Archive | History

The B-17 Killing Machine



The Flying Fortress Crews of WW II


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Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The Flying Fortress crews of WW II were one of a kind.

The B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most famed World War II bomber planes and loved by aviation enthusiasts, but especially by the crews that flew them. One major quality of the B-17s was their ability to take a beating and keep on ticking– often times on nothing more than a wing and a prayer.

In World War II, there were many ways to die.  But nothing offered more fatal choices than being inside a B-17 bomber above Nazi-occupied Europe.

From the hellish storms of enemy flak, relentless strafing of Luftwaffe fighters, and mid-air collisions, mechanical failure, and simple bad luck, it’s a wonder any man would volunteer for such dangerous duty.  But many did.  Some paid the ultimate price.  And some were fortunate enough to make it home.

Very young men enlisted or were drafted into the crews, briefly trained, and went into combat before they could legally vote or buy a drink.  Volunteering to fly, they became a part of the greatest air armada in the world turning the tides of war.  Most of the gunners on a bomber crew were teenagers;  the average age of officers was twenty-four.  They grew up fast and quick.

Each B-17 crew included a bombardier, two pilots, a navigator, a flight engineer/top turret gunner, a radio operator, ball turret gunner, two waist gunners and a tail gunner.

Veterans’ memoirs and diaries give amazing report after report of fighter attacks, flak damage by 88mm anti-aircraft guns, and planes so torn up it was a wonder how they ever made it back.  Many didn’t.

Not only did they battle the enemy, they battled the environment as well.  Everyone on the four-engine bomber had a 77 percent chance of dying before the mission was completed.  The average temperature inside the airplane was 40 degrees below zero; oxygen masks and electric warming suits were needed to survive the frigid temperatures.  The conditions were miserable and the mortality rate was high.

The youngsters manning the planes that bombed and destroyed Germany’s military and war infrastructure had an extreme loss of both aircrews and planes.

And while American factories churned out the B-17 by the tens of thousands during the war effort, only nine B-17s are still left flying today.


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The Unusual View From Atacama



Unlocking the Origins of the Cosmos




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Chile’s Atacama Desert, home of the massive Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescopes, is a place on Earth that resembles Mars most closely.

It’s a very dry place with a pristine air quality, having no atmospheric distortions of heat or artificial light for cosmic viewing.  It also has the least amount of moisture and rainfall found anywhere on the planet.

Made up of 66 massive antennas set high atop a plateau in the Atacama, ALMA ranks alongside Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider and France’s International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor as one of humanity’s most massive, international scientific and collaborative undertakings.

The $1.4 billion project– a culmination of decades of scientific advances in astronomy and astrophysics in the works since 1999– finally began its first scientific observations in 2011.

The sophisticated telescope system uses radio frequencies to detect millimeter energy wavelengths instead of visible light, looking back in time through billions of light years to uncover the make-up of massive dust clouds, gases, and galaxies.  In time, scientists believe the project will revolutionize our understanding of the origins of our own solar system, stars, and galaxy.

What’s in your universe?


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‘Smart’ Techno-Tots and their Tablets



What Will Our New Generation of Wired-In Babies Bring?


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Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



And you thought you were keeping up with the times and technology?  Move over.  Toddlers have become more comfortable and adept than ever using smartphones and tablets, the Washington Times reports.

A new medical study reveals that the tiniest Americans are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by 1 year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day.

It’s become second nature– and the new nanny for them.  Over a third of babies are now using smart phones.

The research found that even a third of the babies under a year could scroll down the screen, while a fourth managed to actually call someone.

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months.  Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes,” says Dr. Hilda Kabali, lead author of the study, which was conducted among 370 parents and their babies at a pediatrics clinic in the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

Mobile devices are also becoming babysitters.  Dr. Kabali found that 60 percent of the parents in the study allowed their toddlers to play with mobile media when it was time to run errands, almost three fourths did the same while they did chores.  Another 65 percent used the device to “calm the child”, a third used it to put the child to sleep.

“By 1 year of age, 14 percent of children were spending at least one hour per day using mobile media, 26 percent by age 2, and 38 percent by age 4.  Only 30 percent of parents reported discussing media use with their child’s pediatrician,” the study found.

The researchers also advise that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of entertainment media such as televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets by children under age 2. The findings were revealed Saturday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Diego.

This is the next generation that will be brought up and nurtured on technology, robots, artificial intelligence, social media and the rapid flow of information.  We can only wonder what this new wired-in generation will be bringing to us in the future once they grow up.


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How Electric Light Changed the Night



–And How It Changes Us




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Before the dawn of electric light in the early 20th century, humans mostly took cues from the Sun to determine when to sleep and when to stay awake.

Now, however, our exposure to artificial light sources is nearly constant.  City-dwellers are barraged with all sorts of lights at all hours of the night, and anyone with a laptop, an e-reader or even just a working lightbulb can choose to stay in light long after the Sun goes down.

Electricity gave us dominion over the night, but is the light now controlling us?  While these extra hours spent in light are widely viewed as more time to pursue work or leisure, studies show they might also be playing tricks on our body and cutting across the grain of our biological rhythms.

Artificial light makes the modern world possible.  But not all kinds of light are good for us.  Electric light has fundamentally altered our lives, our bodies and the very nature of our sleep.  How Electric Light Changed the Night combines a brief history of artificial light and sleeping patterns with a scientific exploration of the surprising ways artificial light affects us.

What we take away is what the film doesn’t explicitly tell us:  daylight is good.  Daylight is necessary for our pleasure, activity and replenishment.  Daylight reveals the full spectrum of life’s colors, while artificial light drains it away.  Shorter daylight hours affects our sleep, productivity and state of mind. 

The film was produced in collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences and PBS Digital Studios as part of KQED San Francisco’s short science documentary series, Deep Look.



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The Day Elvis Presley Met Richard Nixon



 The King Gets to Meet Tricky Dick




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It all started in Memphis in 1970.

Elvis’ father, Vernon, and wife, Priscilla, complained that he’d spent too much on Christmas presents—more than $100,000 for 32 handguns and ten Mercedes-Benzes.

Peeved, Elvis drove to the airport and caught the next available flight, which happened to be bound for Washington.  He checked into a hotel, then got bored and decided to fly to Los Angeles.

“Elvis called and asked me to pick him up at the airport,” recalls Jerry Schilling, Presley’s longtime aide, who dutifully arrived at the Los Angeles airport at 3 a.m. to chauffeur the King to his mansion there.

Elvis was traveling with some guns and his collection of police badges, and he decided that what he really wanted was a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs back in Washington.

“The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley would write in her memoir, Elvis and Me.  ”With the federal narcotics badge, he believed he could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked Schilling to fly with him back to the capital.  ”He didn’t say why,” Schilling recalls, “but I thought the badge might be part of the reason.”

On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon. “Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out,” he wrote.  ”I would love to meet you,” he added, informing Nixon that he’d be staying at the Washington Hotel under the alias Jon Burrows. “I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent.”

All Elvis wanted in return was a federal agent’s badge.

After they landed, Elvis and Schilling took a limo to the White House, and Elvis dropped off his letter at an entrance gate at about 6:30 a.m.  Once they checked in at their hotel, Elvis left for the offices of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.  He got a meeting with a deputy director, but not approval for a bureau badge.

Meanwhile, his letter was delivered to Nixon aide Egil “Bud” Krogh, who happened to be an Elvis fan.  Krogh loved the idea of a Nixon-Presley summit and persuaded his bosses, including White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, to make it happen.  Krogh called the Washington Hotel and set up a meeting through Schilling.

Around noon, Elvis arrived at the White House with Schilling and bodyguard Sonny West, who’d just arrived from Memphis.  Arrayed in a purple velvet suit with a huge gold belt buckle and amber sunglasses,

Elvis came bearing a gift, a Colt .45 pistol mounted in a display case that Elvis had plucked off the wall of his Los Angeles mansion which the Secret Service confiscated before Krogh escorted Elvis– without his entourage– to meet Nixon.

“When he first walked into the Oval Office, he seemed a little awe-struck,” Krogh recalls, “but he quickly warmed to the situation.”

While White House photographer Ollie Atkins snapped photographs, the president and the King shook hands.  Then Elvis showed off his police badges.

Nixon’s famous taping system had not yet been installed, so the conversation wasn’t recorded.  But Krogh took notes:  ”Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit.  The President then indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest.”

“I’m on your side,” Elvis told Nixon, adding that he’d been studying the drug culture and Communist brainwashing.  Then he asked the president for a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

“Can we get him a badge?” Nixon asked Krogh.

Krogh said he could, and Nixon ordered it done.

Elvis was ecstatic.  ”In a surprising, spontaneous gesture,” Krogh wrote, Elvis “put his left arm around the President and hugged him.”

Before leaving, Elvis asked Nixon to say hello to Schilling and West, and the two men were escorted into the Oval Office.  Nixon playfully punched Schilling on the shoulder and gave both men White House cuff links.

“Mr. President, they have wives, too,” Elvis said.  So Nixon gave them each a White House brooch.

After Krogh took him to lunch at the White House mess, Elvis received his gift– the narc badge.

At Elvis’ request, the meeting was kept secret– although it’s widely believed a mug shot surfacing years later was taken for security purposes; Elvis had never been arrested before to warrant one.  A year later, columnist Jack Anderson broke the story– “Presley Gets Narcotics Bureau Badge“– but few people seemed to care. 

That is, everyone except Beatle Paul McCartney.

On hearing reports of the meeting, McCartney later said that he “Felt a bit betrayed.  The great joke was that we were all taking illegal drugs, and look what happened to him,” he said, a reference to Presley’s death hastened by prescription drug abuse.  To note, Presley and his friends had had a four-hour get-together with the Beatles five years earlier.

In 1988, years after Nixon resigned and Elvis died of a drug overdose, a Chicago newspaper reported that the National Archives was selling photos of the meeting, and within a week, some 8,000 people requested copies, making the pictures the most requested photographs in Archives history.

Why is the photo so popular?  Krogh figures it’s the incongruity; a bizarre encounter between the president and the king of rock and roll.

“There’s this staid president with this rock ‘n’ roll figure.  It’s a powerful image,” Krogh said.  It’s a jolt seeing them together.  Here is the leader of the Western world and the king of rock ‘n’ roll in the same place, and they’re clearly enjoying each other. And you think, ‘How can this be?’”

~Via Scott Calonico, Smithsonian, Archived America, and Vimeo

  * * * * * * * * * * *

If you liked this article, you may enjoy our others on the nation’s history and its pop culture:

Led Zeppelin Meets Elvis Presley

JFK’s Rant and Wrath

You Can’t Always Get What You Want



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You Can’t Always Get What You Want



You Get What You Need


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Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



“I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy.  First, let her think she’s having her own way.  And second, let her have it. 

…and every man has a right to a Saturday night bath.”

  ~Lyndon B. Johnson


It’s tough being President.

Although being President of the United States is the one of the most powerful gigs in the world, it still has its drawbacks.  As this series of intimate archived phone conversations released by the Johnson Presidential Library shows, it’s still a job. 

Annoyances such as tech issues, vexing overseas operators, awkward small-talk, lukewarm bullion and limited dessert options show an entirely different side of power in the Oval Office– one where you can’t always get what you want.

Animated with archival photographs, director Scott Calonico’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want is a quick and revealing look at the office of the President in the rare moments that aren’t usually subject to public scrutiny, a glimpse into the life and times of Lyndon B Johnson during the tumultuous 1960s.

By many accounts, LBJ was an intimidating man, sporting a foul mouth and comfortably accustomed to throwing his height, weight and power around like a schoolyard bully.  He was used to getting his way. 

It just goes to show you can’t always get what you want– but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.  Unless it’s trying to make Congress do something.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Scott Calonico holds a Radio/TV/Film production degree from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA in International Journalism from City University, London.  His short films have been shown at numerous festivals in the United States, and we covered two of his previously delightful pieces you may like to see here:

JFK’s Rant and Wrath  and The Day Elvis Presley Met Richard Nixon



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American Sniper



The Myth and the Reality




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Is it more fact or fiction?

This past week, American Sniper sold millions of tickets.  Seen in the trailers above and below and based on the story of the late Navy Seal Chris Kyle, it’s a box office hit, setting records for an R-rated film released in January.

With 255 kills, 160 of them officially confirmed by the Pentagon, Kyle is the deadliest marksman in US military history.

Yet the film, the autobiography of the same name, and the reputation of Chris Kyle are all built on a set of half-truths, myths and outright lies that Hollywood didn’t see fit or care to accurately clear up.

Here are seven lies about Chris Kyle and the real story director Clint Eastwood isn’t telling you:


The Film Suggests the Iraq War Was In Response to 9/11

One way to get audiences to unambiguously support Kyle’s actions in the film is to believe he’s there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The movie cuts from Kyle watching footage of the attacks to him serving in Iraq, implying there is some link between the two.


The Film Invents a Terrorist Sniper Who Works For Multiple Opposing Factions

Kyle’s primary antagonist in the film is a sniper named Mustafa. 

Mustafa is mentioned in a single paragraph in Kyle’s book, but the movie blows him up into an ever-present figure and Syrian Olympic medal winner who fights for both Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and the Shia Madhi army.


The Film Portrays Chris Kyle as Tormented By His Actions

Multiple scenes in the movie portray Kyle as haunted by his service.  One of the film’s earliest reviews praised it for showing the “emotional torment of so many military men and women.”

But that torment is completely absent from the book the film is based on.  In the book, Kyle refers to everyone he fought as “savage, despicable, evil.”  He writes, “I only wish I had killed more.” 

He also writes, “I loved what I did.  I still do.  If circumstances were different – if my family didn’t need me – I’d be back in a heartbeat.  I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun.  I had the time of my life being a SEAL.”

On an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show he laughs about accidentally shooting an Iraqi insurgent.  He once told a military investigator that he doesn’t “shoot people with Korans.  I’d like to, but I don’t.”


The Real Chris Kyle Made Up a Story about Killing Dozens of People in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Kyle claimed that he killed 30 people in the chaos of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a story Louisiana writer Jarvis DeBerry calls “preposterous.”   It shows the sort of mentality post-war Kyle had, but the claim doesn’t appear in the film.


The Real Chris Kyle Fabricated a Story About Killing Two Men Who Tried To Carjack Him In Texas

Kyle told numerous people a story about killing two alleged carjackers in Texas. 

Reporters tried repeatedly to verify this claim, but no evidence of it exists.


Chris Kyle Was Successfully Sued For Lying About the Former Governor of Minnesota

Kyle alleged that former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura defamed Navy SEALs and got into a fight with him at a local bar.  Ventura successfully sued Kyle for the passage in his book, and a jury awarded him $1.84 million.


Chris Kyle’s Family Claimed He Donated His Book Proceeds to Veterans’ Charity

The National Review debunks the claim that all proceeds of his book went to veterans’ charities.  Kyle kept the majority of the profits. 

Around 2 percent – $52,000 – went to the charities– while the Kyles pocketed $3 million.


American Sniper has deeply moved some audiences and made others angry.

Controversial in its portrayal, some have referred to it as Clint Eastwood’s “Red Meat Movie for Red States and Republicans” while others deem it a truly patriotic story that’s loyal to the soldiers and their untold military mission.

Although the movie is an initial box office hit, there is a growing backlash against its simplistic portrayal of the war and misleading take on Kyle’s character. 

This backlash has reportedly spread among members of the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences, which could threaten the film’s shot at racking up Oscars.

That’s Hollywood for you.


~Via Vox, Slate, Alternet, Warner Bros, YouTube


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The Real Downton Abbey



Your Home is Your Castle




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s as British as tea and crumpets.

The very high-class soap opera Downton Abbey has taken the US by storm, scooping numerous Emmys and Golden Globes along the way.  The addictive tale of a family of British aristocrats and their servants, starting with the sinking of the Titanic and winding through the savagery of World War I, has cornered the market in British snobbery and catapulted the series to the status of cool.

But the star of the show — where all this plays out — is Downton Abbey itself.

In real life, it’s Highclere Castle in Newbury, an imposing Victorian mansion of 50+ bedrooms surrounded by 5,000 acres of green hills nestled in the south English countryside.

The castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century.  The original site was recorded in the Domesday Book and since 1679, the castle has been home to the Earls of Carnarvon.

Today it’s the stead of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.  Their family lives at Highclere during the winter months, but return to its humble cottage on the grounds when the castle is open to the public in the summer.

By 2009, the castle was in dire need of major repair, with only the ground and first floors remaining usable.   Water damage had caused stonework to crumble and ceilings to collapse– and at least 50 rooms were uninhabitable.  The 8th Earl and his family were living in the “modest cottage” and repairs needed for the entire estate came in at a staggering $20 million.

In 2012, the Earl and Lady Carnarvon began offering tours of the palatial Highclere estate.  The influx of 1,200 daily visitors and the popularity of Downton Abbey allowed them to begin major repairs. 

“When you’re driving up … your heart just starts beating faster and faster as you drive through the gate,” exclaimed Baltimore visitor and enthusiast Pat Alford.

“The Earl and Lady Carnarvon live in the house except when it’s on tour and then they move into the cottage” Alford said, who got to meet the Earl as they were walking the grounds.  “He was very nice.  You’d never know he was the owner.”

As she toured the house, guides talked about the filming of Downton Abbey

“We saw everything!” Alford said.  “Every room was spectacular… just like on TV, and the views of the rolling land.  It was just breathtaking.”

Alford’s favorite room was the library.

The library is actually a double library and home to more than 5,650 books, the earliest dating from the 16th century.  And, just like the fictional Crawley family, the Earl and his family use it a great deal to gather before and after lunch or dinner.  One of the favorite spots to sit is on the red velvet triple-camelback sofa.

“I just had to see that red sofa,” said Alford.  “We snuck away from the group and I took my picture sitting on it … I could have taken my suitcase and just moved into that library.”

Another favorite room for Alford was the grand saloon. 

“It has a magnificent fireplace and multiple seating areas.  
You see it in just about every episode of Downton Abbey.”

The saloon is the physical and social center of the castle.  It was designed for the fourth Earl of Carnarvon in a Gothic style with rich decoration and completed in the 1860s.  The wall coverings are made of leather brought back from Cordoba, Spain, by the third earl and date from 1631.  They were hung here in 1862.

“Nothing is changed,” says Alford.  “Everything you see on the show is all theirs– the Earl’s family furniture.  They may move a table to another side of the room, but there are no major decorating changes.  Everything stays where it is.”

