Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Meta-Technical Appendix to Postblogging Technology, April, 1948: The Two Secrets of the Fiscal 1948-9 British Budget


So this started out as a smartass answer over at Quora to the question, "What did Britain lose in World War II?" The expected answer is, of course, "the Empire, which was awesome," so you can see why my push back was "Houses. Everything else was upside."
It might also not surprise that the post has not elicited any great number of positive responses. Whatever: The first important point is that I'm off to 100 Mile House for my niece's birthday this week, I wanted to post something light, and the first part of this post, which is about the budget presented by Stafford Cripps in April of 1948, is something that deserves to be shoved out into the Zeitgeist. It's pretty much set-in-stone wisdom that Britain "bankrupted itself fighting the Second World War, and that narrative goes on to shape our understanding of the consequences of running up a large, public-sector deficit to address an existential emergency.

Which is an important point for these days. Global warming and all that, you know.

The second important point is that my purely rhetorical codicil about how Britain was unexpectedly innovative in the 1950s, turns out to be far more cohesive than I realised. Picking three exemplars of British innovation at random, and then exploring an alternative to the over-worked third one, I discover that it's all linked, due to the then-secret British atomic weapons programme.
Which also brings in 100 Mile House, thanks to Leonard Cheshire, part time giant-bomb dropping specialist, part-time cultist, full-time humanitarian. 

Pictured: Not the modern descendants of the Emissaries of Divine Light, down in 100 Mile's suburb (I know, I know!) of
Exeter, whatever you hear around here. However, the girl on the left is my man Brandon Konoval's sister. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Postblogging Technology, April 1948, II: Accidents Will Happen Is Not An Excuse



R_. C_.
Vancouver,
Canada.

Dear Father:

I'm dashing this off before my Philosophy exam because my house sisters have told me that I'm not going to be allowed back in here after I'm done. Junior year is done! Give or take some German Romantic Idealists, and perhaps a dash of the Nietzsche and Heidegger for extra credit. So, in spite of my promises to catch you up on the gossip, all I can fit in (The screed below went on a bit, thus the cramped brushwork --why am I wasting space for apologies?), is this. You can tell that I'm excited. My digressions have digressions! So, to catch you up, I have found rooms for the  summer in the city. I will be living with Miss K., who has decided that she needs a room of her own, for reasons I will be interested in nosing out. (Cherchez l'homme!)  She won't be cutting the apron strings entirely, as her mother owns the building. It turns out that whatever you make of Ishi, he is good for the pocketbook!




This letter, as you know, is my last until October, as Reggie will be taking over for the summer. As he says, the only thing he'll be doing this summer is teaching a dog (FIDO) new tricks. Which is another way of saying, if he hasn't told you already, that he will be at Arcata, practicing ILS in a C-54. He's a bit disgruntled about flying a gooney bird, but glad there's room for extra fire extinguishers.

Far too much of this newsletter would be about politics this week, if I let it. Besides Stassen's win in Nebraska, Time and Newsweek are both at nerves' end over the Italian elections at press time. It all seems a bit distant now, although, who knows, perhaps the next Italian elections really will see the Red Menace sweep to the Channel. Stassen's "Paul Revere" riders look a lot like the GOP's version of Wallace supporters on the Democratic side, and are probably as clear a sign as any that Warren will not somehow take the Republican nomination, not that I ever expected that to happen.

Now, a little more about that. Newsweek's Moley had an interesting back page column about "dark horse" candidates in American politics, pointing out that no dark horse has ever won a second term, and that the last, Harding, was the worst of all, suggesting a downwards trend. The idea that Warren will sweep out of nowhere in July and take the Republican party in a progressive direction is actively a problem for the California progressives. (Not that the rise of men like Representative Nixon doesn't show that those days are behind it, whatever Grace thinks.) But! Warren isn't even the talk of the dark horse enthusiasts. That would be Vandenberg and, recently, Martin, especially after that recent stunt "settling" the coal strike. Polls show that both men have no base at all within the Republican party or the nation. Stassen is the progressive's best hope, and an illusory one. The Paul Revere Riders are just projecting their hopes on him, just as are Wallace's followers, although you mustn't tell Reggie I said so. The simple, boring reality is that if you want a progressive outcome in November, you have to back the President.

