–two ash and three larch. An extraordinary occurrence presented itself to the eyes of Mr. Wright, my informant, at the end of October 1889, on this farm, which has been narrated to me in a letter received from him, as follows:–

‘I was struck by a strange appearance in the atmosphere, which I at first mistook for a flock of birds, but as I saw them falling to the earth my curiosity was quickened. Fixing my eyes on one of the larger of them, and running about 100 yards up the hill until directly underneath, I awaited its arrival, when I found it to be an oak leaf. Looking upwards the air was thick with them, and as they descended in an almost vertical direction, oscillating and glittering in the sunshine, the spectacle was as beautiful as rare. The wind was from the north, blowing a very gentle breeze, and there were occasional showers of rain.

‘On examination of the hills after the leaves had fallen, it was found that they covered a tract of about a mile wide and two miles long. The leaves were wholly those of the oak. No oak trees grow in clumps together nearer than eight miles. The aged shepherd, who has been on the farm since 1826, never witnessed a similar occurrence.’

— James Shaw, Tynron School, Dumfriesshire, in Nature, Oct. 30, 1890