“They told us about how difficult it is to film in such tight quarters and it’s all filmed right there, except for the kitchen scenes. They’re filmed on a separate set in the house.”

Alford even got to live a bit of the good life by enjoying a luncheon in Highclere’s formal dining room.

“I sat at the head of the table under that magnificent Van Dyck portrait of Charles I,” says Alford, still excited by the memory. 

“They served us just like they do the family on TV.  It was all very formal, just like you see on the show.”

The tour of Highclere was the finale of Alford’s trip, which in addition to the watch party of the first episode of Season 5, also included dinner with Jessica Fellowes, author of three books detailing the filming of the series. 

“She gave me her autograph to put in my copy once I got home to Baltimore and could buy one,” says Alford, who also took home some Highclere Castle scarves, part of a gift package she received after lunch.

“It was a very special trip … it still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” says Alford.

Every morning when Downton Abbey’s Earl of Grantham descends the estate’s steps, you never know what the day is going to bring.  But no matter what crisis or drama unfolds, there is always a sense of place and knowing where you stand.

After all, your home is your castle.  And to tourists, commoners, and television crews alike, traipsing through to help pay the bills.

~Via UK Telegraph, CBS, Robin De Groot and The Advocate

* * * * * * * * *

For another view of Highclere, don’t miss this inside look
and Robin DeGroot’s nice pictorial piece here.



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Every Hour is Precious


Anton Chekhov and ‘The Gift’


**Award-Winning Sci-Fi Film**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



In March of 1886, at the age of 26, acclaimed Russian author and physician Anton Chekhov wrote this fascinating and honest letter of advice to his troubled older brother, Nikolai.

Chekhov’s brother was a talented painter and writer who, despite being just 28 himself, had for many years been plagued by alcoholism to the point where he often slept on the streets, his days were a blur, his notable skills as an artist largely untapped.

This letter and the list it contained– eight qualities exhibited by “civilized” people– were essentially Anton’s attempt at knocking some sense into the brother he was slowly losing.

Sadly, his efforts were ultimately futile.  Nikolai passed away three years later.


Moscow, March, 1886

My Little Zabelin,

I’ve been told that you have taken offense at the jokes we have been making.  The faculty of taking offense is the property of noble souls alone, but even so, if it is all right to laugh at us, then why is it wrong to laugh at you?  It’s unfair.  However, if you’re not joking and really do feel you’ve been offended, I hasten to apologize.

People only laugh at what’s funny or what they don’t understand.  Take your choice.

The latter of course is more flattering, but—alas!—to me, for one, you’re no riddle.  It’s not hard to understand someone with whom you’ve shared the delights of Tatar caps, Latin and, finally, life in Moscow.  And besides, your life is psychologically so uncomplicated that anyone could understand it.  

Out of respect for you let me be frank.  You’re angry, offended… but it’s not because of my teasing.  The fact of the matter is that you’re a decent person and you realize that you’re living a lie.  And, whenever a person feels guilty, he always looks outside himself for vindication: the drunk blames his troubles, others blame the censors, the man who bolts from his house with lecherous intent blames the cold in the living room, and so on.  If I were to abandon the family to the whims of fate, I would try to find myself an excuse.  It’s only natural and pardonable.  It’s human nature, after all.

And you’re quite right to feel you’re living a lie.  If you didn’t feel that way, I wouldn’t have called you a decent person.  When decency goes, well, that’s another story.  You become reconciled to the lie and stop feeling it.

You’re no riddle to me, and it is also true that you can be wildly ridiculous.  You’re nothing but an ordinary mortal, and we mortals are enigmatic only when we’re stupid, and we’re ridiculous forty-eight weeks of the year.  Isn’t that so?

You often complain to me that people “don’t understand” you.  But even Goethe and Newton made no such complaints.  Christ did, true, but he was talking about his doctrine, not his ego.  People understand you all too well.  If you don’t understand yourself, then it’s nobody else’s fault.

As your brother, I assure you that I understand you and sympathize with you from the bottom of my heart.  I know all your good qualities like the back of my hand.  I value them highly and have only the greatest respect for them.  If you like, I can even prove how I understand you by enumerating them.

In my opinion you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, you’d share your last penny, and you’re sincere.  Hate and envy are foreign to you, you are open-hearted, you are compassionate with man and beast, you are not greedy, you do not bear grudges, and you are trusting.

You have a gift from above that others lack:  you have talent. This talent places you above millions of people, for there is only one artist for every two million people on earth.  It places you in a very special position:  you could be a toad or a tarantula and you would still be respected, for to talent all is forgiven.

You have only one failing:  the cause of the lie you’ve been living and your troubles.  It’s your extreme lack of culture.  Please forgive me, but its truth among friends.

The thing is, life lays down certain conditions. If you want to feel at home among educated people, to be at home and not find their presence burdensome, you have to have a certain amount of culture.  Your talent has brought you into their circle.  You belong there, but… you seem to yearn escape and feel compelled to waver between the cultured set and transients.  

It’s the bourgeois side of you coming out, the side raised beside the wine cellar and handouts, and it’s hard to overcome, terribly hard.

To my mind, civilized people ought to satisfy the following conditions:


1.  They respect the individual and are therefore always kind, gentle, polite and ready to give in to others.  They do not throw a tantrum over a hammer or a lost eraser.  When they move in with somebody, they do not act as if they were doing him a favor.  They excuse noise and cold and overdone meat and witticisms and the presence of others in their homes.

2.  Their compassion extends beyond beggars and cats.  Their heart aches for what the naked eye can’t see.  

3.  They respect the property of others and therefore pay their debts.

4.  They are sincere, and dread lying like fire.  They don’t lie even in small things.  A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker.  They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades.  They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others.  Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.

5.  They do not belittle themselves merely to arouse sympathy.  They do not play on people’s heartstrings to get them to sigh and fuss over them.  They do not say, “No one understands me!” or “I’ve squandered my talent on trifles!” because this smacks of a cheap effect.  It is vulgar, false and out-of-date.

6.  They have no shallow vanity and are not preoccupied with vain things.  

They are not taken in by such false jewels as friendships with celebrities, handshakes with important people, ecstasy over the first person they happen to meet in important places, or popularity among the tavern crowd. 

When they have done a penny’s worth of work, they don’t strut about as though they had done a hundred rubles’ worth, and they don’t boast over being admitted to places closed to others.  True talents always seek obscurity.  They try to merge with the crowd and shun all ostentation and advertisement.  An empty barrel has more chance of being heard than a full one.

7.  If they have talent, a gift, they respect it.  They sacrifice comfort, rest, women, wine and vanity to it.  They are proud of their talent and gifts.  They do not go out carousing.  What is more, they are fastidious.

8.  They cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities.  They cannot stand to fall asleep fully dressed, see a crack in the wall teeming with bugs, breathe rotten air, walk on a floor with spit or eat off a stove.  They try their best to tame and dignify their sexual instinct… What they look for in a woman is not a bed partner or horse sweat, but the kind of intelligence that expresses itself in the capacity for motherhood.  They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. 

They—and especially the artists among them—require freshness, elegance, compassion, a woman who will be a mother… They don’t guzzle vodka on any old occasion, nor do they go around sniffing cupboards, for they know they are not pigs.  They drink only when they are free, if the opportunity happens to present itself, for they want a healthy mind in a healthy body.

And so on.  That’s how civilized people act.  If you want to be civilized and not fall below the level of your surroundings, it is not enough to read The Pickwick Papers and memorize a soliloquy from Faust.

You must work at being cultured constantly, day and night.  You must never stop reading, studying in depth, exercising your will.  Every hour is precious.  Every hour is a gift.

You’ve got to drop your old way of life and make a clean break.  Come home.  Smash your vodka bottle, lie down on the couch and pick up a book.  You might even give Turgenev a try.  You’ve never read him.

You must swallow your pride and drop your vanity.  You’re no longer a child.  You’ll be thirty soon.  It’s high time!

I’m waiting… We’re all waiting…

A. Chekhov



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Charlie Hebdo, Before the Massacre


A Brief Inside View of the Murdered Cartoonists


**New York Times VIDEO**



Jerôme Lambert and Philippe Picard
French Filmmakers



In February 2006 the editors of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo met to discuss a matter of what turned out to be of deadly consequence.

Would they publish a satirical image of Muhammad on their cover?  

We were making a documentary about Jean Cabut, known as Cabu, one of the most famous cartoonists in France.

So we were there, filming his conversation with his colleagues as they chose the cover.  

The issue that came out of this meeting — with a Cabu cartoon on the cover and the images they discussed here — turned out to be one of the most popular in the magazine’s history.

Almost nine years later, gunmen stormed this very meeting and killed 10 editors and cartoonists, including three of the people in this film: Cabu, Bernard Verlhac (known as Tignous) and Georges Wolinski.

Beyond his talent as an artist, our friend Cabu was a formidable character — his Joan of Arc haircut and John Lennon-style round glasses were inimitable.  A former children’s television host, he was goofy, kind, sweet.  We loved him.

But what Cabu loved was provocation and bad taste: a very French — political and vulgar, yet sharp — type of irony.  He was right at home at Charlie Hebdo, where he could take uncompromising stands on institutions and leaders of all stripes:  politicians, bankers, cops … and men of God.

In this case, Cabu was supporting cartoonists in Denmark who had just grappled with the same issue in September 2005.

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten had published 12 cartoons considered blasphemous by many followers of Islam.  Arab governments protested officially; there were clashes at protests and demonstrations around the world, leading to more than 200 deaths.  Charlie Hebdo had decided to reproduce the complete set of cartoons for its Feb. 8 issue.

In filming Cabu’s now historic meeting with his editor in chief and fellow cartoonists and editorialists, we could not know that we were capturing on camera such an important moment.  We were just amazed by the collaborative, creative, joyful process that led to the cover and caption, Cabu’s drawing of the Prophet Muhammad, cleverly hiding his face with his hands to avoid breaking outright prohibitions on showing the prophet’s likeness, but still provocative.

Provocative enough to apparently serve as the root of this week’s attack.

As the cartoon was published, police officers were assigned for Cabu’s protection.  As the death threats against him soon poured in, his humor and high spirits remained intact.

Our friend Cabu was murdered.  Today, we miss him.

~Via the New York Times

* * * * * * * * * **

“The rise of fundamentalism in any religion has changed things.  Ending up in court to argue about the freedom of speech is bearable. 

But what you can’t accept … is to be the object of death threats for a cartoon.”

~Jean “Cabu” Cabut: January 13, 1938 — January 7, 2015


Je Suis Charlie.


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The Christmas Miracle of Charlie Brown



And the WW II German Pilot Who Saved Him




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The 21-year old American B-17 pilot glanced outside his cockpit. 
He froze in terror.

He blinked hard and looked again in disbelief.  His co-pilot stared at the same horrible sight.  ”My God, this is a nightmare,” the co-pilot said.  ”He’s going to destroy us.”

The young pilot, Charlie Brown, agreed.

The men were looking up at a gray German Messerschmitt 109 fighter hovering just three feet off their wingtip.  It was five days before Christmas, 1943, and the fighter had closed in on their crippled American B-17 bomber, Ye Olde Pub, honing in for the kill.

The B-17 pilot, Charles Brown, was a 21-year-old West Virginia farm boy on his first combat mission.  His bomber had already been shot to pieces by swarming fighters following a successful bombing run over Bremen.  Severely damaged, it fell behind the rest of the bombing squadron as they quickly headed for home.  His plane was now alone, limping along and struggling to stay afloat in the skies above Germany.

Charlie and most of his crew were wounded and the tail gunner was dead, his blood frozen over in icicles on the machine guns.

But when Brown and his co-pilot, Spencer “Pinky” Luke, looked at the fighter pilot again, something very odd happened.  The German didn’t pull the trigger.  He simply stared back at the bomber in amazement and respect.  What happened next was one of the most remarkable acts of chivalry ever recorded during World War II.

Instead of pressing the attack, the German nodded at Charlie Brown and saluted.  It was a Christmas miracle.


Two Pilots, Two Foes

Charles Brown was on his first combat mission during World War II when he met an enemy unlike any other: An ace German pilot named Franz Stigler.

Stigler wasn’t just any fighter pilot. He was veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot with over 480 missions, 25 kills, and a successful North Africa campaign to his credit.  Stigler had already shot down two B-17s that day.  One more kill and he would earn the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest award for valor.

Yet Stigler was driven by something deeper than glory.  Stigler’s older brother, August, was a fellow Luftwaffe pilot who had been killed earlier in the war.  American pilots had killed Stigler’s comrades and were now bombing his country’s cities.

Stigler was initially refueling and rearming his fighter on the ground of a German airbase when he had heard a bomber’s engine.  Looking up, he saw a B-17 flying so low he thought it was going to land.  As the bomber disappeared behind some trees, Stigler tossed his cigarette aside, saluted a ground crewman, and took off in his BF-109 in pursuit.  Revenge, not honor, is what drove 2nd Lt. Franz Stigler to jump into his fighter that chilly December day in 1943.  

As Stigler’s fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind.  He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger.  

He was about to fire– then he hesitated.  Stigler was baffled.  No one in the bomber fired at him.

He came closer to look at the tail gunner.  He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood.  Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber.  The Plexiglas nose was shattered by flak, its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns were knocked out.  One propeller wasn’t turning.  Smoke trailed from the other engine.  Half the tail was gone.  He could see injured men huddled inside the shattered plane tending to the wounds of the other incapacitated crewmen.

Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber’s wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide open in shock and terror, his hands fumbling at the controls to keep the plane aloft.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket.  He eased his index finger off the trigger.  He couldn’t shoot.  It would be murder.


A Higher Call of Duty

“I didn’t have the heart to finish those brave men,” Stigler recalled.  “I flew beside them for a long time.  They were desperately trying to get home, and I was going to let them do that.  I could not have shot at them.”

Stigler wasn’t just motivated by vengeance that day.  He also lived by a moral code of honor.  He could trace his family’s ancestry to knights in 16th century Europe; he had once studied to be a priest. 

Stigler considered his options.  He knew a German pilot sparing the life of the enemy would risk certain death by execution in wartime Nazi Germany.

Yet Stigler could also hear the voice of his commanding officer, who once told him:  ”You are fighter pilots first, last, and always.  You follow the rules of war for you– not your enemy.  You fight by rules to keep your humanity.  If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.”  

Stigler later said, “To me, it was just like they were in a parachute.  I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.”

Alone with the crippled bomber, Stigler changed his mind and his mission.  He nodded at the American pilot and began flying in formation so German anti-aircraft gunners on the ground wouldn’t shoot down the slow-moving bomber.

Stigler escorted the bomber out of harm’s way over the North Sea and took one last look at the American pilot.

Then he saluted him, peeled his fighter away, and returned to Germany.  “Good luck,” Stigler said to himself.  ”You’re in God’s hands now…”

He also said goodbye to the German Iron Cross that he richly deserved.  Franz Stigler didn’t think the big B-17 could make it back to England.  He wondered for years what had happened to the American pilot and crew he encountered in combat.

As for Charlie Brown and Ye Olde Pub, it was a truly bewildering moment.  As he watched the German fighter pilot escort him to the coast, salute in farewell, and then fly away that December day, 2nd Lt. Charles Brown wasn’t waxing philosophical about enemies.  He was thinking of survival. 

Before the bizarre encounter with Stigler had occurred, Brown, lacking oxygen, had lost consciousness and awakened to find Ye Olde Pub in a dive at 5,000 ft.  He struggled to regain the controls and pulled the bomber out of the dive at 1,000 ft, beginning the long flight home in the shattered bomber when Stigler happened to show up.

Charlie flew his crippled plane, filled with the wounded, back to his base in England.  Not knowing if they would make it back home or not given the poor conditon Ye Olde Pub was in, Charlie gave his young crew the choice of bailing out.   They all chose to stay.

The 21-year-old captain nursed the warship along as best as he could.  The B-17 landed with one of four engines knocked out, one failing, and with barely any fuel left.  The bomber’s internal oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems were sorely damaged; only half of its rudder and port side elevator were left remaining. 

After Brown’s bomber came to a stop in England, he slumped back in his chair and put a hand over the pocket Bible he kept in his flight jacket.  Then he sat in silence, exhausted, flak wounds to his shoulder.

Brown reported the incident to his superiors but was ordered to keep the matter secret.  His commanding officers did not want any word of a chivalrous German pilot sparing the life of an American soldier to get out.  Brown kept it to himself and never spoke of it, even at postwar reunions.

Stigler, likewise, never reported the incident for risk of a court martial.  He told his superiors that he had escorted the bomber over the North Sea where he shot it down.


‘We’ll Meet Again Some Sunny Day’

Brown flew more missions before the war ended.  Life moved on; he got married, had two daughters, supervised foreign aid for the U.S. State Department during the Vietnam War, and eventually retired to Florida earning the rank of Colonel.

Later in life, though, the encounter with the German pilot gnawed at him.  He started having nightmares.  But in his dreams there would be no act of mercy.  He would awaken just before his bomber crashed.

Brown took on a new mission in his remaining life.  He wanted to find that German pilot who spared him and the lives of his crew.  Who was he?  Why did he save my life?  He scoured military archives in the U.S. and England.  He attended a pilots’ reunion and shared his story.  He finally placed an ad in a German newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots, retelling the story and asking if anyone knew the pilot.

In January of 1990, Brown received a letter.  Opening it, he read:

“Dear Charles,

All these years I wondered what happened to that B-17, did she make it home?  Did her crew survive their wounds?  To hear of your survival has filled me with indescribable joy.  I was the one.”


It was Franz Stigler.

Treated poorly after the war and working as a lowly brick mill laborer, Stigler left Germany in 1953 and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he became a prosperous businessman.  Now retired, Stigler told Brown that he would be in Florida come summer and that ”it sure would be nice to talk about our encounter.”

Brown was so excited, though, that he couldn’t wait to see Stigler.  He called directory assistance for Vancouver and asked whether there was a number for a Franz Stigler.  He dialed the number, and Stigler picked it up.

They spoke on the phone for hours.  Stigler described his plane, the escort, the salute, and confirming everything Brown needed to hear to know that he was indeed the German fighter pilot involved in the incident.

“My God, it’s you!” Brown shouted as tears ran down his cheeks.  

Brown had to do more.  He wrote a letter to Stigler in which he said:  ”To say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU on behalf of my surviving crewmembers and their families appears totally inadequate.”

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler met and had a summer reunion together.  Both men looked like retired businessmen; they were now plump, sporting neat ties and formal shirts. They fell into each others’ arms and wept and laughed.  They talked about their encounter in a light, jovial tone.

