Sunday, April 30, 2023

Postblogging Technology, January 1953, 1: Cold, Cold Heart


Dear Father:
I hope this finds you well, as I am not. I could say that it is because of my condition, but it is not. I could say that I am sick at the news (or rumours, anyway) out of the Soviet Union. But  while I am, that is not the cause. I could blame Aviation Week for missing delivery dates and reversing the order of my usual readings. (Don't ask why, it made sense to me when I did it.) I could stamp my girlish feet at the library for unaccountably continuing its Christmas break through an extra weekend without so much as a sign on the door, which seems like an outrageous thing that could never happen in 1953, and certainly not in the bright, shining future of years from now. 

But that is not it, either. The truth is that I was up late playing canasta and so finishing this letter has led to me putting off dinner, and I am famished! I am, accordingly, off to remedy the situation and maybe some jambalaya? And now I am depressed again, at the tragic death of a musician you've probably never even heard of.  

Your Loving Daughter, 


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Gathering the Bones, XXVII: The Chainbearers


The Chainbearer (1845) is somehow the tenth from the last of James Fenimore Cooper's (1789--1851) books. Admittedly, people died younger and more suddenly in those days and there's nothing unlikely about an author still being in full spate at 62, but, geez, man, maybe relax and enjoy life a bit? Some of the books might have been a bit slapdash, but Chainbearer, and the "Littlepage Manuscripts" cycle of which it is a part, was a vocal intervention in the ongoing Anti-Rent War, which was a big thing at the time, even if it has slipped our  minds today.

Speaking of slipshod and hap-hazard, UBC Library has given up on late fines and started issuing journal volumes without comment, so I have been holding my journals at home, with the exception of Aviation Week, which I have continued to use online out of inertia. (And because it is a pain in the ass to recall from the automated retrieval system.) I finished my 1952 volumes last month, and my Aviation Week subscription lapsed this month, and, what with one thing or another --it's not all my fault, I swear!-- I have been having a bit more of an adventure than planned in updating my research collection. So that's where I am with that.

I'm not going to spend much more time with Cooper this week, my point being nicely made by omission in the Wikipedia article, which introduces the novel thus:

Critical to the trilogy is the sense of expansion through the measuring and acquisition of land by civilization. The title The Chainbearer represents "the man who carries the chains in measuring the land, the man who helps civilization to grow from the wilderness, but who at the same time continues the chain of evil, increases the potentiality for corruption."[1] Chainbearers, also known as "chain men", were important figures in early America because the accuracy of surveys depended on their work, and they were often required to be sworn in before performing their duties. The central position of the "Chainbearer" allows Cooper to deal with the cultural lack of understanding that Native Americans had of European concepts of land ownership. This in turn allows Cooper to critique ownership in general.[2]
  It's, like, how can you write this without noticing either Lovejoy, for the European sense of "the chain" of dependency that connects all being, and the Great Covenant Chain between the Haudenosaunee and their European partners? I'd be fine with just gesturing at Lovejoy, because that's what I do, and that makes it right, but the Covenant Chain is a bit more relevant. I guess you excuse that by suggesting that the James Fenimore Cooper of 1845 was somehow completely ignorant of the central concept of Eighteenth Century American diplomacy. And, to be fair, he doesn't mention it, being on endlessly about how chains ensure covenants from the point of view of a real estate salesman. I would be happy with a parenthetical about how interstate diplomacy isn't what the book is about, and on we go. I'm as tired as the next person at the unsourced assertion that the United States was directly inspired by the Haudenosaunee, or any other Indian league. It's easy to go too far in one direction. My problem is that we are still where we arrived at some two hundred years ago: We have wiped the First Nations out of the history of colonial America and are arguing over which white owns the land. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

A Technological and Muckraking Appendix to Postblogging Technology, December 1952: Sverdlov Envy


Sverdlov-class cruiser Admiral Ushakov in 1981

In some measure of apology to old-time Newsweek, the class namesake of the old Red Navy Sverdlov-class cruisers was commissioned on 15 May 1952, followed by Ordzhonikidize in June, Dzerzhinsky in August, and Zhdanov, Admiral Lazarev, and Aleksandr Nevsky in December.  Considering how overweight these 14,000t, 12x6" gun, 3,9" belt ships were by 1952, with so many old gun ships gone to the scrappers, this is quite the naval buildup, and would have been all the more impressive had the Stalingrad-class battlecruisers and proposed aircraft carriers not been scrapped after the death of Stalin on 5 March 1953. This doesn't completely exonerate Newsweek for detecting a battleship long since scrapped on the slips, although there might be some confusion with the Stalingrads, still two  years from completion; much less the fantastic idea that the new classes were armed with "rockets."

But as outrageous (and cool)as this story is, this post was inspired by the decades-long undeath of Henry Knowler  and the Chief of the Air Staff's incautious comment that two Transport Command Vickers 1002 would all but replace the chartered airlines in Middle Eastern trooping, and, implicitly, far exceed the capacity of the proposed RAF Britannia freighter buy. The Type 1007 was not just cancelled, clearing the way to the subsequent cancellation of the VC7, but the path to its production was swept away by the prior cancellation of the Vickers Valiant 2, the "Pathfinder" type with an improved and stronger wing structure to prevent stress fatigue in low-level operations. This cancellation was explicitly justified by the  premise that Pathfinder operations were obsolete, which is dubious to start with, and the implicit one that there was no future requirement for  low-level  V-bombers. Given that the V-bombers were switched to low-altitude penetration operations only a decade after entering service, and that low-altitude strikes remain an effective and perhaps strategically decisive operational technique today, decades after the V-bombers, but not their B-52 contemporaries, have disappeared, it all seems like almost as much of a comedy of errors as the career of Saro Aircraft.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Postblogging Technology, 1952, II: If Daddy Had Only Seen

R_. C_.,
Santa Clara,

Dear Father:

I hope this reaches you before Christmas Day. We've had a bit of excitement here in Chicago. First, Reggie's train was late. Then, the very next day, who should show up at his parent's brunch but the prodigal A., and with him, B. It made a bit of an odd couple. A. is celebrating the rise of the Dulles brothers, himself firmly planted in their hip (if not otherwise) pocket; B. explaining that the CIA deserved his talents less than that indefatigable crusader for truth, justice, and the American way, Roy Cohn. I believe he was editing a magazine in the fifteen minutes between  Mexico City and  Mr. Cohn. No doubt they didn't deserve him, either. He (and we  hear it here first) soon find himself promoted into the personal staff of Senator Joe, himself. 

So, yes, slugs and the lesser invertebrates have Christmas, too, at least in such time as they have to spare for the mother country before it is off (more hints dropped) to Teheran. And if you are worried, it is further intimated that the hydrogen bomb is about twice as powerful as expected. Surely no Communist can  resist! 

So, anyway, if you have a suggestion for a good bomb-shelter-digger in the Palo Alto area, I would be glad to take a reference. In the meantime, I enclose further model-train-and-earthmoving-equipment related information. 

Your Loving Daughter,