Saturday, May 28, 2016

Postblogging Technology, April 1946, II: British Turboencabulators Are Less Powerful Than American, And Not So Well Finished As German

Dear Dr. B:

Enclosed are family photographs sized as you suggested for my father-in-law's rooms. Thank you for letting me continue this correspondence. I doubt that I am as amsuing as I think I am, but I do not think I am wrong to think that it provides him with some connection with his sons and grandchildren.

I have no idea how to go about "not promoting the United Nations" as an "object of paranoia," but I do not have to pretend very hard to find its proceedings so far to be pretty pointless! I am sorry to hear that my father-in-law's symptoms are so entrenched this time around. Isn't mania supposed to subside with age, or is that just a layman's superstition? On the other hand, he has been through a great deal in the last few years, and perhaps a relapse was inevitable. Certainly my Uncle George expected it. (Don't worry; I haven't suddenly decided that electrical refrigeration causes mania as well as cancer!) 


Dear Father:

I have forwarded you pictures of the junior James and Grace, and of Victoria; as well as your youngest decked out in Navy whites; and of your oldest in his best Saville Row, courtesy of the Earl. Which, he tells me, was  utterly over-the-top at Eimac. For Stanford --er, I should probably say something like "the junior college," but what's the point-- they do not seem able to grasp the concept of getting dressed! Not that James is exactly a clotheshorse, as you often mention yourself.

On the bright side, the same outfit perfectly suited the Bank of America, and I think it looked smashing. We also gave the morning coat a tryout at the Easter service at the university chapel, where I had a chance to show off my new hat.

What? It's Easter! 

In other family news, Aunt Bessie has had an unexpected recovery. She is still bedridden, but the doctors now say that she has years left in her. Uncle George left for Boston last week, along with Wong Lee. Who is not bringing along his new prize, which will be described below, and which could prove quite handy for dealing with situations in which individuals won't come out into the light. (I will say no more, except that Uncle Henry has been coming under considerable pressure recently in regards to loose ends of the business of the dam.) They will be proceeding to Poughkeepsie by auto. I can't believe we have business in a town with such a ridiculous name, but no-one asked me what a good location for a college might be, and so I cannot judge. I had a brief conversation with "Miss V.C." on the phone by long distance last night, and it turns out that the school has quite a reputation for, well, that, amongst the younger set. 

Back home, you have heard that the labour difficulties in the movie industry continue. As you know, the Engineer's youngest is now a member of his union; the interesting thing is that he is vaguely associated with negotiations with Mr. Johnston. I am now wondering if there is a percentage for us here . . . 

Hmm. Well, all's best that ends well.


Women like hats! That's why this is funny.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Postblogging Technology, April 1946, I: Coming Home

My Dear Dr. B_:

I am told that my father-in-law is a returning patient, and that you have strict rules about the kind of communication he is to have with the outside world until he is on the mend. You will be relieved to hear that my Uncle George shared them with me long ago, and that I follow them as well as I am able.

I am to downplay the press's inevitable cycle of crisis followed by  imminent war/famine/plague/bust, as R_ tends towards the paranoid, and grasps on these as acceptable ways of indulging himself. I am to adopt Uncle George's rather cynical viewpoint both because Uncle George thinks it amuses his cousin, and because my father-in-law has been a man without a country since 1911, and needs to know that someone is "on his side." And, of course, I am to continue to update him on his cousin's relentless enthusiasm for investing in the next big thing. Especially when it actually works out!

And, of course, there is the language matter. Because of reasons of business secrecy, the document attached is in a code cipher based on Chinese, and so you will have to take my word, and my father-in-law's secretary's word, that the content would meet with your approval, for which I humbly apologise.


My Dear Father:

I hope this letter finds you settled in at your usual lodgings and resting comfortably. You need have no fears for your private matters. Your wife is understanding, and it has been arranged that your assailant attend Vassar College in America in the 1946/7 school year. It is quite a nice school --much nicer than her grades warrant, I understand. Uncle George is undertaking to settle the young lady's affairs on a more permanent basis, by arranging for her to room with a young woman with the right sort of young man for a brother/cousin/uncle/nephew, who will be strictly instructed to let nature take its course. 