Then the mood changed.  Someone asked Stigler what he thought about Brown.  Stigler sighed and his square jaw tightened.  He began to fight back tears before he haltingly said in heavily accented English:  ”I love you, Charlie.”

Stigler had lost his brother, his friends and his country.  He was virtually forgotten by his countrymen after the war.  While there were 28,000 pilots who fought for the German air force, only 1,200 of them survived.  Losses were also heavy on the other side:  30,000 Americans roughly the age of 22 lost their lives in B-17s during the war. 

The war had cost Stigler everything.  “Charlie Brown was the only good thing that came out of World War II,” Stigler said.  “It was the one thing I could be proud of.”


Brothers, Heroes, Foes

Brown and Stigler became best pals.  They would take fishing trips together.  They would fly cross-country to each other homes and take road trips together to share their story at schools and veterans’ reunions.  Their wives, Jackie Brown and Hiya Stigler, became friends.

Brown’s daughter, Dawn Warner, says her father would worry about Stigler’s health and constantly check in on him.

“It wasn’t just for show,” she says.  ”They really did feel for each other.  They talked about once a week.” 

As his friendship with Stigler deepened, something else happened to her father, Warner says:  “The nightmares went away.”

Brown had written a letter of thanks to Stigler, but one day, he wanted to show the extent of his gratitude.  He organized a reunion of his surviving crew members, along with their extended families.  He invited Stigler as a guest of honor.

During the reunion, a video was played showing all the faces of the people that now lived – numerous children, grandchildren, relatives, crew members – because of Stigler’s act of chivalry.  The former German pilot, watching the film from his seat of honor, cried.

 ”Everybody was crying, not just him,” Warner says.

Stigler and Brown died within months of each other in 2008; Stigler was 92, and Brown was 87.  They had started off as enemies, became friends, and then became something more.

After he died, Warner was searching through Brown’s library when she came across a book on German fighter jets.  Stigler had given the book to Brown.  Both were country boys who loved to read about planes.

Warner opened the book and saw an inscription Stigler had written to Charlie Brown:

“In 1940, I lost my only brother as a night fighter.  On the 20th of December, 4 days before Christmas, I had the chance to save a B-17 from her destruction, a plane so badly damaged it was a wonder that she was still flying.

The pilot, Charlie Brown, is for me as precious as my brother was.”

Thanks Charlie.

Your Brother,



~Via Hub911, Aerial Chivalry, Wayne Freedman, Sabaton, and Youtube
  A sincere appreciation goes out to Valor Art Studios and John D. Shaw

  And don’t miss this head-banging piece of the incident and the 
  young, brave B-17 crews that we especially liked, here.



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Sony Cyberattack: Hackers Win



But We’ll Show You the Film Trailers Anyway !




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



U.S. officials are treating a cyberattack on Sony Pictures as a “serious national security matter,” with the National Security Council considering a proportionate response, the White House said.

Evidence shows the attack against Sony was carried out by a “sophisticated actor,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.  But he declined to blame North Korea, saying the investigation is still progressing.

That country is suspected of orchestrating the hack in retaliation for the Sony film The Interview, about a fictional plot to assassinate Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The film portrays Seth Rogen and James Franco as frustrated television journalists who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader. 

Wanna go kill Kim Jong-un?” Franco’s character asks in the movie.

“Totally.  I’d love to assassinate Kim Jong-un – it’s a date,” Rogen’s character replies.

In the film’s climactic scene, Kim Jong Un’s head is seen exploding when his helicopter is hit by a missile.

The company on Wednesday cancelled the film’s scheduled December 25 release after the four largest U.S. theater chains said they would not show it.  A spokesman said Sony “has no further release plans” for the $44 million comedy, The New York Times reported.

According to media reports, U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said investigators have connected North Korea to the cyberattack.  North Korea denies involvement and wants to join the US probe into the matter, saying they can prove they’re not behind the security breach.

The massive breach resulted in the leak of tens of thousands of documents of confidential Sony data, including the private details of thousands of company employees, former employees and freelancers, as well as several Hollywood stars and their squabbles.  The leaks also include financial data and high-quality copies of films yet to be released.

The leak has also escalated to threats of terrorist attacks over the film.  A hacker group calling itself Guardians of Peace promised a “bitter fate” to those who attend The Interview showings.  

The group– invoking the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States– warned people to stay away from theaters where the film is playing.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says “there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters.” 

President Barack Obama also downplayed the threat, calling Sony’s quick cancellation “a mistake” and saying his “recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

Nonetheless, Sony raised the white flag and surrendered, even though, surprisingly enough, its economy is larger than that of North Korea’s. 

Yes, that’s true.


Sony’s Response

Sony was preparing for a Christmas Day release of the comedy about two journalists recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to assassinate North Korea’s leader.

But not anymore.  They’re backing down altogether.

In a statement about its cancellation, Sony said it was “deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie and, in the process, do damage to our company, our employees and the American public.  We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

In an interview late Wednesday with ABC News, Obama called the cyberattack on Sony Pictures “very serious.”

 ”We’re investigating it.  We’re taking it seriously.  We’ll be vigilant,” Obama said.  ”If we see something that we think is serious and credible, we’ll alert the public.  But, for now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”


Pyongyang Condemns Movie

While Americans might be used to such irreverent humor, Pyongyang isn’t laughing.

In fact, they’re pissed.  Crazy-pissed.

Pyongyang has strongly denounced the comedy as an act of terrorism and had called for Sony to cancel the film.  It has praised the hacking as a “righteous deed,” while insisting it is not involved in the intrusion.

“The act of making and screening such a movie that portrays the attack on our top leadership… is a most wanton act of terror and act of war, and is absolutely intolerable,” a Foreign Ministry statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency on Wednesday read.

The ministry called on Washington to ban the film from being screened, warning that failure to do so would trigger a “resolute and merciless counter-measure response.”

It is not clear whether the Guardians of Peace group is linked to Pyongyang, which is known to have a capable group of Internet hackers at its disposal.  Some suspect the hackers may have been aided by an insider at Sony.

Pyongyang was angered by the film and in June promised “merciless retaliation.”  But it has denied involvement in the attack.  A North Korean diplomat said earlier this month the accusation was a “fabrication.”

Eriq Gardner, senior editor of The Hollywood Reporter, said the scale of the Sony hacking is unprecedented.

“There have been things that have made Hollywood studios change distribution of movies, but nothing like an attack from a nation-state forcing its hands on a movie that is really just a comedy,” Gardner said.

“… There have been some people who have speculated, maybe jokingly, that this was all just a publicity stunt,” he added.  

“But really, no matter how much money the film makes from here on out, it will not have been worth it to Sony.  This is absolutely terrible for them.”


Financial Loss

Doug Stone of the film industry newsletter Box Office Analyst believes Sony is set to lose up to $55 million and could opt to release the film at a later date or offer it as a video on demand.

Bruce Bennett, a North Korea analyst for the think tank RAND Corp., said Sony’s decision to cancel the film’s release sets a bad precedent.

“Foreigners who want to stop the release of a film can now follow the example of these hackers.  That’s dangerous for the United States,” said Bennett.

And, he added, it is good news for North Korea’s leaders.

“They don’t want this film to get out.  They particularly don’t want it to get on DVD and get circulated into North Korea, which a lot of outside DVDs do because it depicts Kim Jong Un accurately as being ruthless and deceptive, and in ways that don’t coincide with the regime’s propaganda,” Bennett said.


Hollywood Reacts

Many in Hollywood spoke out against Sony’s decision to scrap the movie’s release.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel called the move “an un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist’s actions and sets a terrifying precedent.”

George Clooney said “Hollywood hung Sony out to dry.”

Actor Rob Lowe declared it an “utter victory” for the hackers.  “Wow.  Everyone caved.  The hackers won.  An utter and complete victory for them.  Wow,” Lowe tweeted.

Steve Carell, whose own film set in North Korea has been canceled, said it was a “sad day for creative expression.”

This isn’t the first time North Korea’s leadership has been on the receiving end of Hollywood’s particular brand of parody.

In 2004, the South Park creators portrayed Kim’s late-father Kim Jong-il as a speech-impaired, mass-murdering alien despot in Team America: World Police

While Kim Jong-il, a noted film buff, never publicly commented on the film, North Korea’s embassy in Prague demanded that the film be banned in the Czech Republic.

“It harms the image of our country,” a North Korean diplomat said at the time.  A Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman rebuffed Pyongyang, saying “it’s absurd to demand that in a democratic country.”

Kim Myong-chol, executive director of The Centre for North Korea-US Peace and an unofficial spokesman for the Pyongyang regime, strangely enough said North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, in fact, plans to see The Interview.

~Via BBC, VOA, Google News, RT, Sony Pictures, YouTube



* * * * * * * *

Regardless of the threats and hacks and attacks, we’ll show you the film trailers anyway– while they’re still up and running.

If North Korea and Kim Jong Un don’t like it, oh well, that’s too bad.   Cry us a river.  What would America think if Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 ‘The Great Dictator’ was cancelled because Der Führer didn’t like it?

The movie may be in poor taste but that’s how politcal satire goes.  The Sony story is downright bizarre — and we don’t just mean the hacking.  We mean the decision to make the stupid movie in the first place.

Nevertheless, we believe in free and independent media and we’ll stand up for it– even if Sony won’t. 

We may be small, but we’re still Humboldt.  So come and get us.  We’re waiting.  And we’ll leave the light on for you.



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Australian Security Forces Storm Sydney Cafe



Hostage Siege Ends With Attack, Gunshots




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s over.

Australian security forces on Tuesday stormed the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney where several hostages were being held at gunpoint, in what looked like the dramatic ending to a standoff that had dragged on for more than 16 hours.

Heavy gunfire and loud bangs rang out shortly after 2 a.m. local time today, and moments earlier at least six people believed to have been held captive had managed to flee the scene.

Australian state broadcaster ABC reported that three people were dead and four others were wounded and in serious condition.  Police said the three people killed were the gunman and two of the hostages.

It is unknown whether the two hostages who were killed, a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman, were caught in crossfire, or shot by the Iranian-born gunman.  Among the four wounded was a police officer shot in the face.

Medics moved in and took away seven injured people on stretchers, but it was not clear whether they included the gunman.  He was identified as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh facing multiple charges of sexual assault.  Local media reported that Monis, who was known as Manteghi Bourjerdi before he changed his name, was 49 or 50 years old.

Chris Reason, a correspondent for CNN affiliate Seven Network, said the gunman became “extremely agitated” when he realized what had happened and “started screaming orders” at the remaining hostages.

Reason said he could see the gunman pacing past the cafe’s windows from his vantage point at the network’s nearby offices.  He described the man as unshaven, wearing a white shirt and black cap and carrying a shotgun.

The gunman demanded a flag and phone call through hostages who contacted several media organizations, Sky News Australia reported.

Monis, also known as Sheikh Haron, was found guilty in 2013 of sending offensive and threatening letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and calling them “Hitler’s soldiers,” as a protest against Australia’s involvement in the conflict, according to local media reports.

He was also charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.  Earlier this year, he was charged with the sexual
assault of a woman in 2002.  He has been out on bail on both
of the charges.

“This is a one-off random individual.  It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act.  It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous,” his former lawyer Manny Conditsis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.  “His ideology is just so strong and so powerful that it clouds his vision for common sense and objectiveness,” Conditsis said.

He was believed to be acting alone and does not appear to be part of a broader plot, US law enforcement said Monday.  Beyond the demands for the flag and phone call, precisely what he wanted remained murky late Monday.

During the siege, hostages had been forced to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack.  The black flag with Arabic writing read, “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”

At least six hostages were either released or had escaped, with terrified cafe workers and customers running into the arms of paramilitary police.

Fifteen or so hostages were understood to have been holed up inside the cafe, said Chris Reason, a reporter at Channel Seven, whose office is opposite the cafe.

The incident forced the evacuation of nearby buildings and sent shockwaves around a country where many people were turning their attention to the Christmas holiday following earlier security scares.

In September, anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in the city of Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife. 

Tough anti-terror laws were passed by the Australian parliament in October in response to the threat of homegrown extremism.

The siege cafe is in Martin Place, a pedestrian strip popular with workers on a lunch break, which was revealed as a potential location for the thwarted beheading.

“We’re possibly looking at a lone wolf who has sympathies to global jihad or someone with mental health issues in search of a cause,” said Adam Dolnik, a professor at the University of Wollongong who has trained Sydney police in hostage negotiations.  “This is all about attention.”

In the biggest security operation in Sydney since a bombing at the Hilton Hotel killed two people in 1978, major banks closed their offices in the central business district and people were told to avoid the area.

Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, earlier this year raised its domestic terror threat level from medium to high, mainly due to concerns about home-grown extremists.

About 70 Australians are thought to be fighting for militant groups in the Middle East.

A number of Australian Muslim groups condemned the hostage-taking in a joint statement and said the flag’s inscription was a “testimony of faith that has been misappropriated by misguided individuals.”

~Via Google News, ABC, Seven Network, WRAL, Reuters


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Colonizing the Red Planet



Mars:  The Epic Dream Vs. the Harsh Reality




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



It’s a one-way ticket to Paradise.

In 2012, a Dutch nonprofit led by entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp announced plans to send four citizen astronauts to colonize Mars in 2023.

The motivation behind the project was later revealed to have little to do with the pursuit of science.  Instead, the organization— known as Mars One— plans to film the whole thing, turning the far-flung mission into a bizarre reality TV show.

The call for applications began back in 2013.  No previous intergalactic experience was necessary, Mars One said in their release.

Applying is easy.  Applicants just need to be over the age of 18 and comfortable with the notion of spending the rest of their mortal lives on a different planet.

In the first two weeks, more than 78,000 people applied for the one-way trip into space.  That number now tops a surprising 200,000 folks wanting to start a new life someplace else.  Mars One hopes to pick between 28 to 40 candidates by the year 2015 and train them for the final mission.

One small problem though:  The organization also needs to raise around $6 billion in funding to pull the whole thing off.  That’s one heck of a Kickstarter project.

Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is the fourth rock from the sun and lies roughly about 140 million miles away from us– depending on our elliptical orbits with one another.  First recorded by Egyptian astronomers 4,000 years ago as “the Red One” due to its iron-rich rocky and dusty surface, Mars has always captured our imagination for travel, exploration, and potential colonization.

Mars has roughly the same landmass as Earth.  Martian surface gravity, however, is only 37% that of Earth– meaning you could leap nearly three times higher on Mars. 

Mars, to note, also sports two moons.

The Martian year is 686 earth-days long, causing some extreme temperature variations in its four seasons.  At the closest point to the Sun, the Martian southern hemisphere leans towards the Sun causing a short, intensely hot summer; while the northern hemisphere endures a brief, cold winter.  At its farthest point from the Sun, the Martian northern hemisphere causes a long, mild summer with the southern hemisphere having a lengthy, cold winter.

Mars has the largest dust storms in the solar system.  They can last for months and cover the entire planet.  The seasons are extreme because its orbital path around the Sun is more elongated than most other planets in the solar system.

There is no oxygen on Mars except in minor trace amounts and the atmosphere consists primarily of carbon dioxide gas.  Water on the surface of Mars does exists in its polar ice caps but it’s prone to either freezing or evaporation.  There is abundant water trapped below the surface; enough to cover the whole planet to a depth of 115 feet.

So, just how scientifically sound is sending four normal people, with no scientific background, to another frontier planet in the hope of making it habitable for future generations?

Not very much, according to a team of MIT engineering students.  The group made a detailed simulation of the Mars One settlement to assess the mission’s feasibility.   Their results, published last month, show that it will be virtually impossible for humans to survive on Mars with the current technology that exists.

“We’re not saying, black and white, Mars One is infeasible,” said Olivier de Weck, MIT professor of aeronautics and engineering systems.  “But we do think it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made.  We’re pointing to technologies that could be helpful to invest in with high priority, to move them along the feasibility path.”

The researchers began by looking at each component outlined in Mars One’s plan, from living conditions and life-support systems to logistics and emergency procedures in case of fire.

The first problem is food.  Mars One plans to build a series of capsule-like habitats to house the settlers, using solar panels to supply electricity and extracting drinking water from the soil with an irrigation system.

Using a typical work schedule and metabolic rate of astronauts on the International Space Station, the study estimated that a settler on Mars would have to consume 3,040 calories a day to stay healthy, subsisting on a diet that includes foods like beans, lettuce, peanuts, potatoes, and rice.  The researchers found that producing enough of these crops to sustain settlers would require almost four times an area as the one laid out in Mars One’s plan– 2,150 square feet, as opposed to the 530 currently allotted.

Further, if the crop-growing area is part of the settlers’ habitat as proposed, the crops would end up producing unsafe levels of oxygen that would need to be abated with a constant supply of nitrogen.  This process would require technology that has yet to be developed for use in space.

The same goes for water.  The Mars One plan is to melt ice for drinking water, but the MIT study found that current technologies that can extract and melt water from soil are not yet ready for use in Mars’ harsh environment.  Eventually, the study found, the total atmospheric pressure inside the habitat would drop to unsafe levels, suffocating the first settler within a mere 68 days.

Can Mars be colonized?  Undoubtably it will, someday.  And when it happens, it will be the farthest journey mankind will ever have traveled.  As of September 2014, there have been 40 unmanned missions to Mars, including orbiters, landers and rovers.  18 of those missions have been successful.  There have been many more flybys.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s MOM Mangalyaan orbiter recently arrived on September 24, 2014.  The next mission to arrive will be the European Space Agency’s ExoMars project, comprising of an orbiter, lander, and rover;  followed by NASA’s InSight robotic lander mission, slated for launch in March 2016 and with a planned arrival in September of 2016.

Essentially, colonizing Mars for humans is the kind of thing that presents great challenges and requires an enormous amount of preparation.  

“There are just so many unknowns,” said Sydney Do, one of the graduate students who led the MIT study.

“And to give anyone confidence that they’re going to get there and stay alive–  there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”



* * * * * * * * * * * *

Erik Wernquist’s award-winning film at top above, Wanderers, was made using actual digital images and real locations gathered from NASA/JPL, NASA/CICLOPS, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, European Space Agency, John Van Vliet and Björn Jonsson. 

It is best viewed on a full screen and with the volume cranked up.

‘Mars One: Introduction Film’ was produced by the MarsOne Project.

Images by


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Greece’s Largest Mystery Tomb Unearthed



Identity of Ancient Tomb’s VIP Skeleton a Mystery




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The ancient sands of Ozymandias are slowly and painstakingly being pulled back to reveal their secrets.

