The Bellamy Salute

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Students_pledging_allegiance_to_the_American_flag_with_the_Bellamy_salute.jpg

When minister Francis Bellamy published the American Pledge of Allegiance in Youth’s Companion in 1892, his colleague James Upham devised a salute to go along with it, snapping the heels together and extending the right arm toward the flag:

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, ‘I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.’ At the words, ‘to my Flag,’ the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

This worked fine until the 1920s, when Italian fascists and then German Nazis adopted similar salutes. Congress delicately changed the American salute to the hand-on-heart gesture in 1942.

Black and White

larsen chess problem

By Peder Andreas Larsen. White to mate in two moves.

(I’ve added a guide to chess notation.)

Click for Answer

Think Piece

In 1953 Robert Rauschenberg obtained a drawing from Willem de Kooning, erased it, and presented the blank paper in a gilded frame titled Erased de Kooning Drawing, Robert Rauschenberg, 1953.

“I wanted to create a work of art by [erasing],” he said. “Using my own work wasn’t satisfactory. … I realized that it had to be something by someone who everybody agreed was great, and the most logical person for that was de Kooning.”

Rauschenberg said de Kooning was annoyed at first by the request, but “would not have wanted to hinder me in my work, if that’s what I wanted to do.” But he chose a particularly dark drawing in charcoal, ink, pencil, and crayon, saying, “We might as well make it harder for you.”

Cat and Mouse

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brown_rat_distribution.png

Rats have pretty well overrun the globe, but there’s one exception: Alberta, Canada, which has waged a successful war against the critters for 50 years. Owning rats is forbidden to Alberta residents; they can be kept only by zoos and research institutions. The province maintains a rat control zone 600 kilometers long along its eastern border, staffed by eight professionals, and any rats they find are poisoned, gassed, or shot.

“Alberta is the only province with rat-free status, and we take this very seriously,” Verlyn Olson, minister of agriculture and rural development, said in an August statement. “We have lived without the menace of rats since 1950, when our control program began.”

But it’s a constant battle. In 2003 pest specialist John B. Bourne told National Geographic that he worries the wily creatures will hitch a ride to the interior aboard a truck or train. “They are so adaptive, so intelligent, so successful and physically capable … that it would not surprise me if they show up in a place where you’d least expect a rat to show up. I have the greatest respect for this rodent’s resourcefulness, and [its] capabilities scare the hell out of me.”

Fry Another Day

In the U.S. edition of Thrilling Cities, his 1963 collection of travel pieces written for the Sunday Times, Ian Fleming included a brief section describing a visit to New York by James Bond, who visits the Edwardian Room at the Plaza and orders a dry martini, smoked salmon, and “the particular scrambled eggs he had once instructed them how to make.” And in a footnote, Fleming gives the precise recipe for 007′s scrambled eggs:

Scrambled Eggs “James Bond”

12 fresh eggs
Salt and pepper
5-6 oz. of fresh butter

Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and season well. In a small copper (or heavy-bottomed) saucepan melt four oz. of the butter. When melted, pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a small egg whisk.

While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for eating, remove pan from heat, add rest of butter and continue whisking for half a minute, adding the while finely chopped chives or fines herbes. Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittainger) and low music.

It serves “four individualists.”

Making Luck

The audience was stunned when contestant Michael Larson won $110,237 on Press Your Luck in 1984, easily the largest one-day total ever won on a game show to that date. As lights flashed randomly on the Big Board, somehow Larson was consistently able to stop on squares that led to cash and additional play, and avoid the “whammy” that would bankrupt him.

It turned out that the light indicator wasn’t random. In studying the game at home, Larson had discovered that it followed five recognizable patterns; after memorizing these he could always be sure of landing on winning squares.

CBS producers divined the scheme, but they could find no cause to disqualify Larson, as he had broken no rules. They paid him his money, fixed the board, and established a maximum sum that future contestants could win.

Larson may have congratulated himself, but he didn’t get to enjoy his winnings — he lost the money in bad real estate investments and died of throat cancer at age 49.