Uncle George says that he even has a likely candidate in mind, one who is not only inclined to a marriage of convenience by his personal inclinations, but who has given a hostage to fortune by involving himself in espionage for a foreign power while at Yale. A communist, I asked? Better yet, Uncle said: "A Fascist"! The real kind of Fascist, that is, it being some kind of matter of sending oil to Spain. 

Speaking of old secrets, Fanny has been going through Great Uncle's American ledgers. It turns out that our hazy memories were accurate, and that Mr. Eric Johnston does have a defaulted debt to us, although it turns out that it was his mother, or, rather, his grandfather, who contracted it. Unfortunately, the old man died in 1928. and part of the arrangement was, yes, you guessed it, a "marriage of convenience." It would not be very gracious of us to go to Mr. Johnston and demand repayment after the husband we secured for his mother abandoned the family!

Your sons are gone as from yesterday, departing for the South Seas and the atomic testing. "Miss V.C." is in Chicago, visiting her parents, and will go from there to New Haven to visit "Lieutenant A.," who is probably Uncle George's source for the New Haven conspiracy. Fortunately, "Mrs. Fat Chow," in whom I have vastly more confidence, assures me that in this case the lieutenant is not being more enthusiastic than competent. 

And so I am left rattling around the house with no-one to keep me company but three children and Fanny, waiting for everyone to return from their adventures. I have even made a few lunch dates with the University faculty. I have not the slightest notion that Jimmy Chow comes over when I am out to lunch, by the way.

Oh! That reminds me. Your eldest had his first board meeting just before he left, at Eimac, up in San Francisco. He is very excited about this, because it seems as though the company might be in the market for a tape-recorder! We shall see: transforming the thing from a shadowy promise for the future to an actual, marketable product would do wonders for the bottom line.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Shadow Pasts: Another Anti-Correllian 1940 With Meditations on the Debacle

"Posterity will hear of these Battles," said the most unfortunate Flight title ever.

The British Air Force in France, 10 May 1940*

Air ComponentThe 

Air Component Headquarters
HQ Air Component-
Air Vice-Marshall C.H.B. Blount

No 14 Group

HQ No. 14 Group-
Group Captain P.F. Fullard
60 (Fighter) Wing
HQ 60 Wing  Wing Commander J.A. Boret
85 SquadronHurricane Mk I  Lille-Seclin
87 SquadronHurricane Mk I  Senon
61 (Fighter) Wing
HQ 61 Wing  Wing Commander R.Y. Eccles
607 SquadronHurricane Mk I
615 SquadronHurricane Mk I
  A flight : Le Touquet
B flight : Abbeville
63 (Fighter) Wing - created on 10 May 1940
HQ 63 Wing  ?only mentioned in source (2)
3 SquadronHurricane Mk I  Merville
79 SquadronHurricane Mk I  Merville
70 (Bomber Reconnaissance) Wing
HQ 70 Wing  Wing Commander W.A. Opie
18 SquadronBlenheim Mk V  
57 SquadronBlenheim Mk V  
52 (Bomber) Wing
HQ 52 Wing  Wing Commander A.F. Hutton
53 SquadronBlenheim Mk IV  
55 (?) Squadron  source (2) says 59 Squadron
50 (Army Co-operation) Wing
HQ 50 Wing  Group Captain A.R. Churchman
4 SquadronLysander  
13 SquadronLysander  
16 SquadronLysander
51 (Army Co-operation) Wing
HQ 51 Wing  Wing Commander A.H. Flower
2 SquadronLysander  
26 SquadronLysander  
81 (C) SquadronDragonCommunications Squadron