Coins featuring the face of Alexander the Great have been found at the largest tomb ever unearthed in Greece, where archaeologists are hunting for clues to solve the mystery of who lies buried there.

The enormous tomb at Kasta Hill in Amphipolis in northern Greece dates back to the fourth century BC and also contains near-intact sculptures and intricate mosaics.

Kasta Hill lies in what was once the ancient city of Amphipolis, conquered by Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, in 357 BC.  Experts have known about the existence of the burial mound in Amphipolis, located northeast of Thessaloniki, since the 1960s, but work only began in earnest there in 2012, when archaeologists discovered that Kasta Hill had been surrounded by a nearly 1,640 foot wall made from marble.

Earlier this year, archaeologists discovered a path and 13 steps leading down from the surrounding wall.  It was then that they uncovered a limestone wall protecting and concealing the entrance of the tomb.  Behind the wall, archaeologists revealed two marble sphinxes, both headless and missing their wings, recovered during excavations.   Bit by bit, the grand tomb began revealing the Ozymandian secrets that had lain hidden for 2,300 years.

The discovery of a skeleton inside the structure has added to the excitement over the site, which has enthralled the Greek public.

The archaeologist in charge of the dig, Katerina Peristeri, on Saturday said they still did not know the identity of the skeleton but it was likely the tomb was built for a high-ranking individual.

Giving the first complete presentation of the excavation results at the Ministry of Culture in Athens, Peristeri said the quality of the statues and the sheer scale of the tomb “show that a general could have been buried there”.

The tomb was repeatedly plundered before being sealed off but Peristeri said the team still found several coins around the tomb, including some showing the face of Alexander the Great and some dating back to the third and second century BC.

Archaeologists had to dig their way past huge decapitated sphinxes, break through a wall guarded by two caryatids — sculpted female figures — and empty out an antechamber decorated with lavish mosaics to finally find the tomb’s occupant.

As they entered the second chamber of the tomb, more spectacles awaited – a magnificent mosaic which covers the entire floor area and depicting a well-known scene.  The mural shows the abduction of Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter and goddess of agriculture and fertility, by Hades/Pluto.  A mural representing the exact same scene was discovered in the tomb of Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father.

In the third chamber, archaeologists found a hidden vault in the floor that had been sealed with limestone.  It contained human remains inside a sarcophagus.  The skeleton had once been inside a wooden coffin– now disintegrated– which had been sealed with iron and bronze nails.  Bone and glass decorative elements and skeletal remains were found both within and outside the limestone sarcophagus.

“We knew we had to return there and solve the mystery of the hill,” said Peristeri.

New research has revealed that the vast tomb had been open to the public in antiquity, leading to looting and damage by the invading Romans.  Sealing walls at the tomb were constructed during the Roman era to keep vandals and looters away, but much damage had already been done.  This has made it difficult to immediately identify the owner of the tomb, as many artifacts that would been buried alongside the individual, and would have helped with identification, are missing.

“It is certain there was damage and plundering in ancient times as it was a large monument that people could visit,” said Peristeri.

Since the unearthing of the site, deemed to be of huge historical importance and visited by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in August, there has been widespread speculation over who was buried there:  from Roxana, Alexander’s Persian wife, to Olympias, the king’s mother, to one of his generals.

“We have no clear clues on the identity of the buried person based on the sculpture of the Lion which stood on top of the hill and the other architectural finds,” said archaeology architect Michael Lefantzis.  “We do know that the dead was a prominent figure… In my opinion he was a warrior.”

But historians say it is highly unlikely to have been Alexander himself, who conquered the Persian empire and much of the known world before his death at the age of 32.

Geophysical scans of Kasta Hill have revealed that there is much more lying hidden within the enormous burial mound, and archaeologists have announced that more excavations will begin in the near future.

~Via Archaeology Today, Ancient Origins,, Peter Sommer, MSN News


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Remember the Future: Chernobyl Revisited



Radiation Never Really Dies




Danny Cooke and Bob Simon
CBS News



Some tragedies never end.  Just bury the horror and move on.

Ask people to name a nuclear disaster and most will probably point to Fukushima in Japan three years ago.

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine was 30 years ago, but the crisis is still with us today.  That’s because radiation virtually never dies.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Chernobyl while working for CBS News on a ’60 Minutes’ episode which aired on Nov. 23, 2014.  Bob Simon was the correspondent and his video can be seen below.

Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been.  The nuclear disaster, which happened in 1986 (the year after I was born), had an effect on so many people, including my family when we lived in Italy.  The nuclear dust clouds swept westward towards us.  The Italian police went round and threw away all the local produce and my mother rushed out to purchase as much tinned milk as possible to feed me, her infant son.

It caused so much distress hundreds of miles away.  I can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who were forced to evacuate.

During my stay, I met so many amazing people, one of whom was my guide Yevgen, also known as a ‘Stalker’.  We spent the week together exploring Chernobyl and the nearby abandoned city of Pripyat. There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place.  Time has stood still and there are memories of the past floating around us.

Armed with a camera and a dosimeter Geiger counter I explored the ruins and made the above film.

After the explosion in 1986, the Soviets built a primitive sarcophagus, a tomb to cover the stricken reactor.  But it wasn’t meant to last very long and it hasn’t.  Engineers say there is still enough radioactive material in there to cause widespread contamination.

For the last five years a massive project has been underway to seal the reactor permanently.  But the undertaking is three quarters of a billion dollars short and the completion date has been delayed repeatedly. Thirty years later, Chernobyl’s crippled reactor still has the power to kill.

It’s called the Zone and getting into it is crossing a border into one of the most contaminated places on Earth. The 20-mile no man’s land was evacuated nearly 30 years ago.  

Drive to the center of the Zone today and you’ll see a massive structure that appears to rise out of nowhere. It’s an engineering effort the likes of which the world has never seen. 

And it’s a race against time.

With funds from over 40 different countries, 1,400 workers are building a giant arch to cover the damaged reactor like a casserole.  It will be taller than the Statue of Liberty and wider than Yankee Stadium — the largest movable structure on Earth.

The radiation won’t die or go away.  It will just be encapsulated, a sealed tomb inside a steel skeleton, a buried edifice of horrors to remember the future by.


~Via Danny Cooke/Bob Simon and CBS News



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The Ambition of the Rosetta Mission


The European Space Agency Gambles Big


**Award-Winning Film**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Ambition really took us by surprise.

Made in collaboration by the European Space Agency (ESA)—the European equivalent of NASA—it is remarkably unlike any other film NASA has ever done for its own space missions.

It is definitely something out of the ordinary: a big-budget-style sci-fi movie directed by Tomek Baginski with famous actors, such as Aidan Gillen of Game of Thrones fame, and a subtle yet powerful message relating to the Rosetta mission.

On November 12th, something spectacular will happen in space history.  The Rosetta spacecraft, launched back in 2004, will drop its Lander onto the surface of comet 67P. 

Part of what has been so impressive is the length of time this mission has taken to finally get to the comet– 20 years since the planning began, and ten years since its launch.

It is a complex mission.  Rosetta could not head straight for the comet.  The remarkable feat of the Rosetta spacecraft is that it has been ping-ponging its way through the solar system, beginning a series of looping orbits around the Sun that brought it back for three Earth fly-bys and one Mars fly-by.  The mathematical calculations alone were mind boggling.  

Each time, the spacecraft changed its velocity and direction as it extracted energy from the gravitational field of Earth or Mars and then spiraled out on different trajectories to eventually meet up with comet 67P– a decade later.

Rosetta, reaching the bizarrely shaped rubber-duck icy comet, has spent the last three months mapping its surface in the hope of finding a suitable spot to place its Lander. 

It is the first time a spacecraft has entered into orbit around a comet, which is a celestial body formed during the Big Bang– and with almost no gravity.

The Philae Lander– packed with a science laboratory, harpoons, scrapers, computers, and even ovens – will obtain samples, do analyses, and beam the information back to the earth about the basic origins of the universe.  The hope is that Rosetta mission will help answer some of the most basic questions about our existence.

When the Lander touches down seven hours after its release on November 12, all manner of things can go wrong.  The gravity of 67P is so small the Lander could hit the surface, bounce off and be lost in the vast emptiness of space.

Rosetta is truly a milestone of mankind’s achievement.  And, in order to succeed, it’s a mission taking a true amount of… Ambition.

~Via ESA, Vimeo, PhyOrg


If you enjoyed this film, you may like our other post:  Genesis


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Hobbit Humans



The Mysterious Race of Little People

A New Species of Human Evolution




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The tiny skeleton found buried in a cave on Indonesia’s Flores island is a unique and ancient species of man, researchers insist.

In October 2004, excavation of fragmentary skeletal remains from the island of Flores in Indonesia yielded what was called “the most important find in human evolution for 100 years.”

Its discoverers dubbed the find Homo floresiensis, a name suggesting a previously unknown species of human.

Ten years after being discovered, the “Hobbit Human” remains a controversial figure.  Some researchers think that while this diminutive human-like being certainly existed, it might not have been human after all.  Others adamantly disagree.

A commentary in the latest issue of Nature theorizes that the Hobbit Human could have descended from a more ancient pre-human group called Australopithecus, of which the 3.2-million-year-old skeleton “Lucy” is the most famous representative.  

Lucy might have to share the spotlight with the Hobbit, though, if the theory is proven to be correct.

A quick refresher:  The Hobbit Human, aka Homo floresiensis, was a 3 1/2 foot tall species with huge flat feet that lived on the remote Indonesian island of Flores as early as 13,000 years ago.  Weighing in at 55 pounds, they lived on the island for what is believed to be tens of thousands of years.  It is still not known how these early hominins got to Flores or how they evolved their small stature. 

By modern comparison, an African pygmy human is only 4 1/2 feet tall.  Floresiensis was much smaller than that.

The prevailing theory has been that the Hobbit was a member of our family tree, belonging to the genus Homo and having descended from a population of Homo erectus that made its way to the island and shrunk in stature over evolutionary time.  Remains for a handful of Hobbits were found with stone tools and the bones of an extinct pygmy form of an elephant-like creature called a Stegodon.

Renowned paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London wrote that the tiny brain of one of the excavated Hobbits as well as its body shape and individual bones “look more primitive than those of any human dating to within the past million years.”

The Hobbit jaw and chin are “most like those in pre-human fossils more than 2 million years old,” Stringer wrote.  And their primitively evolved wrist bones fall off the evolutionary chart of humans altogether.

The Hobbit therefore shares traits with Australopithecus.  And this is where the real mind blower comes in.

We’ve tended to assume that only Homo sapiens left Africa, interbred with locals in Europe and Asia (like Neanderthals and Denisovans), and resulted in today’s non-Africans.

But what if other species, similar to Australopithecus, also left Africa, made it to places like Indonesia, and successfully settled there until very recent times?  This is where the plot thickens.

Stringer points out that if the ancestors of Homo floresiensis reached a place as far out as Flores, then they probably also went to places like Sulawesi, the Philippines and Timor, which would have been along their proposed route.

There are the ancient folklore stories told by Hawaiians of the Menehune, a prehistoric tribe of little people that settled the islands of Hawaii and predated the Polynesian arrival, leaving behind their ancient stone ruins still seen today.

Then there are also the stories of WWII soldiers stranded on islands in the South Pacific who reported finding very old skeletons of very small people buried in the area’s remote caves.

It could even be that they accidentally rafted to such places “on mats of vegetation in such a tectonically active region,” Stringer wrote. 

While that might sound preposterous and far fetched, keep in mind that people wound up doing just that during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Stringer explained the significance of the renewed look at the Hobbit Human.

“If the H. floresiensis lineage had a more primitive origin than the oldest known H. erectus fossils so far identified in Asia, then we would have to re-evaluate the dominant explanation for how humans arose and spread from Africa,” he wrote.

“It would mean that a whole branch of the human evolutionary tree has been missing,” Stringer said.

Still, a controversy still brews in the paleo-world of researchers.

“First they claimed the Hobbit was really a modern person with microcephaly – an abnormally small head,” said Floresiensis expert Professor Dean Falk of Florida State University.

“We showed that this could not be true.  Then they claimed he had Laron syndrome, a form of dwarfism.  Again my team showed this was not true.  Now they are taking a shot with Down’s syndrome.  Again they are wrong.”

Whatever the debate, Homo floresienses is an important paleoanthropogical find that will undoubtedly rewrite our understanding of human evolution– and how our own family tree came about.


~Via Nature, The Guardian, Discovery, Bradshaw Foundation,
SciShow, Smithsonian NMNH



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Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be… Militants



Poster Kid Jihadists




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, left the Austrian capital Vienna in April this year, leaving a note for their parents explaining that they had gone to fight in Syria, a decision believed to be influenced by their recent radicalization through a local mosque. 

But they later claimed that they wanted to leave and come back to Austria– reportedly infuriating ISIS leaders waging a constant propaganda war for new talent.


Two Austrian teenage girls who ran away to Syria to join Islamic State fighters are beginning to regret their decision.  Unnamed security service insiders told Austrian media that the girls have managed to contact families and that one of them wants to go home.

The pair left home to join the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) in April.

Little information was immediately known, aside from that one had been 16 and one 14 at the time of their departure.

Both reportedly married Chechen fighters after their arrival in Syria and became pregnant.

Samra Kesinovic, 17, and her friend, Sabina Selimovic, 15, are children of Bosnian migrants, but grew up in Vienna, where they became accustomed to talking to whomever they wanted, saying whatever they pleased, and wearing whatever clothes they liked.

But with their views believed to have become increasingly radical in recent years, Kesinovic and Selimovic decided to leave all that behind, run away, and cross the Turkish border into Syria, a decision believed to be influenced through the internet and their recent introduction to a local mosque. 

After the girls were persuaded to leave the country, police managed to track them to the Turkish border.  They believe that they went by car into the war zone where they were married to extremists and then sent out to fight.   They then regularly posted status updates on social media from Syria.

On their departure from Austria, they left a note, telling their parents: “Don’t look for us.  We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”

Since their departure, pictures have emerged online of the pair brandishing Kalashnikov rifles and wearing full niqab clothing.

For weeks, social media accounts believed to belong to the girls have been posting pictures and information leading
many to feel they enjoyed living a life of terror. 

Sabina first claimed she was pregnant, then retracted it and said she wanted to go home to Vienna – until she gave another interview and expressed how much she loved Syria.  Samra has also given conflicting reports on her condition and whether she actually enjoys her time with ISIS in Syria.

Austrian anti-terrorism police said that an interview given to a French magazine allegedly with one of the two teenage girls was probably carried out at gunpoint.  They believe this was a plan set up by ISIS in order to get people to think the two wanted to be the poster girls for jihad in Syria, and that their social media accounts were overtaken and manipulated by ISIS.

“It is clear that whoever is operating their pages, it probably is not the girls, and that they are being used for propaganda,” a security expert told the Austrian Times.

An Austrian security insider said: “If they really want it to be believable that the girls are now claiming they don’t want to come home, they should let them give the interview on neutral territory where it’s possible to see that they aren’t being threatened by a gun.  If the claim they want to come home is untrue, they have the opportunity to walk back into Syria.”

Both the girls were instantly married as soon as they crossed over the border into Syria and although Sabina and her husband initially lived in the same room with Samra and her husband, the 15-year-old has now reportedly moved out into a new flat.

Speaking over SMS text messages to French weekly magazine Paris Match, Sabina said she was not pregnant as had been claimed and added that she was really enjoying life in Syria and felt free to enjoy her religion in a way that she did not in Austria.

The magazine did manage to confirm that the teenager had only been allowed to speak to them with the permission of her husband who was also reportedly in the room as she wrote back answers to the questions.

She said that after arriving to Turkey from Austria they had crossed over the border into Syria on foot and ended up in the city of Rakka and where they had nothing other than the clothes they were wearing.

Sabina said her “husband” was a soldier and added: “Here I can really be free.  I can practice my religion.  I couldn’t do that in Vienna.”

In Vienna, experts who studied the transcript of the interview said it was almost certain that the teenager had been forced to speak to the magazine by her husband, who was a fighter in the ISIS-terrorist militia.

Asked about the routine of life in a war zone and how they started the day, Sabina said:  ”I like to eat. The food here is very similar to Austria even if it’s mainly halal food.  But you can get ketchup here, Nutella, and cornflakes.”

Interpol released images of the two girls in April, after they disappeared. Both sets of parents have been attempting to make contact and unconfirmed reports have stated that communication has been established.

Both are still believed to be in Rakka, in northern Syria.  According to the Vienna-based newspaper Österreich, Samra wants to return home as the horrors of Syria “have become too much.”

The story of the plight of the girls went around the world once it became known.  The pair wanting to leave had done a lot of damage to the ISIS campaign, experts said, and it was clear ISIS leaders were irritated and trying to limit the damage control to their own advantage.

Speaking to the Österreich, an official with the home office said that escaping Isis in Syria “after such a long time” would be extremely difficult.

The newspaper, which is known for its close links both to the security services and the children’s families, says that death is a “constant companion” for the girls.

There is some hope for women wishing to flee ISIS, however.  In recent days, a Syrian woman fled from the group back to Turkey.

But the two young girls may find attempts to come back difficult.  Austria’s laws bar citizens from returning once they have joined a foreign war, and the two could face prosecution.

“The main problem is about people coming back to Austria.  Once they leave it is almost impossible to return,” said Karl-Heinz Grundboeck, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry.

In total, around 130 Austrian nationals are believed to have left the country and become foreign fighters for ISIS.  Many more have come from other countries throughout Europe as well.

~Via UK Independent, CEN, MK Independent,
NY Daily News, and RT Today


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The Incredible Amazing Flying Car


It’s Here.  It’s Real.  And It’s Spectacular.




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Up, up and away.

Meet the AeroMobil 3.0, a car and plane hybrid that its inventors say will revolutionize the transportation industry.

The flying car weighs just 880 pounds and has a flying range of 435 miles– making a trip between San Francisco to Los Angeles in one easy hop.

The prototype and video seen above was unveiled by the AeroMobil company at a technology conference in Vienna,
Austria, yesterday.

It has a sportscar cockpit and dragonfly wings.  It can drive on the road, park in the garage, and take to the skies in short order.  It does not need a paved runway for takeoff or landing. 

Its inventor, Juraj Vaculik, says he’s been working on the project for the past 30 years and his dream of offering a fully functional flying car in production is almost a reality. 

Vaculik is one interesting CEO cat.  He was a former theatre director and a student activist in Czecheslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, before turning himself into an inventor, engineer, and entrepreneur.