I know! I know! For a girl who cares not a penny for politics, I sure come off strong on this!

Of course Henry Kaiser pioneered aluminum siding. 



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Postblogging Technology, April 1948, I: Blockades and the Revenge of Money



R_.C_.
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Father:

Between exams and work, I am in a tearing hurry, and I'm down in the dumps because Reggie is in the same boat, and we only put $30 in Ma Bell's pocket last night. I promise to catch you up next week!

Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie

If you don't mind me repeating an observation in the body, it's strange that the Berlin Airlift has started, and  no-one has noticed. We still have to wait two months for the official start. Which, just to bring the threads together, will be triggered by the introduction of the Deutschmark. I did not know that.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XII: The Queen of May


Most publicity shots from Duel in the Sun feature Jane Russell's boobs against a backdrop of hay. Jennifer Jones is this blog's Queen of May for 2018. (Thanks to all the gals who came out: Also, if it comes up, the blog's choice is distinct from the author's.)


And this image of a British wildflower meadow is cheerfully scraped from a "How to" article in the Daily Telegraph explaining how to go about creating your own wildflower meadow on a few hectares of your land for which you can't think of any other use. But setting my clumsy attempt to start class warfare aside (we're all in this together, you know!), let's just stop and meditate on spring and flowers and fertility and the mysterious way in which they're connected, deep in the human psyche.  

Done? Enough meditation! What about scythes?
Er, yeah. No, I mean like this,


as it turns out that haymowing re-enactors are seriously a thing these days. The idea of dueling with scythes isn't completely preposterous, given that the fifty-centimeter-plus long scythe is the second largest Iron Age toolblade after the sword, and your typical scythe saw fan order of magnitude more use during its lifetime than your typical sword. That quietly and unobtrusively puts it in position to claim the title of apex technology for hand blacksmithing, which makes it all the more remarkable that its history is so obscure. I do have some results to report, or I would be talking about my recent correspondence with Dietrich Eckhardt, but I want to be brief, since, in pursuing the subject, I was sidetracked into buying Manning's "major new history of economic life in the Mediterranean in the Iron Age," and Marc van de Mierop's Philosophy before Greece, and may eventually have something to report. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Bishop's Sea: Nanook


The Nanook, or Tanfield Valley, site, has appeared in these pages before. Lying along the southeastern coast of Baffin Island, it is a fairly prominent site of prehistoric settlement. Michigan anthropologist Moreau Maxwell excavated here from the 1960s to the 1980s, apparently informed of ancient relics by a local informant.

As for "Nanook" itself, I'm reminded of Henry Collins' excited description of the Sadlermiut site, published in a 1954 National Geographic, and inspiring generations of speculation that appear to end, sadly, in concluding that there is no there, there. I'm obviously very impressed by the fact that the population of the high Arctic did not exceed 5000 people at any point in prehistory, because I repeated it twice in two paragraphs in my last "Nanook" post. It remains, I think a fair point that any site with eighty house ruins, several hundred graves, and hundreds of meat caches is going to bulk very, very large in the human story of the high Arctic. Something significant happened here. The  disappointing thing about Sadlermiut is that it happened too recently to be romantic. Nanook is another matter.

Unfortunately, it is not similar to Sadlermiut in having numerous ruins. The far southwest of Baffin Island is resource-rich, for the High Arctic, and had a high prehistoric population, and within the region, the Tansfield Valley stands out  as what pioneering investigator, Moreau Maxwell, called an oasis. Although tending to damp in the summer, it is an obvious camp ground. The problem was the lack of obvious ruins, although that can be explained by the absence of good building stone, and alternatives such as ivory, sea mammal bone, and caribou antlers, all unavailable for various reasons. Instead, Moreau concluded, structures in the area would be cut from sod, a scarce resource in the area, in general, but copiously available here.