In a Word

https://www.google.com/patents/US4022227

calvity
n. baldness

One wonders if there’s a personal story behind this “method of concealing partial baldness,” patented by Donald and Frank Smith in 1977. The hair is grown to a length of 3 or 4 inches, divided into equal portions, and brushed over the bald area, using hair spray to hold it in place. “By lightly sweeping the hair into the desired style as the hair spray dries, an appearance of a full head of hair is given.”

Beyond the Pale

Expressions banned from use in New Zealand parliamentary debate:

1933
Blowfly-minded

1943
Retardate worm

1946
Clown of the House
Idle vapourings of a mind diseased
I would cut the honourable gentleman’s throat if I had the chance

1949
His brains could revolve inside a peanut shell for a thousand years without touching the sides

1957
Kind of animal that gnaws holes

1959
Member not fit to lick the shoes of the Prime Minister

1963
Energy of a tired snail returning home from a funeral

1966
Shut up yourself, you great ape
Snotty-nosed little boy
You are a cheap little twerp
Ridiculous mouse

1974
Could go down the Mount Eden sewer and come up cleaner than he went in
Dreamed the bill up in the bath
Frustrated warlord

The full list is here. In brighter news, saying that a fellow member “scuttles for his political funk hole” was deemed allowable in 1974.

The Inman Diaries

When chronic illness confined Boston poet Arthur Crew Inman to a darkened room, he turned inward, scribbling his thoughts and feelings into an enormous diary that eventually filled 155 volumes with 17 million handwritten words — most of them peevish:

A Lithuanian came to read to me. I disliked her at once. She was common. Her voice sounded like an ungreased axle. She spoke with a pronounced accent. She would start to read fairly well, but in short order she would become interested in the book, forget me, let the reading go as it might. I began to ask her questions. She answered in monosyllables. She used gutter slang. Her father, she said, had fled from Poland to escape the Russian term of army service. He had come to America where he had stayed for a while in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After saving some money, he took his family to Amsterdam, New York, and started a dry goods store. The girl had been one of six children. She had not learned to speak English until she was thirteen. She had gone to public school. Now she is studying music at the Boston Conservatory.

Harvard professor Daniel Aaron, who edited the diaries for publication in 1985, called them “surely one of the fullest and largest diaries ever kept by any American.” Inman would have agreed with him. “I trust to do in nonfiction what Balzac did in fiction,” he said. Perhaps he succeeded — the diaries were turned into an opera in 2007, and a film version starring John Hurt is in development.

Junk Mail

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After the San Francisco earthquake, James Jones wrote this letter on a detachable shirt collar and mailed it without postage to his son and daughter-in-law in New York:

Dear Wayland and Gussie: All safe but awfully scared. Frisco and hell went into partnership and hell came out winner — got away with the sack. Draw a line from Ft Mason along Van Ness Ave. to Market St., out Market to Dolores to Twentieth, thence to Harrison, 16th & Portrero Ave. R.R. Ave. to Channel St. and bay. Nearly everything east and north of this boundary line gone, and several blocks west of it, especially in Hayes Valley as far as Octavia St. from Golden Gate Ave. east. Fire is still burning on the northside but is checked in the Mission. I and a band of 40 or 50 volunteers formed a rope and bucket brigade, back-fired Dolores from Market to 19th, pulled down houses and blanketed westside Dolores and won a great victory. More with paper & stamps. James G. Jones. April 21st, 1906.

It was delivered. The post office had resolved to handle “everything, stamped or unstamped, as long as it had an address to which it could be sent,” remembered William F. Burke, secretary to the city postmaster. When he made the rounds of camps, “the wonderful mass of communications that poured into the automobile was a study in the sudden misery that had overtaken the city. Bits of cardboard, cuffs, pieces of wrapping paper, bits of newspapers with an address on the margin, pages of books and sticks of wood all served as a means to let somebody in the outside world know that friends were alive and in need among the ruins.”

At the close of the first day, “95 pouches of letters carrying mail composed of rags and tatters and odds and ends — and burdened with a weight of woe bigger than had ever left the city in a mail sack — were made up for dispatch. … It came to our knowledge later that not one piece of this mail that was properly addressed failed of delivery.”

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