“Our plan, the optimistic one, is that between 2016 and 2017 the first products will be delivered to customers, but that’s still an open question.  The next period will be testing, testing, and testing of the prototype,” Vaculik said.

The AeroMobil 3.0 contains advanced plastic composite materials for the body shell, wings, and its wheels.  It also contains avionics equipment, autopilot capability, and will have an advanced parachute deployment system.  Other proprietary details are being kept secretly mum for the time being.

The magical flying car still has to meet regulatory standards and gain European flight certification.  

The current prototype has wings that fold out to a span of 26 feet for flight.  Running on standard gasoline, it flies at 125 mph, consuming only two gallons of gas for every 62 miles traveled.  It had a successful maiden flight and was developed in ten months by a team of 12 people.

The two-passenger car was designed by Stefan Klein, founder and head of the Department of Transport Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Slovakia. 

In 2010, he teamed with Vaculik to start AeroMobil and commercialize the project.   In 2013, a previous prototype of the car was certified by Slovakia’s Aviation Authority for use in that country.  The latest prototype is now undergoing testing for certification in Slovakia, and the company says it’s close to being commercially available.

The company wants to use the latest version to begin marketing the product.  Of course, they believe commuters would love to get their hands on one.  But on a bigger scale, they are aiming the flying car at developing markets where there is minimal infrastructure like roads, highways, or airports.

Vaculik says the machine’s sleek design is as much about form as it is about function.  He insists that when the final production is ready for consumers, it will soon change
the way people travel.

“No, it’s not a boy toy.  It’s not something strange just for Hollywood movies… it is something which is really necessary for transportation.  It’s just more efficient,” Vuculik said.  “We think it’s time to make transportation much more emotional and more personal.  You really can travel simply from point A to B.”

Giving people the option to take to the air and avoid increasingly congested roadways makes for an interesting idea, alright.

Flora Petersen came from Vienna for the unveiling and to see what all the aerocar hype was about.

“I love it!” Petersen said.  “I didn’t even know it was possible, that you can actually make a car fly, so I really wanted to see how it works.  I want to try it out, for sure.”

And she may get her chance soon.

The biggest challenge going forward for Vaculik’s team is reducing the amount of runway needed for the little aerocar to take off.  It currently needs a safe takeoff distance of 220 yards– a distance that’s hard to come by in the everyday urban landscape.  Contrastly, it only needs a length of 50 yards for a safe landing.

But Vaculik is confident.  The prototype works beautifully.  It flies, it’s safe, it’s efficient, and although the price hasn’t been determined or disclosed yet, it looks like it’s going to be a relatively affordable number for many.

Hold onto your seats and buckle up.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride in the friendly and
crowded skies of everyday commuting soon. 




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Solving the Mystery of Amelia Earhart


Metal Fragment of Amelia’s Plane Found




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



What happened to Amelia is an unsolved mystery that has captivated
the world’s attention after she disappeared 77 years ago.

A fragment of Amelia Earhart’s lost aircraft has been identified to a high degree of certainty for the first time ever since her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.

Researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) announced that a piece of famous flyer Amelia Earhart’s missing plane was found in Nikumaroro, a tiny uninhabited island along the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, midway between Hawaii and Australia.

This fragment of Earhart’s vanished aircraft is the first piece of information about how she crashed while on a fateful expedition to circumnavigate the Earth.  She never accomplished the goal and her disappearance has been a mystery ever since.

TIGHAR posted a photo of the 19-inch-wide by 23-inch-long piece of a metal portion patch installed near the window of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra during the aviator’s eight-day stay in Miami in 1937, the fourth stop on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

The aluminum patch had replaced a navigational window.  A Miami Herald photo shows the Electra departing for San Juan, Puerto Rico on the morning of Tuesday, June 1, 1937 with a shiny patch of metal where the window had been.

Researchers found the piece in 1991, but had not identified the piece to the plane until comparing it to a Lockheed Electra aircraft in Wichita Air Services in Newtown, Kansas.  The rivet pattern and other features on the Nikumaroro artifact, labeled Artifact 2-2-V-1, matched the patch and lined up with the structural components of the Lockheed Electra, TIGHAR said on its website.

The patch found in the Pacific was a “complex fingerprint of dimensions, proportions, materials and rivet patterns as unique to Earhart’s Electra as a fingerprint is to an individual,” according to TIGHAR.

After the pilot and plane disappeared on July 2, 1937, a wide array of conspiracy theories sprouted.  This new discovery debunks any theory that Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, made it across the Pacific Ocean.

TIGHAR hypothesized that the duo made a forced emergency landing along the smooth flat coral reef of Nikumaroro after their fuel supply ran out 350 miles before
their next pit stop on Howland Island.  

The two likely died as castaways with limited resources.  Other evidence also supports this account of what happened.

The breakthrough would prove that, contrary to what was generally believed, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, did not crash in the Pacific Ocean or were taken prisoner by Japanese military forces as spies.

In 10 archaeological expeditions to Nikumaroro, Gillespie and his team uncovered a number of artifacts which, combined with archival research, provide strong circumstantial evidence for a castaway presence.

“Earhart sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, said

“This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart,” Gillespie said. 

“The many fractures, tears, dents and gouges found on this battered sheet of aluminum may be important clues to the fate and resting place of the Electra.”

Previous research on a photograph of Nikumaroro’s western shoreline taken three months after Earhart’s disappearance also revealed an unexplained object protruding from the water on the fringing reef.

Forensic imaging analyses of the photo suggested that the shape and dimension of the object are consistent with the landing gear of a Lockheed Electra.

Moreover, an “anomaly” that might possibly be the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s aircraft emerged from analysis of the sonar imagery captured off Nikumaroro during TIGHAR’s last expedition.

The object rests at a depth of 600 feet at the base of a cliff just offshore where, according to TIGHAR, the Electra was washed into the ocean. An analysis of the anomaly by Ocean Imaging Consultants, Inc. of Honolulu, experts in post-processing sonar data, revealed the anomaly to be the right size and shape to be the fuselage of Earhart’s aircraft.

The organization will now travel to Nikumaroro in 2015 to conduct further exploration in the area searching for other pieces of Earhart’s wreckage.  TIGHAR believes that partial remains of the Electra are likely buried deep off the west end of the island and will investigate the anomaly with Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) technology.

During the 24-day expedition, divers will search for other wreckage at shallower depths and an onshore search team will seek to identify objects detected in historical photographs that may be relics of an initial survival camp.

“Funding is being sought, in part, from individuals who will make a substantial contribution in return for a place on the expedition team,” Gillespie said.

The mystery as to what happened to Amelia may soon be at hand.

~Via LA Post, My Way, Fox News, Vimeo, TIGHAR



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“Just Be the Person You Were Born to Be

…And Live On”


**Award-Winning VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



Meet Jordanne Whiley. 

She’s the 22-year-old Grand Slam tennis champion of Britain.  Four times.  And she’s broken her legs 26 times.

She is Britain’s youngest ever National women’s singles champion in wheelchair tennis at the tender age of 14.

The Paralympic bronze medalist recently took a silver medal at the World Team Cup in Netherlands.  She and Japanese partner Yui Kamiji triumphed in the women’s doubles at the French Open.  Jordanne and the Great Britain team came away with three medals from the World Team Cup, beating the USA 2-1 to take the gold.  And she’s won Wimbledon. 

Born with the degenerative disease of Osteogenesis imperfecta, as does her father, Keith, she began playing tennis as a very young girl.  And she’s never looked back nor allowed her disability to define her or interfere with an intense spirit to win, as Zak Razvi’s short film, Jordanne, above shows.

Aside from her extreme focus on tennis– with training sessions three times a day– she enjoys studying languages, speaks French and Dutch, and has aspirations to coach abroad someday once she has finished competing.

Her injuries have been frustrating and presented challenging setbacks for her, but she refuses to toss in the racket and quit.  Her competitive drive and human spirit to be the best athlete that she can be just won’t allow her to do that.

“I’ve struggled a bit this year because of injuries and I haven’t played as many tournaments as I would have liked to do,” Jordanne said. 

“It’s disappointing– but I will do all I can to make sure I’m ready for the next tournament.”

Her champion advice for herself and others?

“I’m not ashamed to say I’ve got a lot of flaws, but can’t change it, so get on with it.  I just feel that you were the person you were born to be …and live on.”



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The Making of Malala


2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner


**Award-Winning NYT VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Her courage and life inspires and captivates us all.

This is the story of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, told by The New York Times’ senior video journalist Adam B. Ellick, who made the above documentary about her in 2009 before she was an international star.

Determined to defy the odds and become a doctor, there is a story to Malala Yousafzai’s improbable transformation from a quiet, deferential 11-year-old living near Pakistan’s tribal areas to a teenage spokeswoman for girls’ education.  

Malala, shot in the head by the Taliban last year, received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday.  At the age of 17, she is the youngest recipient of the prestigious honor.

Ellick’s video begins with her determined father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, but gets pushed forward by intense news media coverage of her daring campaign against the Taliban.

Given Malala’s re-emergence on the world stage– healing from her wounds and winning the Nobel– raises the back story of some sobering and difficult questions.

Malala was a brave young girl, advocating for a better future for all girls in her country.  She is seen as a young heroine by many.

But was it fair for her to fight so publicly in such a dangerous environment?  To push so strongly for education for women in such a restrictive male-dominated culture?  Or was she thrust into the limelight by adults captivated by the power of a child staring down the Taliban?

Pakistan continues to be one of the worst places to be a woman.  More than half of Pakistani girls are not educated.  Pakistan also has the world’s second lowest rate of female employment in the world, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Parity Report– lower than even Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan’s failure to educate its citizenry is rooted in government ineffectiveness.

Despite a recent increase, Pakistan still spends only about 2 percent of its gross domestic product on education.  That is less than it spends on subsidies for its national airline, and only half the global average.

Malala represents a new coming of age and a bright beacon of hope for those following in her footsteps.

~Via The New York Times, Adam B. Ellick, Malala Yousafzai, and Vimeo



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Ken Burns’ ‘The Roosevelts’


PBS Series Reveals Everything Wrong With Our Current Political Class




Joseph A. Palermo
Huffington Post



Ken Burns’ seven-part PBS series on the lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, is a remarkable achievement.

Burns sheds a poignant new light on the personal and public lives of three monumental figures in 20th Century American history.  And in doing so, he illustrates the relative rottenness of the hacks, partisans, and plutocrats who make up the political class that rules America today.

By exploring the lives and times of TR, FDR, and ER Burns shows that in our not-so-distant past the governing institutions of this country were actually responsive to the needs and desires of working-class Americans.

This superb and moving portrait is a perfect fit for our times.  The utter failure of our current “leaders” is glaring by comparison.

Yes, TR was a warmonger, and FDR signed the order that imprisoned innocent Japanese Americans. There are long lists of both presidents’ failures.  But we shouldn’t let those flaws bury the fact that both TR and FDR were not afraid to stand up to big corporations and Wall Street if they viewed their actions as damaging to the country.  That alone is probably the biggest difference between those leaders of the early decades of the 20th Century and today.

After thirty years of “supply-side” economics that has left working people still waiting for better times to “trickle down”; eight years of George W. Bush’s misrule that brought us war and recession; the Far-Right ascendency in 2010 that has all but shuttered the federal government in an attempt to destroy Barack Obama; and a Supreme Court that is proudly subservient to every tenet of plutocracy — I think it’s okay to flip on PBS and feel a bit nostalgic for a time when there existed effective politicians who actually gave a damn about the quality of life of the majority of Americans.

Over the past thirty years, Presidents and Congresses have become so subservient to corporations and Wall Street that the two major political parties are all but indistinguishable.

One of the reasons why our politics have become so volatile and opinion polls show over and over again that our people have nothing but contempt for the whole political class in Washington and the widespread recognition that the plutocrats, CEOs, and Wall Street bankers have effectively seized our governing institutions.

Another subtext for our times of the Burns documentary is the reminder that people who come from the richest .01 percent of Americans don’t have to be total assholes.  Unlike the Koch Brothers, or the Waltons, or Representative Darrell Issa (the richest man in the House of Representatives) the Roosevelts didn’t feel they had a class interest in keeping their boots on the necks of America’s working people; they strived to uplift them.

And they saw the federal government not as a bazaar of accounts receivable to vacuum up precious tax dollars for the already rich but as a means to improve the lives of the 99 percent.

The Roosevelts also illustrates a time when Democrats had dirt under their fingernails.  There was no need to remind them that Democratic politicians valued labor unions or sought new protections in the workplace.  The leaders and rank-in-file were tied together.

Today, when we see Democratic politicians like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel bludgeoning teachers’ unions while supping at the table of big campaign donors from Wall Street we’re left with the realization that working people have few reliable advocates for their class interests anymore.

Since 1984, Democratic politicians decided the party needed to “move to the center” given Ronald Reagan’s landslide.  But “moving to the center” meant moving away from serving the interests of working people and moving toward Wall Street and big corporations.

Ironically, in the 1990s, when the Democratic Party grew more diverse based on race and gender, it shifted far closer to the Republicans in terms of class.  We’ve seen one Democratic president (Bill Clinton) push NAFTA and other “free trade” deals that decimated labor unions; unravel the social safety net in the name of “welfare reform”; and deregulate Wall Street.

And we’ve seen another Democratic president (Barack Obama) refuse to send any bankers to jail for the massive fraud they committed in the mortgage markets; choose to beat up teachers’ unions with Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top”; and accommodate the profiteers inside our health care system.

All of these policies represent a capitulation to the interests of big corporations and Wall Street on the part of Democratic administrations at the expense of their own constituencies.

Another aspect of the Burns documentary is a revealing look at the kind of patriotism that TR, FDR, and ER exhibited throughout their lives.  It was a patriotism that recognized that the country is strongest when all Americans had opportunities and the federal government not only helped to uplift them materially, but also protected them from the rapacious predators of the Wall Street ruling class.

We’ve lost that sense of patriotic duty today.  The “you’re on your own” society has won out in recent decades over the idea that “everyone does better when everyone does better.”

So if you haven’t yet seen The Roosevelts, by all means, sit back, put on PBS, and enjoy watching a time in America that predates the death of the liberal class.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Joseph Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Dr. Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties. He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.

Part of the Iona Brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.



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Elvis on the Stairway to Heaven


Led Zeppelin Meets Elvis, 40 Years Ago


**Archival VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



40 years ago today the band began to play. 
And it was out with the old– and in with the new.

The Los Angeles Forum played host to some of the greatest shows Led Zeppelin ever put on.  It was also the place where, on May 11, 1974, the band came face to face with their legendary childhood hero for the first time.

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Bonham were in Los Angeles for the launch of their own record label, Swan Song.  The night after the raucous launch party at the Bel Air Hotel, the band– minus bassist John Paul Jones– decided to attend Elvis Presley’s concert at the Forum.

Elvis was alerted to the presence of the rock group in the audience.  During the show, taped and later released as Live in L.A., he said to his band, “Wait a minute… If we can start together, fellas; because we’ve got Led Zeppelin out there.  Let’s try to look like we know what we’re doing, whether we do or not.”

Jerry Weintraub, their mutual promoter at the time, took Jimmy Page and Robert Plant up to Presley’s Las Vegas hotel suite following the concert.

For the first few minutes, Elvis ignored them.

Jimmy Page, who had first picked up a guitar after hearing Elvis’ Baby Let’s Play House on overseas radio in 1955, began to wonder and fidget.  What was going on?  Did he really want to meet them?  Should they say something?

Elvis finally turned to them.

“Is it true,” he said, “these stories I hear about you boys on the road?”

Robert Plant amiably answered, “Of course not.  We’re family men.  I get the most pleasure out of walking the hotel corridors, singing your songs.” 

Plant also offered his best Elvis impersonation, breaking the ice.  He reminisced that Jimmy Page also joked with Elvis by adding that, “We never sound checked, but if we did, all I wanted to do was sing Elvis songs,” Plant said.

“At that meeting, ‘Elvis thought that was funny.  He asked me, ‘Which songs do you sing?’’” 

“I told him I liked the ones with all the moods, like that great country song ‘Love Me:  ‘Treat me like a fool, treat me mean and cruel, but love me…’

For a moment Elvis Presley eyed them both very carefully.  Then he burst out laughing.  Then his bodyguards burst out laughing.

For two hours he entertained them in his suite.  He had never heard their records, he said, except for when his stepbrother played him Stairway to Heaven.  

“I liked it,” Presley said.

Later, walking down the hallway from the hotel room, Page and Plant were still stunned, congratulating themselves on a two-hour meeting with the King.  

“Hey,” came a voice from behind them.  Plant recalled what happened next.

“So when we were leaving, after a most illuminating and funny 90 minutes with the guy, I was walking down the corridor.  He swung around the door frame, looking quite pleased with himself, and started singing that same song, ‘Treat me like a fool…’

“I turned around and did Elvis right back at him.  We stood there, singing to each other.”

Plant later wrote about his impressions of Presley: “I met Elvis with Zeppelin, after one of his concerts in the early ’70s.  I sized him up.  He wasn’t quite as tall as me, but he had a singer’s build.  He had a good chest– that resonator.  And he was driven.”

Elvis’ and Zeppelin’s paths would cross two more times during the ‘70s.

The next meeting took place at Presley’s home in Memphis.  Jerry Schilling, a noted member of Elvis’ ‘Memphis Mafia’, wrote about the encounter in his book, Me and a Guy Named Elvis.

Elvis said it would be okay for them to come by the house.

Schilling was there on the night of the planned meeting and was surprised to see that Elvis was in his pajamas and robe– he and Sheila Ryan were getting ready to go upstairs.  Schilling reminded Elvis that Richard Cole, Led Zep’s band manager, and bassist John Paul Jones were coming.  Elvis remained downstairs to wait for them.

Schilling recalls:

“From the moment Richard stepped into the house, he was loud and profane, packing an amazing number of f-words into everything he said.

‘You know’, Elvis said to him. ‘I’d appreciate it if you’d watch your language in front of my lady.’  Things got very quiet.  Everybody sat down.  

And it stayed quiet.  Then Elvis decided to break the ice, and asked if he could see the fancy watch that Richard was wearing.  Richard handed the watch over, and when Elvis put it on, Richard quickly said that if Elvis wanted the watch, he could keep it.

‘Does it have any special meaning to you?’ Elvis asked.

‘Well, a bit.  Atlantic Records gave them to the group’, said Richard.

‘OK, thanks’, said Elvis.

