Saturday, September 30, 2023

Postblogging Technology, Jun 1953, II: The Rosenbergs, Everest, the 707, and Transistors. Wow.

The Oriental Club,

Dear Father:

At your very strong suggestion, we have decided to go away from the major port city for the summer and the duration of all the emergencies,but we  haven't ended up in Campbell River, as for various reasons the house in Nakusp was in need of a tenant. So here we are, gorging on cherries and trout, waiting on corn and enjoying the difference between fresh turnips and onions and the ones from the grocery. The house has not had a tenant in two years, and one gets the sense that Nils is too old to do proper caretaking, so we have a contractor up from Nelson to put a new roof on and central heating and air conditioning while he is on it. Which makes for a much-interrupted summer idyll far from the madding crowds and atom bombs, but what do I know, I have two babies in tow! 

Your Loving Daughter,

So you see, Ethel Rosenberg had to die to protect VENONA and not because she was Jewish and public opinion was screaming for blood

Sunday, September 24, 2023

A Technological But Also Inevitably Political and Medical Appendix to Postblogging Technology, June 1953, I: Diagnosing Presidents


Leaving aside the unintentional, dark irony of an ad exalting modern diagnostic practice and focussing on peptic ulcers,  this post was only secondarily inspired by this ad. It actually mainly has to do with my nephew, C.'s, enrollment in a doctoral programme in medical physics. No, that's a lie. It has mainly to do with my company put roasting chickens on two for one last week. I spent entirely too much time on Tuesday and Friday cooking them, so Postblogging June, II is stuck two-thirds of the way through 15 June. 

And that is why my attention is very much focussed on the already reported 10 June 1953 press conference in which Senator Robert Alphonso Taft announced that he was ill and would be temporarily resigning as Leader of the Senate, with William F. Knowland as his interim replacement. "The Senator from Formosa" would end up remaining as Majority and Minority Leader, until 1959. 

Taft had first sought treatment at Walter Reed in May after a round of gold with the President was interrupted by the increasing severity of hip pains which the Senator had been suffering for some time. At the time the pains were dismissed as arthritis. It was not until a late May visit to Holmes Hospital in Cincinnati that nodules were removed from his neck and abdomen and biopsied, coming back malignant. It was for some reason found necessary to hospitalise Taft again in New York on 7 June to finally confirm the cancer diagnosis, and a final diagnosis of metastatised cancer of unknown origin was made on the basis of exploratory surgery on 4 July. As The Periscope will report next week (around here), by 15 June, there were rumours that Taft's condition was life-threatening, but he was only officially put on palliative care in July, and died of a brain hemorrhage on 31 July some hours after a final visit from his wife, a detail that I assume Wikipedia offers in a spirit of "Do I have to paint you a picture"? 

The man who almost won the Republican nominations in 1948 and 1942 was dead, within months of beginning his first or second term, depending on which alternative history you prefer. This is something that has struck me as somehow significant ever since I read the grief-stricken Time obituary of 1940 Republican candidate Wendell Willkie in October of 1944. At the time and since it has been my lively suspicion that one of the problems with Willkie is that Henry Luce had such a massive crush on the man, but I think we can all agree that it is a bigger problem that in some alternate history he would have dropped dead at the climax of WWII, just a month away from contesting the 1944 Presidential election. In other words, pick your alternate timeline carefully, and you'll get three Republican Presidents dying in office in thirty years.   

Friday, September 15, 2023

Postblogging Technology, June 1953, I: Boom, Baby, Boom!

Speaking of The Organisation Man, I'd do "Little Boxes," but I've already done it, and I kind of agree with Tom Lehrer that it's the most sanctimonious song ever.

The Oriental Club,

Dear Father:

I hope you're enjoying the Coronation. Not only am I jealous as can be, but just thinking about it has my mind turning to the madness of moving with two babies, even if it's almost two months away. In the mean time, you're missing a beautiful month in Vancouver.

I kid. Rain. Okay, it's not so bad. Somehow I've volunteered to stroll Maggie to sleep so that I can enjoy the gardens in the rain, which I am about to do as soon as I finish this. Not many young mothers do that sort of thing in this neighbourhood! Which reminds me that I am dying to ask Grace what she thinks of the birth rate numbers out of the US Census. It turns out that the wartime "baby boom" never ended. I wonder if that explains all the Park Forest-style conformity and social group think that Fortune is so upset about. Too many babies! 

Just wait until they all get to college, I say. 

Your Loving Daughter,


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Postblogging Technology, May 1953, II: Astin, Hell's Gate, and John Foster Dulles, Or, How To Be the 34th Ranked President

The Mayflower,
Washington, DC

Dear Father:

In the week you have been gone, I have gone from mopy to tired to ready to spend such time as Jim-Jim and little Margaret have left me to get back on the horse. Okay, yes, I am a bit bored. I am also short my usual copyediting assistance, although I  hope to do something about that by my next letter. Here is wishing you the best of underhanded luck in getting the most out of the Snake River. I might not approve of the decision (we might need that power, and people certainly need the fish), but at least we'll make some money. 