Advanced Air Striking Force

Advanced Air Striking Force Headquarters
HQ Air Component-
Air Vice-Marshall P.H.L. Playfair
67 (Fighter) Wing
HQ 67 Wing  Wing Co. C. Walter
1 SquadronHurricane Mk I
73 SquadronHurricane Mk I
212 SquadronPhotographic Recce Squadron. Only mentioned in source (1)
501 SquadronHurricane Mk I
 BethenvilleArrived 10 May 1940. Only mentioned in source (2)
No. 71 (Bomber) Wing
HQ 71 Wing  Air Commodore R.M. Field
105 SquadronFairey Battle
114 SquadronBlenheim Mk IV
139 SquadronBlenheim Mk IV
150 SquadronFairey Battle
75 (Bomber) Wing
HQ 75 Wing  Group Captain A.H. Wann
88 SquadronFairey Battle
103 SquadronFairey Battle
208 SquadronFairey Battle
Auberivesource (2) gives 218 Squadron instead
76 (Bomber) Wing
HQ 76 Wing  Group Captain H.S. Kerby
12 SquadronFairey Battle
142 SquadronFairey Battle
226 SquadronFairey Battle
98 SquadronFairey Battle  Nantes Acted as a reserve for Fairey Battle squadrons. Only mentioned in source (2)


  • (1) The War in France and Flanders, L.F. ELLIS, London : Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1953. SO Code : No. 63-111-2-2*
  • (2) La campagne de France (1e partie) : La bataille du NordBatailles A√©riennes no. 7 Jan-Feb-Mar 1999

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Postblogging Technology, March 1946, II: More Work and Better Pay!

Fraternal Brother Liu Chu Wan!

Have received your latest. Please make arrangements have my cousin at the train station in Revelstoke this Wednesday. I will have  driver take him to a boat, which he will hopefully find less distressing than an auto trip to Galena, and from there to the usual place. Hopefully, his stay will be as short as his last. I am attending to the matter of having the other parties released from custody without press coverage. It is not the usual reason that our fraternal brothers approach police reporters, but it is not unprecedented, either. 

Now, as to patching up matters with the neighbour. I should think that it would be better that you approach him. Unless he be blinded by colour, this will be less rich in insult. If it be your mistress, one is reminded of the infidelity. If it be me, it is one rich old man covering up for another. Even another rich old man might find this offensive! As to the offer, I think little harm done to the girl herself, thank Heavens, and that money is not too crass for the circumstance. 

It is her friend, the neighbour's daughter who concerns me. Her reaction is frankly not normal. Shooting at people is rarely normal! Yet, whatever her father's reaction to these revelations, blood is still a bond. He may feel that he needs to support his daughter, however mad.

So what I propose, to put it baldly, is to take charge of her life by finding her a complacent husband while she is away at college. I assume that she is going away to college, and I am going to put Vassar forward. It is perfectly suitable, especially to a social climber like this man, and I have friends there. For the husband, you may assure the father that I have long experience in these matters of finding husbands who can be trusted to do their matrimonial duties as often as required, and otherwise stay well out of the way. If the diplomacy here seems beyond you, I will be in Vancouver by Friday, where I can make the terms clear.  And, I suppose, in the East after that, although this is probably not the place for self-pity. 

Your Loving Elder Brother, Tay Chao She


Dear Sir:

I am so very sorry to hear of your recent difficulties, and will write you via G/D, Nakusp soonest. Now that exams are over, your son can be in Vancouver until he has to leave for Bikinni, and for greater convenience, "Miss V.C." has volunteered to drive him up.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Postblogging Technology, March 1946, I: Tuxedo Park is Melting in the Rain

Mr. R_. C_.,
Vancouver, Canada

My Dear Father:

I hope that this letter finds your convalescence well advanced. The nerve of the Government, keeping a man of  your age under such strain, so long, and for such absurd reasons! Thanks to your letter, at least I understand the concern better now. The more that I hear about the effects of one of those pedestrian, old-fashioned "regular" atom bombs at Nagasaki, the less I want to know about tritium-boosted "super" bombs. 

But you are released, and all it cost you was being delivered through your front door in a wheelchair. I wonder what your neighbours thought when the Army ambulance pulled up the back lane?