I don’t know if Richard expected to lose his watch that easily, but about twenty minutes later Elvis went upstairs and came back down with another watch, a real piece of jewelry, covered in diamonds– a wristwatch you could trade in for a car.  Maybe a couple of cars.

‘Here’, he said to Richard.  ’Take this one’.

A very stunned Richard accepted.  From then on the night was nothing but fun, with a lot of laughs and a lot of quoting Monty Python routines (Elvis was the first Monty Python fanatic I ever knew).

Elvis and Richard obviously shared a sense of humor.  And I could tell Elvis also liked the much quieter John.  At one point, Elvis excused himself, went back upstairs, and returned with an equally impressive watch for the bassist.

Before the evening was over, Elvis said he wanted to make another exchange.  He was out of watches, but had another bit of fashion in mind.

So he stood, eyed John, and said, ‘Let’s swap pants’, while simultaneously, in expert Python fashion, let his pajama bottoms drop beneath his robe.

The loud Richard was shocked into silence, while the usually quiet Sheila and John burst out laughing. 

Nobody accepted Elvis’ offer, but it was a great note to end the night on.”


The final meeting between Zeppelin and Elvis took place on the Baltimore airport tarmac while both were on tour in 1977.

Presley’s stepbrother, David Stanley, later recalled the encounter:

“The other time the Presley tour ran across the band was while out on the road.  It was at the Washington-Baltimore airport.

We (the Presley tour) were playing in Washington and Led Zeppelin was playing at the Capital Centre.  We arrived on the Lisa Marie, Elvis’ private jet, and Led Zeppelin arrived on the Caesar’s Chariot.  

It was a hell of a sight to see these two private jets, sitting side-by-side, on the private tarmac.

I asked Elvis if I could go with the band that night for their Led Zeppelin concert.  He just looked at me and said ‘No.’

When I asked him why, he said, ‘look at the bottom of your paycheck.’

As I entered the limo with Elvis I said ‘they sure have a nice jet.’

Elvis leaned over and reminded me that ‘they lease their jet from Caesar’s Palace, I own mine.’”


Elvis Presley inspired many of the greatest rock and roll acts of the ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond.  Led Zeppelin, too, was no exception, and when their paths crossed it was a thrill for both the band and the King himself.

By August of 1977, Led Zeppelin was sailing at the top of the rock ‘n roll charts as the biggest gig in the nation. 

The King, his popularity waning, became a shadow of his former self.  Overweight, his mind and speech dulled by the pharmacopia he ingested daily, and suffering from glaucoma, high blood pressure, migraines, an enlarged colon, liver damage, paranoia, and abbreviated concerts, would be found dead in his bathroom at Graceland at the age of 42.

Each had taken their own separate stairway to heaven.


* * * * * * * * *


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Appealingly Cheap and Incredibly Deadly



Death-Bot Drones and Their Blind Execution




John Oliver
Last Week Tonight


“All of the sudden, drones are everywhere,” John Oliver says above in his satirically sad piece from Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight.

“They’re the third most annoying thing in the sky– after mosquitoes and plastic bags caught in the breeze.”

The heart of Oliver’s argument is that drones are often used without an appropriate level of intelligence on targets, with a loophole in the definition of “imminent threat” needed to carry out such an attack.  

Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official under President Obama, explained how the administration sees drone strikes:  “Right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons based on secret evidence, in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials.  That frightens me.”

It frightens John Oliver too, who spent twelve minutes laying out exactly why the US drone program is so disturbing.  

Among the specifics:

  • Military-age males killed in strikes are allegedly considered guilty of being “militants” by the CIA until proven innocent.
  • The US government doesn’t actually know the specific identities of many people it kills, or indeed how many people it has killed overall.
  • According to the Justice Department, for something to be an imminent threat justifying a strike “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” despite, as Oliver notes, that being “what the fucking word imminent means.”

Later, the host touches on ”the psychological impact of living underneath drones,” showing a heartbreaking clip of Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemini youth activist and journalist, addressing Congress in 2013 after his village was struck by a drone.

Unfortunately, not thinking about drones is a luxury many people don’t have, a point made overwhelmingly clear by a clip of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy whose grandmother had been killed by a drone strike.  In the clip, Zubair Rehman testifies that he no longer loves blue skies; he prefers grey skies.

“The drones do not fly when the skies are grey,” he said.

That was enough for Oliver.

“When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.”


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The Elusive Freedom of Tomorrow


 The Great Dictator’s Famous Speech


**Award-Winning Animated Short**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
   ~George Orwell, 1984


“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.  
That’s not my business.

I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.  I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white.

We all want to help one another.  Human beings are like that.  We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.  We don’t want to hate and despise one another.

In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.  The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.  Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, and has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.  Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.  Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.  We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.  Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together.  The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.

Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children,
victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair.  The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.  The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.  

And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers!  Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel!  Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, and use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men– machine men with machine minds and machine hearts!

You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men!  You have the love of humanity in your hearts!  You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers!  Don’t fight for slavery!  Fight for liberty!  In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men!  In you!

You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness!  You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power.

Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security.  By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power.  But they lie!  They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!  Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people.

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise.  Let us fight to free the world!  To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!  Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

~Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator (1940)


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Hong Kong Protests Push for Greater Democracy



Police Pull Back as Protesters Jam City Streets




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The growing protests in Hong Kong have gripped the world’s attention.

Extending their protests into the workweek, Hong Kong democracy activists continued occupying major thoroughfares Monday, forcing the closure of some schools, banks and other businesses in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Due to the demonstrations, government officials said they would cancel a major annual fireworks celebration scheduled for Wednesday — China’s equivalent of the Fourth of July.

After firing 87 volleys of tear gas at protesters at nine locations on Sunday evening, police backed away from engaging directly with the demonstrators on Monday.  

Thousands of activists took to the streets in neighborhoods on both sides of Victoria Harbor, sitting down in intersections and setting up barricades.  Protesters wore goggles or masks and raincoats, and many held umbrellas to protect against the possible use of pepper spray.

Despite warnings that the demonstrations could seriously damage Hong Kong’s economy and reputation as a stable Asian financial hub, workers went on strike, including employees at Coca-Cola Hong Kong.

A number of businesses opened late or closed early, but in many parts of the city commerce continued as usual.

No one seemed sure what would happen next, in part because the movement has become diffuse and spontaneous and attracting a wide cross section of participants.  Without a cohesive group of leaders directing things “it’s very difficult to predict” how the situation will evolve, said Chi-Keung Choy, professor of comparative politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“It is no longer a movement initiated by the group Occupy Central, or the student strike.  It became a self-initiated movement,” he said.

Government officials in Beijing and Hong Kong will need to extend a significant olive branch to get marchers off the streets, Choy added. “They need to have major concessions from the government.  No one can convince them, unless the government makes big concessions.”

The demonstrations have burst forth in response to China’s decision to allow only Beijing-vetted candidates to be nominated in the city’s elections for chief executive, Hong Kong’s top civil position.

Protesters shouted slogans demanding full democracy in 2017, calling for the open nominations of candidates so that anyone, including China critics, can run for office.  But Chinese officials have rejected that, stating nominees must be endorsed by a 1,200-strong election committee which is stacked with Beijing loyalists.

“There’s more and more interference from Beijing,” said Tsang Fan-yu, a designer who was at Wednesday’s protest with his seven-year-old son for their sixth consecutive year.

“We have to come out to make our voices heard.  The form of democracy Beijing wants is unacceptable.  It’s fake.”

But also underlying the unrest is unhappiness in Hong Kong over a range of issues:  high housing prices, a growing income gap, and an influx of mainland visitors whose customs and habits have struck locals as uncouth.  In addition, many of the youths who make up a forceful component of the demonstrators have little sense of connection to mainland China and instead embrace a strong identity to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong, a longtime British territory, reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 under a Basic Law that embraced a framework known as “one country, two systems.”  Communist authorities in Beijing essentially agreed to allow the territory of 7 million a high degree of self-rule for 50 years except for matters of national security.

The situation in Hong Kong has drawn the concern of Western governments, but they have been unusally tepid in their support for the demonstrators.  Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Monday that foreign interference in the situation was unwelcome by Beijing.

“Hong Kong belongs to China.  Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s domestic affairs,” she said in Beijing.  “We strongly oppose any countries interfering or supporting Occupy Central by any methods.  We wish these countries to be cautious.”

The US consulate general in Hong Kong said the US “does not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development, nor do we support any particular individuals or groups involved in it.”

But some Hong Kongers are calling for greater expressions of support from overseas.  A group of Hong Kong-based employees of Apple wrote to Chief Executive Tim Cook, calling for active support of the civil disobedience campaign. 

“The people of Hong Kong are now under the violent treatment of the Central government while fighting for the human rights and democracy of Hong Kong,” they wrote.  They asked Apple, as “the most humanized and the most respectful company, to support and help our civil disobedience campaign and also to respond to the fight of Hong Kong people.” 

Hong Kong has a rich tradition of protests, but demonstrations are typically well organized and calm with people gathering in designated parks and marching along pre-planned routes with official permits.  The free-form and unpredictable nature of the last few days’ protests have surprised local residents — and spurred many of them into the streets in solidarity.

Riot police remained on guard on the sidelines of the main protest area near the government headquarters, although not in large numbers.

The government urged the demonstrators to disperse to allow emergency vehicles, public transport and other traffic to pass.  Its statement followed calls from some protest organizers for people to return home.

But with thousands of demonstrators continuing to jam streets in key financial and commercial districts it appeared unlikely that the extraordinary protest movement would end anytime soon.

“It’s shocking to see armies of police equipped with tear gas guns, rifles and batons,” said Nan Hie In, who joined demonstrators on the streets Sunday night.  “Amid the madness, the crackling sounds from police firing tear gas and the protesters running away to evade the chemical haze, I thought: Are we in Syria or Hong Kong?”

After he and a few friends were ambushed inside a public square by police with a volley of tear gas, Jerry Ip, 25, said, “I felt like I’d die.” Even so, Ip said he was undaunted because “we’re fighting for the future of Hong Kong. This is our homeland.”

After the tear-gas confrontations Sunday night, Hong Kong government officials sought to take a more conciliatory approach.  Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying appeared on television after midnight promising that police would use “maximum discretion” and saying that he hoped people would “keep calm” and not be misled by “rumors.”

At a gathering outside the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday afternoon, a group of protest supporters urged office workers to show support for the demonstrations after business hours. 

Students and protesters, meanwhile, are preparing for a new night of clashes and tense standoff with police.

“Hong Kong people are not going to take this lying down,” said local legislator Alan Leong.  “This is a people’s movement.”

And like Tiananmen Square, the whole world is watching.

~Via Google News, CNN, LA Times, UK Daily News, YouTube


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Pride and Bullets


Cause and Effect


Award-Winning **VIDEO**


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



The causes of World War One have been written about countless times.  You probably know the straight-away story.

It began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, sometimes referred to as “the bullet that started World War I.”

This seemingly small conflict between two countries spread rapidly.

Soon, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, and the United States were all drawn into the war, largely because the former were involved in treaties and alliances that obligated them to defend certain other nations.  

Western and eastern battle fronts quickly erupted along the muddy borders
and hedgerows of Germany and Austria-Hungary.

1916 and 1917 were particularly dominated by the continued bloody trench warfare in battlefields.  Soldiers fought from dug-in positions, striking at each other with the new technological development of machine guns, heavy artillery, tanks, and chemical weapons.  

Soldiers died in the onslaught by the millions under ugly and brutal conditions.  By the score, they were killed, maimed, blinded, and gassed.

Although both sides launched renewed offensives in 1918 in an all-or-nothing effort to win the war, both efforts failed.  The fighting between exhausted, demoralized troops continued to plod along until Germany, under Kaiser Wilhelm II, lost a number of individual battles and gradually had to fall back.  A deadly outbreak of influenza, meanwhile, took a heavy toll on soldiers of both sides. Eventually, the governments of both Germany and Austria-Hungary lost control of the war as both countries experienced multiple mutinies.

The war ended in the late fall of 1918, after the member countries of the Central Powers signed armistice agreements one by one.  Germany was the last, signing its armistice on November 11, 1918.

Kaiser Wilhelm, an ineffective war leader scorned by the public and the army for Germany’s worst defeat, abdicated the day before and fled into exile to the Netherlands.

As a result of the armistice agreements, Austria-Hungary was broken up into several smaller countries. Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, was severely punished with hefty economic reparations, territorial losses, and strict limits on its rights to develop its military.

Many historians, in hindsight, believe that the Allies were excessive in their punishment of Germany and that the harsh Treaty of Versailles planted the seeds for World War II rather than foster an extended peace.

The treaty imposed steep war reparations payments on Germany and forced the country to bear the financial burden of the war.  Already stretched financially thin by the war, the additional economic burden caused enormous resentment.

Ultimately, extremist groups under the banner of patriotic nationalism– the Nazi Party under Adolph Hitler– were later able to exploit this humiliation and resentment, taking political control of the country in the decades following.

The well-researched video thesis above offers an alternative history and gives a different take of how World War I– the War to End All Wars– began 100 years ago.

By tracing the story backwards in time we stumble upon a very unexpected cause, and discover that sometimes the most harmless of inconsequential things can indeed have terrible consequences.

Cause and Effect– and how history repeats itself—is an important lesson for all of us to understand and remember, even in this modern day and age.


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Free History Night in Freshwater


Jerry Rohde: The Infamous 1964 Flood

A Unique Perspective of Disaster


Friday, September 19: Freshwater Grange

Potluck at 6 pm

Presentation at 7 pm


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



There will be good times in Wrangletown tonight. 

Jerry’s back by popular demand for another free potluck and history presentation at the Freshwater Grange.

Pierson Building Center in Eureka is funding a free series of historical lectures as part of their celebration of the business’s 52nd anniversary.

Celebrating Life in Humboldt County is a series of 10 PowerPoint presentations being held at Grange halls, town halls and community centers throughout the county.

Jerry Rohde, local author and premier historian, will give an hour-long talk tonight on “The 1964 Flood,” highlighting different aspects of Humboldt’s infamous and catastrophic natural diasaster.

With over 60 images and interesting anecdotes, stories, and facts about Humboldt’s infamous 1964 Flood, Jerry may amaze and mesmerize the audience yet again like he did before.

Yes, as bridges were swept away, the National Guard was called in, entire communities were washed away down the rivers, and Humboldters rallied to help one another.

Jerry will tell us how history repeats itself: only 11 years earlier, the 1955 ‘Hundred-Year’ flood provided a warning of what was to come; while way back in the winter of 1861-62, the North Coast was hit with what may have been the biggest flood of all.

Come to the free presentation and Jerry will fill you in on the exciting history and take your questions.  Everyone is welcome and we’d love to see you.  And your family and friends!

There’s a community potluck at 6 pm, so bring a dish to share.

Jerry’s presentation starts at 7 pm.

Thank you Pierson Building Center for sponsoring Jerry’s gig.  Last time, it was fun for everyone– in a history sort of way.  Who knew history could be that fun?

To get there, take Myrtle Avenue/Old Arcata Road. At 3 Corners Market, turn east onto Freshwater Road and drive 2.2 miles to the Garfield Little Red School House, and turn right onto Grange Road.  You can’t miss it: it’s the big, big building at 29 Grange Road.

If you know Jerry, it ought to be a great presentation in Wrangletown,
a very friendly and beautiful community just outside of Eureka.

Admission is free.  For more information, you can contact Rohde at 445-3844 or .


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Scotland Votes on Independence


Historic Turnout at Polls Today




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The once vast empire of the United Kingdom may be less
united and vast once the votes are cast and counted.

Scotland’s voters are heading to the polls today to cast their ballots in a landmark referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.

There, they will face a straightforward and simple yes or no question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

More than 4.2 million people have registered to vote, the largest electorate ever in Scotland, and the historic turnout in the referendum is expected to be high.

A vote for independence means Scotland, with its population of about 5.3 million, would split apart from the rest of the United Kingdom, made up of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  A simple majority is all that is needed for either side to claim victory.

Voting will take place at more than 5,500 polling stations across 32 districts nationwide, from the remote highlands and islands to the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Some ballot boxes must be collected by helicopter, plane or boat from remote polling stations on distant islands.

Results from the different areas will come in overnight on Friday morning local time.

Voters in the referendum do not have to be British citizens; Commonwealth, Irish and EU citizens who live in Scotland and are registered to vote there can cast a ballot.  However, Scots living outside Scotland do not have a say.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who has led the pro-independence “Yes Scotland” campaign, cast his ballot Friday morning in the village of Strichen, Aberdeenshire.  Labour lawmaker Alistair Darling, who has headed the pro-union “Better Together” campaign– backed by the main parties in Westminster– voted in Edinburgh.

Nearly 790,000 people applied for a postal vote– the largest volume of registration for postal votes ever in Scotland. 

For the first time, the vote has been extended to 16- and 17-year-olds living in Scotland.  Nearly 110,000 people younger than 18 have registered to vote.

The vote for independence is too close to call as thousands of tourists and journalists poured into Edinburgh for the historic day.  Some believe the vote for independence represents the greatest threat to England since WW II.

No one will know exactly what the results will be until after the votes are tallied.  Media must follow strict rules forbidding the reporting of details on campaigning and the exit numbers until after polls close.

“Democracy will win at the end of the day,” resident John Donnelly declared.

“Obviously not everyone will be getting the result they want, but I’d like to think that they’d be happy that we’re getting what we voted for.”


UPDATE Sept. 19 The results?  Scotland Voted ‘No’.

~Via Google News, Simon Straetker, Vimeo


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Jimi’s Machine Gun


Hendrix’s Famous Star Spangled Banner Shred at Woodstock




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



At Woodstock in 1969, Jimi Hendrix did a startling take on the national anthem.

He was the last act of the festival and scheduled to close the show on Sunday night. 

He didn’t take the stage until 8 am on Monday morning.

Of the 500,000 young people who were there during the weekend, only a handful — about 30,000 — were left the next 

Wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe, a red head-scarf and blue jeans, and flashing a peace sign to the crowd, Jimi took to the stage and did a wailing extended rendition of Francis Scott Key’s signature work on his guitar. 

Many fondly remember waking up to a rudely blaring Star Spangled Banner in the early morning hours.

It was a far cry from the traditionally-held tune.  Jimi’s version was loud, dissonant, inharmonious; and yet touchingly soulful, all at once.  The audience was clearly stunned.  No one had dared do anything like this before and it completely blew their hearts and minds.

 Upon leaving the stage, Hendrix collapsed from exhaustion. 