Your Loving Daughter,


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Great Siege, I: Attlee Was Right


I added "The Great Siege" tag early in the life of this blog to organise the idea that Germany's strategic campaign against the British Empire was effectively a siege of Great Britain with consequences extending well beyond the end of the war. One could say, I thought to myself in 2013, that it was ultimately a success, inasmuch as the British Empire no longer exists. That is because, by situating the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic into an overarching effort including mining and, most easily missed, the V-weapon campaign, one could extend the long range consequences of the campaign well beyond the end of the war, and, in particular, say that the attrition of British housing stocks during the war was an important factor in What Came Next.

Well, this is a travel installment, with me currently struggling to touchtype with reasonable speed on a very nice ASUS laptop with a keyboard that is just too small for my fat fingers, which doesn't encourage me to be loquacious, but which on the other hand leaves me thirsty to share pointless vaction pictures and experiences. 
The overall idea with which I started this tag was, I now see, hopelessly naive, which is why I have decided that the right time to call an end to the Great Siege is with The Economist's disgraceful surrender to permanent deficit financing of the British economy with the 1953 budget introduced by RAB Butler for the Churchill government, because what's more important, "economy" or higher interest rates, lower taxes, and a tacit turn away from  full employment? Without either agreeing or disagreeing with the  traditional Liberal "peace, retrenchment, and reform," so blatantly giving the game away is the 1953 equivalent of the French "rearming in 1938" to the tune of "What about the rentier?" It's capitulation, is what it is. Here's the keys to the city, Herr Grossadmiral, on the sole condition that you let us march out with our consols shouldered. 

The town of Keremeos lies on the junction of the Similkameen River with Keremeos Creek on Highway 3 and Highway 5C in the south centre of the province, in one of two regions that loves to attach itself to the Okanagan Valley as an extension of BC's "summerland," to borrow the actual name of an Okanagan Valley town between Penticton and Peachland, across the lake from Naramata. Keremeos, like the rest of the "Similkameen" part of the "Okanagan-Similkameen," has no lake suitable for summer fun. It is a farming and crossroads town in the midst of endless orchards and vegetable farms with a good run to Vancouver since the Hope-Princeton opened in 1953, although the housing stock you see in these pictures is earlier than that, dating to a previous era of prosperity based on loading fruit cars onto an extension of the Great Northern Railway. The town has a population of a bit over 1700, which explains why the drugstore in town is open 12--4 on Sundays. 

A walking tour of the town might seem very familiar if you have seen Beaverdell, Greenwood, Olalla, Hedley, or similar towns laid out before WWII which have since not enjoyed very much growth. It is a four--to-six blocks by four block street grid, readily walkable, with a solid downtown area with enough vacant space for more businesses if you're in the mood to move and invest, and enough room for far more houses than are there,  overwhelmed by the size of their lots, and even a few apartment buildings, mostly comically undersized, as if the builder lacked a certain conviction. Around this core area is an area of new building from the postwar era, where such new houses  as have been built over the subsequent eighty years are located, abstracted from the town core in every case, and in that of Keremeos, dramatically overlooking it from an Okanagan bench --meaning that although they are very close to the city physically, you have to drive down to a draw that gives access to the Upper Bench of the Keremeos in the far northeast corner of the town. 

Now let's talk about one reason that Clement Attlee was right. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Technological But Also Economic and Engaged Appendix to Postblogging Technology, May 1953, II: The Bee Problem


I hope there's some of the bee scenes I remember from my slightly traumatised junior high viewing of this documentary based on Frank Herbert's Hellstrom's Hive, because the "problem" here is the old saw about how science doesn't know how bees fly. The joke being that of course science knows how bees can fly. The airliner business, on the other hand . . . ? See? I knew there was a reason to read Fortune! 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Postblogging Technology, May 1953, I: Happy Times Are Here Again

The Hon. A.
,_. Hall,

Dear Cousin:

I write in some hurry as Ronnie is gathering her things so that her husband can do his part in the delivery, a solid twenty minutes depending on the traffic on King Edward. Was that funny? Not? I can't tell. I'm a ball of nerves. It was so much easier off being a dashing aviator when Jim-Jim was born. I try to distract myself by thinking about other things, but I keep being dragged down to the fact that the Commerce Secretary tried to fire the chief of the National Bureau of Standards at the behest of a mail order con artist, and the Administration and its supporters at the newspapers are lining up behind him. This, this is why McCarthy is winning. It sometimes seems like I should seriously consider not going back to the States after my furlough. Or maybe that's "transferrence," or "displacement" in the new psychiatric jargon. I'm scared, cousin!

Your Cousin,
The Dash(ing) Pilot