For us here in Santa Clara, it is a moment to be amazed at just how quickly the academic year comes to an end. "Miss V.C." is a sight unseen, up in her rooms at the junior college in Palo Alto, preparing for final examinations. (Or so she says.) Equally little is heard from your son, and that in spite of his work for the Navy, which is apparently extending over a machine shop in New Haven, where Ensign Wong is now seconded from his Alaskan vacation paradise. One delightful by-product of this is that your youngest has seen rather more of "Lieutenant A.," who is  hard on the heels of a supposed Communist spy ring operating at Yale. 

As I mention below, Uncle George has finally resumed an interest in business, and will be your neck of the woods --almost-- over the next week, on a fact-finding tour of the smelter at Trail. It is not the kind of business which engages his interests, but news of the world lead shortage cannot be ignored. He is also gently probing the possible resumption of the "all Red route." The harbour transfers are getting hair-raising, and I would much prefer to see our new clients dropped politely off on some rain-soaked British Columbia dock, if that is possible. If the civil war really does resume next year, we will have more business than we would care to contemplate were it not for the need to keep the Benevolent Associations happy. It is so frustrating. Parents and kin are one thing. It is the old men shopping for spouses for their grandsons who frustrate me. Just get an American girl for your boy, I want to yell at them, but it will do me no good. The New World has a corrupting effect on filial piety, it is firmly and sincerely explained. 

A charts-topping hit of 1959 invites us to reconsider the question of bringing down Western Civilisation. If you want to skip ahead, there is a linked video with a less offensive version, if you have autoplay activated. Otherwise, it's on to Gunther's version. 

So, if we can find a port in British Columbia through which we can move people, it would be good to have the procedures for "midnight baptisms" at the river crossing nailed down.  The Canadians built up all sorts of bases on the coast during the late war. Perhaps there is someone at one or the other of them who would not mind a new stream of business? Then it will only be a matter of arranging road transport through the province to Trail. And there's the price of lead, zinc and copper to consider.

A final word: quite a large expenditure will appear in the accounts, appended. I make no apologies. Housing, never mind actual houses, are dear around San Francisco these days, never mind Berkeley,> It is expensive, I admit, but the loyalties of the Wongs and of Fat Chow, are not, to my mind, a negotiable asset. If there is blame, she said, quick to deflect it, blame our brave warriors, who have done noble work in their recent visits. To put it mildly, Queenie and "Miss v. Q" are not going to be in a position to share an apartment, especially with the littlest Wong walking already.  

Subtle subtext about the role of  a society's demographic profile in maintaining consumer demand is subtle.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Looking For Alvin: The Debacle

This post leads from a comment I made over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative to the effect that Canadian rural abandonment had become so severe that entire regions of British Columbia had been depopulated. 

I was kind of talking out of my ass, as commenters do in comment threads. I had the Lardeau Lake country along Highway 31 in mind as something I could point to, but it's a little weak, as the region is basically a string of old copper-boom ghost towns. Semi-abandoned mining towns don't count, except maybe  in Zenna Henderson short stories. So it occurred to me that I might check for something with a little higher impact. What is the closest "abandoned region" to the Greater Vancouver Regional District? You know, "Hollywood North?" Skyrocketing house prices? More than half the population of the province? Place where most of the jobs in Canada are being created now?" (Along with Toronto, but who cares about Toronto? Oddly second-wave British Columbia city, not even imagined when Port Douglas and Yale were being built?

What I found was a bit shocking. Also, something worth contemplating as the precarious staffing at my place of work came undone this week under one irreplaceable sick shift another. When, just for a non-dairy whipped topping, I had to deal with an elderly customer having a cerebral aneurysm and one of our hardest-working, minimum wage kids being crippled by one of the most easily treated chronic medical conditions it's possible to imagine. Since most of these things are related to demographics, it is easy to see them getting worse. It's also easy to imagine it getting worse, much quicker. That is, if I was being Chicken Little last week, I'm extra-crispy Chicken Little this week.

That's the preamble: now, audience participation. "Compare and contrast."


Screen Capture from Panoramio, photo by niftynial.
"Generic footage of a German panzer division parading in Paris, 1940."
And contrast.