The New York Post later wrote his performance “was the most electrifying moment of Woodstock and probably the single greatest moment of the Sixties.”  Others called his screaming guitar Jimi’s Machine Gun.

The choice and arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner was unorthodox to say the least.  Irritating to many, it caused consternation for those who thought Hendrix had desecrated and shredded a sacred piece of work– the country’s national anthem– to pieces.  He had been playing this version for about a year, beginning as part of a guitar solo he played during Purple Haze.

When playing in the southern states of the US, Hendrix was often warned not to do the number because of the constant local threats made against him.  Jimi disregarded the threats and played it anyway.  Every time.

He tried to record his version for an album but was never satisfied with the results in the studio.  After he died, engineer Eddie Kramer mixed a version from Jimi’s studio takes which was released on the album Rainbow Bridge

The Woodstock performance seen above, however, remains by far his most famous take of the song.

Hendrix’s version is seen by some as an anti-war song about Vietnam.  Halfway through the song, Hendrix often imitated the sounds of bombs dropping, machine gun fire and people singing.  

To note, his version of the Star Spangled Banner was the first song played when a propaganda radio station called “Radio Hanoi” went on the air, broadcasting to American troops serving in Vietnam in an effort to lower morale and have
them desert.

Three weeks after Woodstock, Hendrix said he wasn’t expressing an anti-American sentiment whatsoever.  He explained why he performed his groundbreaking version in only a few short words:

“We’re all Americans … it was, like, ‘Go America!’  We play it the way the air is in America today.  The air is slightly static, see,” Hendrix simply said.

Considered to be one of the best guitarists of all time and a pioneer of using electronic effects that are still in use today, Hendrix wrote, performed, and produced his own material.  Self-taught, he never had any formal music lessons– and he didn’t know how to read music. 

His musical work encompassed only four short years until his untimely death a year after Woodstock, due to a barbituate overdose.  He was 27.

The images of Jimi playing Woodstock are widely regarded as iconic pictures capturing the defining moment of youth and the Vietnam era of 1969. 

In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock at number one on their list of the 100 best performances.  Rolling Stone named Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time.


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I Can See Clearly Now…


…The Rain Is Gone:

   Johnny and Jimmy’s Versions




Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel



1972 was a good year for Texas singer/songwriter Johnny Nash.

Nash, who recorded Reggae-influenced music, had gone to Jamaica and recorded his song Hold Me Tight and a cover of Sam Cooke’s Cupid with a local rhythm section.  Both songs became hits in Jamaica, and over the next two years charted in England and the United States.

By 1972, Cecilia and Mother And Child Reunion found success in the States, incorporating Nash’s Reggae rhythms.  Nash quickly followed up on the trend with I Can See Clearly Now, a single from the album of the same name.

Make no mistake, Nash had legitimate Reggae credentials:  Bob Marley– before he became crazy famous– was an assistant producer and session player on the album, and also wrote 3 of the songs, including Stir It Up, which became Nash’s next – and final – hit.  The musical partnership between Johnny Nash and Bob Marley is one of the more fascinating and overlooked periods in the history of reggae music.

A cover version by Jimmy Cliff, below, went to #18 in the US in 1994.  His version was in the John Candy movie Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsled team.

Nash wrote this song himself, recording it in London with members of The Average White Band.  Hitting #1 in the US for 4 weeks late in 1972,  the album sold seven million copies– yet arranger Martyn Ford received the paltry
sum of $70 for his services.

When first released it was widely speculated I Can See Clearly Now was about suicide.  Nash adamantly denied this was the case, insisting it was about hope and courage for individuals experiencing and overcoming adversity in their lives.

It all fit into the new and different awareness happening in the nation by 1972. Things, people, thoughts, ideas and movements were coming out of the closet. Music, film and television took on a different vibe;  art exploded with newer colors and more vibrant canvases.  

With the Vietnam War finally winding down and servicemen returning home, America became a nation comprised of young people wanting to heal and waiting to lead.  They were turning on and tuning in.  They weren’t dropping out.

There was a glimmer of hope things could change.

Women and minorities saw more empowerment and expression than had happened during the 60′s.  Conservative types became a twinge more liberal.  Social movements sprang forth everywhere with the notion of equality, peace, and love.  A more socially aware, just, and thinking country was just beginning to emerge.

We bloomed like flowers in the new age, able to see clearly a way foward towards a better world.




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Remembering Playland at the Beach


San Francisco’s Long-Forgotten Icon



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel





Playland view to the south, 1940









Young family enjoys cotton candy at Playland, 1960s.







Playland died along with blue collar image that once embodied a gritty San Francisco.

San Francisco has always been somewhere people come to enjoy themselves, and tourism has long been a mainstay of the city’s economy.

Nightlife, culinary delight, amusement, erotic adventure and family entertainment are all contained within its 49 square miles.  Anything a visitor may seek, San Francisco can provide.  Echoes of fun and amusement ring throughout the city from the cable cars atop Nob Hill to the sea lions barking at the wharf.

Turning back the clock to the Depression, we find San Francisco bubbling as a haven of fun even then.


    Bathing beauties laugh it up at Playland, 1940s

The place to go was a now-vanished amusement park, Playland-at-the-Beach.

During the Depression and World War II, Playland thrived.  Adults and children, families and couples on dates, sailors from all over the world went to Playland to ride bumper cars and roller coasters and explore the thrills of the Funhouse.  For many San Franciscans, Playland was, and still is, their childhood, 42 years after its demolition.

Playland was located at Ocean Beach, just north of Golden Gate Park, below the point where the land rises to Sutro Heights.  The attractions in this corner of the city had the added novelty of being where Western civilization meets the Pacific Ocean– in a way, at the end of the world.

From the mural-bedecked Beach Chalet at the western end of the park to Playland to the Cliff House and Sutro Baths, the recreational options lined up in a long row.  Much of this ended up as part of the pleasure empire of the man called the Barnum of the Golden Gate, George Whitney.

A little amusement area named Ocean Beach Pavilion had existed since 1884.  In 1912, Arthur Looff and his partner, John Friedle, built Looff’s Hippodrome, housing a grand carousel built by Looff’s father.  In 1922, the two added the Big Dipper roller coaster and the Chutes-at-the-Beach water ride.  Whitney and his brother Leo came to town and opened a photofinishing concession booth in a smaller version of Playland.

In 1926, Whitney became general manager, and the park became Whitney’s Playland-at-the-Beach.  He bought out shaky concessionaires during the Depression.  By 1942, he owned everything from Sutro Baths to Fulton Street.


 Funhouse Mirrors at Playland

Whitney’s Playland grew to more than ten acres of amusements next to the Great Highway.  It included Topsy’s Roost Restaurant, which later became Skateland; a midway of games and vendors; and, of course, the Funhouse with long wooden slides, a human turntable that spun and threw people off if they didn’t hang on, and distorting mirrors and air jets that blew women’s skirts up.

Many fondly remember the Carousel, the Big Dipper, the Diving Bell, Chutes at the Beach, Dark Mystery, Limbo, and Fun-tier Town, too.

Playland was also the birthplace of the It’s-It, Whitney’s invention of ice cream sandwiched by two oatmeal cookies and covered in chocolate.



View from Sutro Heights, 1995.








Only the newly remodeled and now far more upscale Cliff House and Beach Chalet still stand.  A condominium development erased any trace of Playland.

Anyone who remembers Playland is wistful, or maybe just nostalgic, for the gritty, blue-collar San Francisco.  “It wasn’t just toys for the rich.  It was toys for everyone,” said Dan Fontes, a muralist working in El Cerrito on a large rendering of Playland and the surrounding area.

San Francisco has changed.  The blue-collar neighborhoods are mostly gone, and amusement is often more solitary than when the Playland fun house rang with screams and laughter.  Still, Playland has not been lost.  Anyone can find it.  Its fragments are scattered all over the city.


Laughing Sal


Playland is best remembered by a laugh, the one that belonged to a huge mechanical woman who towered above the entry to the Funhouse from the 1940s until it closed in 1972 and she was auctioned off.  Her name was Laughing Sal.

Anyone walking down Playland’s Midway — even nearby neighbors — heard Sal’s bellowing laugh.  She had devilish curly red hair and huge freckles all over her fat, terrifying visage.  In the middle of it all was a gap-toothed smile that provided nightmare material for countless children.  This was creepy, the same way a ventriloquist’s dummy is creepy.

“She would stand there laughing and laughing, and you would stand there laughing and laughing, and you didn’t know why,” said Sharon Jessup, a San Francisco native who grew up going to Playland.  Sal’s continuous laugh was a drunken yelping guffaw, an evil cackle, the uninhibited outburst of someone going out of her mind.  With arms extended, she heaved back and forth with a bit of a bobbing motion in her huge glass box.

Sal was constructed by the Old King Cole papier-mache company under commission to the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., maker of amusement park furnishings. Old King Cole started with a mechanical laughing department store Santa Claus.  They fitted the Santa with a woman’s legs, breasts that jiggled on the end of springs and custom-made heads.  With the addition of a 78 rpm recording of the most memorable laugh in the world, Laughing Sal was born.



The Big Dipper roller coaster








Playland: “The favorite in action!”









By the 1960s, Playland was run down and a little seedy.  Some say it started downhill when Whitney tore down the Big Dipper roller coaster in the late 1950s.  Sutro Baths burned during its demolition in 1966, and Whitney stopped operating Playland in 1968.

The park took on a roving carnival feel, said Marvin Gold, who grew up nearby, going to sleep every night to the sound of Sal’s cackle.  In 1972, Playland was put up for sale.  When it closed on Sept. 4, 1972, Herb Caen wrote a column called, “We’ll Never Go There Anymore.”  He reminisced over It’s-Its, Bull Pup enchiladas, a 40-cent corn dog and a ride on the carousel.

Today, Playland is covered with housing.  A Safeway stands on the site of the old diving bell.  Gold said he remembers when workers came to smash the concrete foundation and heard a clang.  They found the concrete lined with a steel tank, filled it in and built on top of it.

“One hundred years from now when they tear Safeway down, they’re going to find an old steel tank sitting there and have no idea what it was,” he said.

“Oh, and those slides, those beautiful wooden slides,” he said of the long hardwood slides in the Funhouse.  “When I saw them cutting those slides into pieces … I nearly cried.  ”Playland was our second home.”

For the next 30 years after Playland closed, people didn’t have to look far to find Laughing Sal.  Although the main Funhouse Sal went to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for $50,000, Playland’s back-up Sal found a home in the basement of the Cliff House, along with the penny arcade machines.  They all were put into the Musée Mecanique, a collection that Ed Zelinsky obtained from George Whitney. 

All of the machines were still working, offering love tests, telling fortunes and showing the first silent films.  Video games were added to a small arcade at the back — early games like Pac Man and eventually the 3-D driving and shooting simulators we see now.

In 2002, the Musée was imperiled when the Cliff House was renovated.  San Franciscans came to the rescue with a petition carrying more than 25,000 signatures.  They were outraged that the Parks and Recreation Department, which owns the Cliff House, hadn’t tried to find the historical Musée a new home.

Thanks to the public outcry, a home was found at Pier 45, where a row of crab stands leads to a building painted with a giant version of Laughing Sal’s face.  Her missing tooth is the entry to Amusing America, which chronicles San Francisco’s place in the country’s cultural history of amusement parks.

Playland, Sutro Baths and the 1939 World’s Fair are all featured in displays, with the Musée Mecanique collection in the back.  And at the door, as in her two previous homes, Sal is the greeter and gatekeeper who still bursts into laughter for a quarter.  Maybe she’s laughing at her luck, having survived the urban development that has put her into a museum version of a city that no longer exists.

Maybe she’s laughing at what amusement in San Francisco has become around her: a Fisherman’s Wharf that has become a commercial tourist center with many of the same type of attractions as Playland. 

Dan Fontes, the muralist and a good source of history on Sutro Baths and Playland, says that when Playland was alive, “Fisherman’s Wharf was a fisherman’s wharf, with fishermen.”  Now, it is the Playland of today, the city’s waterfront amusement center, even if it is there mostly for tourists. 

The ghosts of Playland live in the hearts and memories of so many grown-ups.   They ensure that Playland isn’t entirely gone and that childhood won’t be forgotten.

~Via SF Historical Museum, San Francisco Public Library, YouTube, SF Gate

 * * * * * * * *

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Americas’ ‘Missing Link’ Discovered in Underwater Cave


12,000-Year-Old ‘Naia’ Sheds New Light on Land Migration



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


ABOVE VIDEO:  In a submerged cave in Yucatan, divers found
the near-intact skeleton of a delicately built teenage girl, who
died more than 12,000 years ago after she fell into a sinkhole
from which there was no way out.


She was found in the depths of planet Earth.

And she’s the oldest human skeleton ever found in North America, discovered by a team of international scientists in an underwater Yucatán Peninsula cave.

DNA from the skeleton shows similarities to modern Native Americans, while her skull structure matches those of Paleoamericans that came across the Bering land bridge. 

In short, she may be the ‘missing link’ to the origins of the first Americans on the continent.

Named “Naia”, the teenager fell to her untimely and tragic death in a large pit called Hoyo Negro, meaning “black hole” in Spanish.

The divers found her on a ledge, her skull at rest on an arm bone.  Ribs and a broken pelvis lay nearby.  She was only a young teen when she wandered into the cave on the Yucatan Peninsula, and in the darkness she must not have seen the enormous pit looming in front of her.

More than 12,000 years later, in 2007, after the seas had risen and the cave system had filled with water, her skull — upside down, teeth remarkably intact — caught the eye of a man in scuba gear.

Patricia Beddows, a cave-diving researcher from Northwestern University, said the find is remarkable: “The preservation of all the bones in this deep water-filled cave is amazing– the bones are beautifully laid out.”

“The girl’s skeleton is exceptionally complete because of the environment in which she died — she ended up in the right water and in a quiet place without any soil.  Her pristine preservation enabled our team to extract enough DNA to determine her shared genetic code with modern Native Americans,” she added.

The skeleton, which is now covered in water, is estimated to be between 12,000 and 13,000 years old, suggesting Naia lived in the late Pleistocene or last ice age.

She measured 4’ 10” tall and was delicately built.  Slender and bucktoothed, her estimated age of death was 15 or 16 years old, based on the development of her teeth.

She lies in a collapsed chamber together with the remains of 26 other large mammals, including a saber-toothed tiger, 600 yards from the nearest sinkhole.  Most of these ancient
mammals became extinct around 13,000 years ago.

“Naia, and the other animals, would have slipped through a hidden sink hole and fallen 100 feet into a shallow pool and trapped,” said paleontologist James Chatters of Applied Paleoscience in Bothell, Washington, who led the study, published May 15 in Science.  

“There would have been no way out.”  The broken pelvis of Naia’s otherwise near-perfect skeleton is likely a result of the accidental fall, he says.

Analysis of the remains in situ, most of which are still lying in the submerged cave where they were found, suggests that modern Native Americans are the descendants of the earliest Paleoamericans, who migrated from Siberia towards the end of the last glacial period.  An alternative theory held instead that a mysterious, more recent influx had brought in new populations from Eastern Asia.

The near-complete human skeleton, which has an intact cranium and some of the oldest preserved DNA to date, was found lying 130 feet below sea level near a variety of extinct animals, including an elephant-like creature and relatives of the mastodon.  Those remains helped scientists establish the age of the skeleton.

In order to assess the age of the skeleton, the team analyzed tooth enamel and seeds dropped by bats using radiocarbon dating and calcite deposits found on the bones using the uranium-thorium method.

They used similar methodology to date the remains of a variety of mastodon relatives found near the skeleton, which were found to be around 40,000 years old.  The more than 26 large mammals found at the site included saber-toothed cats and giant ground sloths, which were largely extinct in North America 13,000 years ago.

Naia’s age was further supported by evidence of rising sea levels, which were as much as 360 feet lower during the last ice age than they are today.

Naia’s mitochondrial DNA reveals genetic signatures in common with modern Native Americans, despite her very different skull shape.

“You can never exclude that Native Americans have more than one group of ancestors,” says Chatters.  But his team’s data, he points out, are consistent with the idea that Native Americans evolved from Siberian ancestors.

“It helps support the consensus view, from archaeological, genetic and linguistic evidence, that the Americas were initially peopled 15,000–20,000 years ago from Siberia,” says human geneticist Chris Tyler-Smith.

According to this widely held theory, the Americas were populated by Siberian ancestors who crossed the Bering land bridge that back then linked Eurasia and Alaska.  The migration is thought to have started during the Pleistocene ice age– which ended around 14,000 years ago– and continued over the next several thousand years as these populations moved south.

Yet researchers have puzzled over why the more-than-10,000-year-old Paleoamerican skulls unearthed so far have such different morphology from those in more recent finds and from modern Native Americans.

Scientists wondered whether other Native American ancestors had arrived in a later migration.  The new DNA results indicate that the very different skulls of modern Native Americans have evolved on North American soil.

Paleoamerican remains are few and far between, because the nomadic tribes did not always build tombs for their dead.  The oldest and first full skeleton to be found, it’s the first major set of remains unearthed so far south.

 ~Via Science, Nature, IBT,
and Nature Newstream


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Record High Radiation in Seawater off Fukushima Plant


California Coastal Commission:
Radiation Plume to Hit Coast in Year



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


In the above video, Naoto Matsumara is the only resident
living a lonely existence in the exclusion zone around Japan’s
Fukushima nuclear power plant.

When the massive earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown in 2011, high levels of radiation forced all 16,000 residents to be evacuated.

Refusing the government’s plea to leave his hometown of Tomioka, Naoto vowed to take care of the animals that were left behind. 

Two years later, he still stays on– while little progress has been made cleaning up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters ever to occur.


Radiation has spiked to all-time highs at five monitoring points in waters adjacent to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power station, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday.

The measurements follow similar highs detected in groundwater at the plant.  Officials of Tepco said the cause of the seawater spike is unknown.

Three of the monitoring sites are inside the wrecked plant’s adjacent port.

At one sampling point in the port, between the water intakes for the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, 1,900 becquerels per liter of tritium was detected Monday, up from a previous high of 1,400 becquerels measured on April 14, Tepco said.

And at a point between the water intakes, seawater sampled Thursday was found to contain high levels of strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, and other beta ray-emitting isotopes.

Tepco is struggling to reduce contamination at the poorly protected plant, which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  

Measures include plans to build a gigantic underground ice wall around the plant to keep the daily flow of groundwater from entering the cracked reactor buildings and mingling with the highly radioactive cooling water in their basements.