Maxwell's excavations justified the hypothesis. In particular,  he was struck by ruins that could be interpreted as the foundation walls of a (Norse-style) sod longhouse, although many other explanations have been put forward. Along with the exciting discovery of muskoxen fur, analogous to the bison, muskox and brown bear hair found at the famed "Farm Beneath the Sands," the prospect beckoned of larger exchange networks uniting the farthest northern reaches of the High Arctic with the Canadian boreal forests, and perhaps beyond.

This attracted Canadian Museum of Civilisation (now "History") archaeologist, Patricia Sutherland,  and her Helluland Project, with the usual (or "highly controversial," choose your preferred modifier) agenda of looking for Norse, which she tentatively concluded she had found. As is equally usual, in the absence of anything signed in authentic, contemporary handwriting, nothing definitive was found, and killjoy DNA studies soon revealed that the supposed exotic hairs were nothing of the kind. Good thing hair analysis was never relied on for anything important! The problem is that the carbon dates have yielded Medieval, that is, pre-Norse carbon dates. Since we seem (for now) to have moved beyond dismissing paradigm-upsetting carbon dates as Bad Science, it is at least worth considering what that might mean. Sutherland is willing to go for "early Medieval" seafarers, and points to the new, early dates for the settlement of the Faeroes and the situation in Iceland as a license for going halfway towards full "Wayfarer-"dom. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Postblogging Technology, March, 1948, II: Necessity is to Invention As . . .




R_. C_.,
Vancouver, Canada

Dear Father:

I hope this finds you well, as I'm personally a bit frazzled, having been up to the city again, this time to look for a place to stay, as it would be a scandal if I moved into with Queenie or the Cs. I've even resorted to the 'Ks.", so if I end  up staying in an (indoor) tipi, you will know why!

Not only to the city but to Oakland, as Mother made a flying visit to her sister's nurses. (Who were a bit mystified by  the origins of her authority, or why she looked like her sister.) My presence was commanded, so that Mother could snub me --although she relented when I asked whether I had had rubella far enough to promise to send me my medical records. A nurse dismissed for the crime of getting too close to Uncle Henry, she was off to Chicago, cool and distant as ever, and me to work.

I have decided that I do not like work. I  hope lawyering is nothing like it.


Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie

Happy Mother's Day!


Monday, May 7, 2018

Postblogging Technology, March 1948, I: The City and the Stars



R. C.,
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Father:

You were right to tell me not to worry about Magnin's, and for the good of my ego I will not question the way you put it. "I shall give them another call if I have to," means that some of my natural charm was not lost on them, after all!

The disadvantage of sealing the deal is that I my little course on how to be a shop assistant required me to drive up to San Francisco through fog and rain, and then down again, at which point the old Lincoln was so ungallant as to be a regular John Lewis, although it turns out that it was striking for a new distributor, and not portal-to-portal pay. And so much for fetching bacon and eggs for a week on the morning shift. Speaking of which, I need to get this done, as Andy Chu must be getting tired of sitting out in his car for me to bring it down to him. Can you imagine the scandal if I invited him up to wait in the living room with the beaus? I have no idea how I will summon up a smile if Mr. Straight is there again tomorrow, and I must, because so much for a week's pay!
Yes, it's anachronistic. That's why I softened you up at the head! This post isn't late because I had to drive somewhere, but it is late for work reasons. 

So, yes, I was having second thoughts about giving up the life of a spoiled heiress --until Reggie called to see why I'd missed my call, which is because I was stranded by the roadside outside Redwood City. As for Andy cooling his heels outside now, and at the Benevolent Association all yesterday, part of that is down to me being on the phone too long --but as you pay Reggie's bills, you will know that anyway.

Perhaps I'll back Andy's stake the next time he has to spend a day playing penny-stakes mah jongg while he waits for me to finish. No. . . I should probably have to claim it on my income tax.


Yours Sincerely,
Ronnie.

Sacred Spring, indeed.