The ice wall project is expected to cost $300 million and will put a massive burden on the power grid when completed:  It will need about 45.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to operate, equal to annual power consumption of 13,000 average households.

The project involves freezing the soil into barricades 30 meters deep and 2 meters thick for a distance of 1,500 meters around the buildings housing reactors 1 through 4.  The soil will be frozen by sinking pipes into the ground and running liquids through them at a temperature of minus 30 degrees.

On Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and contractor Kajima Corp. demonstrated a miniature ice wall to reporters at the site.  “We can confirm the frozen soil’s effect in blocking water,” a ministry official said afterwards. 

The department aims to begin construction next month.  But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not approved the plan saying its backers have so far provided insufficient reassurances about public safety.

International nuclear experts have also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the plan.  Germany has pledged to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022 following the Fukushima diasaster.

Meanwhile, the California Coastal Commission downplayed fears about Fukushima-derived ocean radiation today.

The Commission issued a report stating that waterborne radiation levels off its coast are “far below that of naturally-occurring radioactive elements in the ocean.”

“Over the last three years, the radioactive ocean plume has been carried eastward by ocean currents, becoming increasingly diluted as it spreads over an ever-larger area and mixes to greater depths,” the report states. 

“The leading edge of the plume appears to have reached North America off of Vancouver Island, and could possibly reach California within the next year… Radioactive cesium derived from Fukushima has been detected at low levels in the tissues of highly-migratory fish species such as Pacific Bluefin tuna, which appear to have accumulated the cesium in their juvenile rearing grounds in the western Pacific,” the report adds.

The report advised that “the long-term effects of low-level radiation in the environment remain incompletely understood, and that this understanding would benefit from increased governmental support for the monitoring of radioactivity in seawater and marine life and the study of health outcomes linked to radiation exposure.”


Via Japan Times/Daily UK/ Telegraph

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The Sexbot Revolution is Coming


Poll: 1 in 5 People Would Have Sex with a Robot



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The future is now.

Would you have sex with a robot?  If you answered yes, you’re not alone.

Forget about raging against the machine: Some people would rather get naughty and nasty with it instead.

A new survey has found that one in five UK-dwellers would be willing to have sex with robots, marking a huge leap in the realm of digitized romance.

Over 2,000 people were quizzed on their attitudes toward androids– with less than favorable results. 46% of participants said they felt that technology was progressing too quickly, while a third expressed fears that automatons posed a serious threat to humanity.  The same number also believed that robots may soon replace key jobs, including those of soldiers, cops and teachers.

Middlesex University’s Professor Martin Smith, who oversaw the study, said, “While many of us worry about the role of technology and machines in modern society, robots are increasingly being developed for important roles that will help protect and improve our lives.”

Protecting and improving is one thing, but replacing significant others in the bedroom does seem like a bit of a jump.  Sure, a robot may perform all the necessary… uh, functions, but just how much intimacy can be created between a human and a piece of erratically moving machinery? 

Could the rules of sex change dramatically?  Could it change the way men and women have future relationships?

If online dating has already eradicated a huge chunk of the way we develop our capacity for closeness, won’t robotic bedmates make the situation even worse?

“It seems we have gotten to the stage where people would rather have sex with something that knows exactly what it’s doing, where we know exactly how it will react, and how long it will take, and how good it will be,” adds Anna Hughes, a schoolteacher with a long-term boyfriend.

But this obliterates the excitement of the uncertainty of being with a living person and the risk of it all going wrong, which is big part of having sex with someone in the first place.  I’m just glad I got into a relationship before sleeping with C-3PO became the norm,” Hughes said.

This kind of living could be coming at a hefty price—namely the dissolution of any and all intimacy, ever.

With 46% of those surveyed admitting that they’d either get under the covers with a sexbot or not judge those who choose to, that’s a fair proportion of people prepared to embrace getting down and dirty with droids.

This isn’t a uniquely UK trend, though:  Sex between live humans has been steadily sloping downwards in numerous countries around the world.

Consider Japan, where nearly half of women aged 16-24 are “not interested in, or despise, sexual contact.”

And this isn’t just a problem across the one gender—there’s also a burgeoning movement called Otaku, which denotes the rising number of men opting for relationships with virtual lady friends in the absence of real ones.

These asexual young men who show no carnal desire fare badly when it comes to the figures, with 36% professing a zero inclination whatsoever in getting it on.  Many members of the Otaku clan were able to maintain relationships with the opposite sex, but only if they existed in the form of computer games.

It isn’t about maintaining a relationship anymore.  It’s more akin to cocooning or playing video games rather than getting out and socially playing.  And we thought that would never happen.

This kind of living could be coming at a hefty price—namely the dissolution of any and all intimacy, ever.  It’s one thing to want to make it on your own, but using robotic surrogates for situations that require the warmth of another person, either physically or emotionally, just isn’t something we should be casually trading in like a used car.

Professor Smith also makes the case for future droids becoming quasi-aware—with a pre-programmed sentient awareness, that is.  In other words, your innermost needs, dreams, desires and fantasies would be catered to by artificial intelligence.

“Robots will be able to show most, if not all, of the signs and behaviors of emotional intelligence… The robots won’t have feelings, but like actors they will be able to show emotional intelligence.”

These technological advances are only mere decades or less away.  Shelling out for a chunk of plastic that’s been programmed to sleep with you is on the horizon, a brave new world of coming technological intimacy.

Talk about looking for love in all the wrong places.  Flowers, chocolate and a glass of wine will be so  passé and old school.


~TechNews/Gray Scott/YouTube

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From Billions to None


The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


The passenger pigeon disappeared in a geologic heartbeat.  Because of us.

Imagine that tomorrow morning you woke up and discovered that the familiar rock pigeon—scientifically known as Columba livia, popularly known as the rat with wings—had disappeared.

It was gone not simply from your window ledge but from Piazza San Marco, Trafalgar Square, the Gateway of India arch, and every park, sidewalk, telephone wire, and rooftop in between.  

Would you grieve for the loss of a familiar creature, or rip out the spikes on your air-conditioner and celebrate?  Perhaps your reaction would depend on the cause of the extinction.  If the birds had been carried off in a mass avian rapture, or a pigeon-specific flu, you might let them pass without guilt, but if they had been hunted to death by humans you might feel honor-bound to bring them back to life.

In “A Feathered River Across the Sky:  The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction,” Joel Greenberg’s studies a bird that really did vanish after near-ubiquity.

The passenger pigeon—sometimes called “the blue pigeon” for its color though the blue was blended with gray, red, copper, and brown– should not be confused with its distant cousin, the message-bearing carrier pigeon, which is really just a domesticated rock pigeon in military dress.

Unlike the rock pigeon– domesticated six thousand years ago, now feral, and brought to these shores by Europeans in the early seventeenth century– the passenger pigeon was native to North America, where it roved over a billion acres of the continent searching for bumper crops of tree nuts.

It was here, like the American bison, when Europeans arrived, and it was here when the peoples we consider indigenous migrated across their land bridge thousands of years before that.  It evolved on the unspoiled continent and was allied with the big trees that once covered much of the Northeast and the Midwest.


Most Numerous of Birds

The passenger pigeon was the most numerous bird species in North America, and possibly the world, dominating the eastern half of the continent in numbers that stagger the imagination.

In 1813, John James Audubon saw a flock– if that is what you call an agglomeration of birds moving at sixty miles an hour and obliterating the noonday sun– that was merely the advance guard of a multitude that took three days to pass.

Alexander Wilson, the other great bird observer of the time, reckoned that the flock he saw contained 2,230,272,000 individuals.  

To get your head around that number and just how many passenger pigeons that would mean, consider that there are only about two hundred and sixty million rock pigeons in the world today.  You would have to imagine more than eight times the total world population of rock pigeons, all flying at the same time in one connected mass.

No wonder witnesses frequently described the birds in quasi-Biblical, if not apocalyptic, language.  A flight over Columbus, Ohio, in 1855 elicited the following eye-witness account:

“As the watchers stared, the hum increased to a mighty throbbing. Now everyone was out of the houses and stores, looking apprehensively at the growing cloud, which was blotting out the rays of the sun.

Children screamed and ran for home. Women gathered their long skirts and hurried for the shelter of stores. Horses bolted.

A few people mumbled frightened words about the approach of the millennium, and several dropped on their knees and prayed.”


On the ground, the birds were equally prodigious.  A joint at the corners of the lower bill enabled their mouths to more than double in size.  Their crops could hold “up to a quarter of a pint of foodstuffs,” and they could vomit at will if they saw a food that they liked better.

Thoreau, a keen watcher of the birds, marveled that they could swallow acorns whole.  A Detroit newspaper in the late nineteenth century described the squabs as having “the digestive capacity of half a dozen 14-year-old boys.”

In their wake, passenger pigeons left behind denuded fields and ravaged woods; descriptions conjure up those First World War photographs of amputated trees in no man’s land.  

“They would roost in one place until they broke all the limbs off the trees,” one old-timer recalled, “then they would move to adjoining timber & treat it likewise, then fire would break out in the old roost and destroy the remainder of the timber.”  Their droppings, which coated branches and lay a foot thick on the ground, like snow, proved toxic to the understory and fatal to the trees.

One hunter recalled a nighttime visit to a swamp in Ohio in 1845, when he was sixteen; he mistook for haystacks what were in fact alder and willow trees, bowed to the ground under gigantic pyramids
of birds many bodies deep. 

As late as 1871, a single nesting ground in Sparta, Wisconsin, covered eight hundred and fifty square miles, hosting more than a hundred million birds.

But the profusion was misleading.


The End of the Line

Twenty-nine years later, a boy in Ohio shot a passenger pigeon out of a tree with a twelve-gauge shotgun, killing what was identified as the last wild member of the species.

A small captive population remained at the Cincinnati Zoo, including a pair patriotically named George and Martha, but there would be no new feathered nation.  By 1910, Martha was the sole survivor. 

Martha spent four years as a melancholy zoo attraction.  Visitors tossed sand to get her to move.  Officials offered a thousand-dollar reward for a mate, but on September 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon in the world died.

Newspapers described how Martha was frozen in a three-hundred-pound block of ice and sent by train from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C.  There she was skinned, stuffed, and put on display at the Smithsonian for a nation guiltily waking up to its role in the destruction of the bird and its habitat.

How could a bird could go from a population of billions to zero in less than fifty years? 

The short answer is that it tasted good.


Easy Pickings  

The bird was easy to kill and so abundant that it often seemed, in the days before refrigeration, like the quail that fell on the Israelites in Exodus.  In 1781, after a crop failure, a flock of pigeons saved a large swath of New Hampshire from starvation.  Despite the occasional apocalyptic shiver, most Americans looked up and decided that it was cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

The birds were such tempting targets that, in the early eighteenth century, cities had to ban hunting in town, because, in the words of one ordinance, from 1727, “everyone takes the liberty of shooting thoughtlessly from his windows, the threshold of his door, the middle of the streets.”

You did not even need a gun: you could poke them from their nests with poles or beat them out of the air with clubs– the weapon of choice Mark Twain recalled from his boyhood, in Hannibal, Missouri.  Squabs were fattened on “pigeon milk”– the sloughed-off lining of the birds’ crop that parents regurgitated for their young– and got so plump, Greenberg reports, that they would fall to earth with a “splat.”

The birds even killed themselves.  Greenberg conjures up a vision of pigeons crammed into their huge roosts, and then asks the reader to “imagine the destruction that would ensue when tree limbs, or at times entire trees, snapped and plummeted to the ground, crushing hundreds if not thousands of birds.  When flocks descended to drink, at times the birds that landed first would drown under the weight of newcomers.”  

No wonder Martha lived so long in her lonely cage.

For both Native Americans and European settlers, the appearance of passenger pigeons or the discovery of one of their giant roosting grounds became a festive occasion where every member of the family had a role: shooting the birds, knocking squabs out of nests, chasing the unfledged runaways, and collecting the dead for pickling, salting, baking, or boiling.

Boys stuck long hickory poles into the ground, pulled on ropes tied to the tips of the poles, and knocked birds down simply by making the poles quiver. Nets were stretched between trees. A roosting ground in Tennessee was set on fire and “scorched corpses were then collected the next day for personal use or sale” from two-foot-high piles of the dead.

More elaborate methods were used, of course—like luring the birds into nets with a live pigeon, which is the origin of the term “stool pigeon.”  A demand for stool pigeons opened up a trade in live birds, and so did the later development of “trap shooting,” in which live birds were mechanically launched into the air for sportsmen.

So many birds died in transport to the shoots that huge numbers were needed.  The “clay pigeon” was devised by passenger-pigeon hunters to replicate the experience after the actual birds grew scarce.

As long as America was rural and untraversed by railroads, the killing did not seem to do much more than dent the vast pigeon population.  After the Civil War, however, things began to change rapidly.

You could find out by telegraph where pigeons were nesting, get there quickly by train, and sell what you killed to a city hundreds of miles away.  Soon market hunters began operating on an enormous scale, cramming tens of thousands of birds into boxcars—especially after Gustavus Swift introduced the refrigerator car, in 1878.

This meant that rural migrants to growing cities could still get wild game, and the well-heeled could eat Ballotine of Squab à la Madison, served by a new class of restaurant, like Delmonico’s, in New York, where fine dining was becoming a feature of urban life.  All this coincided with an explosion in logging, which began destroying the habitat of pigeons just as hunters were destroying the pigeons themselves.

We did hunt the passenger pigeon to death, even if we didn’t quite understand at the time what we were doing.  

We also might have saved it, at least in token form, if only our technological genius and our conservation consciousness– two things that set us apart from other animals– had come together sooner.

Human beings live in their historical and cultural contexts as much as passenger pigeons lived in fields, trees, and sky; it is important to remember, for example, that rural people hunted for food in the days before factory farming and supermarkets.  The chicken industry in this country alone kills more than seven billion birds a year– far more than the total number of passenger pigeons at their peak.

Nobody in the nineteenth century had figured out how to make the slaughter of the birds sustainable, but it is worth wondering what we would think of the passenger pigeon, and ourselves, if they had.

Thoreau, in a mysteriously beautiful passage in his 1862 essay “Walking,” likens the diminishing numbers of passenger pigeons in New England to the dwindling number of thoughts in a man’s head, “for the grove in our minds is laid waste.”

Thinking of the birds as missing thoughts is a good way to honor them.  Martha and her billions were undone by the complicated, pitiless tangle of our modern industrialized world, but Thoreau’s nineteenth-century protest—“Simplify, simplify”—will not help us in the twenty-first.

Indeed, when it comes to our relationship to nature, the wish for simplicity may be the most destructive thing in the world.

~Via Joel Greenberg/Jon Rosen/Anthony Kendall/Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

Our best wishes and heartfelt appreciation goes out to the
Yurok Tribe for their efforts in restoring the Condor

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Becoming the Best Capitalists on the Planet


Weaving A Fortune:

Alibaba Serves China’s “Treasure Hunters”



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


WANTOU VILLAGE, China– With strong stitches and well-worn
hands, Wei Haiying added yet another finished cushion to the
ceiling-high piles already crowding her east China home.

For centuries, the women of Wantou village have woven its abundant willow straw into useful products, but for little profit.

Then Jack Ma and Alibaba came along, to spread some money-making magic.  Resting from her labors, Wei, 39, checked a computer Wednesday for the latest online orders.  ”Now we run our own business, we have more freedom, more income, and it’s better than working for others,” said Wei, whose monthly income has doubled in the past year to $1,600, far above the local average.

Blending traditional skills with modern marketing, Wei’s little success story forms a tiny part of the super-sized Alibaba e-commerce narrative that Ma offers to U.S. investors.  Already an A-list business billionaire in China, where he has dressed as Lady Gaga to entertain employees, Ma, 49, will score more fame and fortune when his firm gets a U.S. listing, in what is likely to prove one of history’s biggest ever IPOs.

In 1999, English teacher and kung fu novel fan Ma founded Alibaba in an apartment in the city of Hangzhou, with backing from 17 friends.  

He faced stiff odds, such as setting up an online payment system in a nation where hardly anyone had credit cards.  Now Alipay, like a Chinese Paypal, has over 800 million registered users, and its mother ship Alibaba is an Internet monster, grabbing more online trade than eBay and Amazon combined.

Alibaba resembles both.  Its eBay-like marketplace Taobao, which means “treasure hunt,” allows budding entrepreneurs like weaver Wei to set up and run an online store, for free.  The site has 7 million sellers offering hundreds of millions of items.  On Alibaba’s business-to-consumer site T-mall, called “heavenly cat” in Chinese, over 70,000 brands, including Gap and Apple, operate storefronts, for a fee.

In Wantou village, in coastal Shandong province, e-commerce even overshadows Communist Party propaganda.  Wall slogans exhorting the one-child policy fade fast, but no one can miss fresher phrases such as “Rushing about away from home, from east to west, doesn’t beat doing Taobao at home.”

So many of its 4,700 residents engage in e-commerce, almost exclusively on Taobao, that Alibaba ranks Wantou among at least 20 “Taobao villages” in China.  The firm’s definition requires over 10 percent of households to be operating online stores, and village e-commerce annual revenue must exceed $1.6 million.

“We really thank Taobao, it’s brought us wealth,” Wei Haiying said.  Two years ago, Wei stopped weaving for wholesalers.  Her husband quit his job as a driver.  Teaching themselves how to use computers, they set up a Taobao store.  Now they regularly go online to shop too, for clothes and shoes for their daughter.  ”It’s cheap and convenient,” said Wei.

The ease of Taobao shopping, and expectation of bargains, helped her neighbor become a local star.  An early convert, Jia Peixiao, 34, sold $1.3 million of willow straw and rattan products in 2013 and expects to double that volume this year.  Inside the family’s courtyard home, Jia sits beside a poster of Jack Ma.

“Many people in the village and elsewhere consider Ma a god,” said Jia, who ranks him highly, after reading some of the popular Ma biographies that fill China’s airport bookshops. “He’s a man who dares to do things, he has created a new era, an era of e-commerce,” Jia said.

Earlier in his career, Ma was labeled a cheat and a madman, but his success, fortune and maverick streak have since endeared him to most Chinese.  In recent years, Ma has been called the Godfather of business start-ups, the Napoleon of the IT world, “Crazy Jack,” and even a grass-roots hero.  Unusual for a Chinese boss, he also makes fun of himself, such as dressing as Snow White, or Lady Gaga, for Alibaba’s annual party.

Jia, a computer science graduate, appears a model disciple, having moved on from Taobao to create his own brand, Munuan, that now operates a T-mall store for a $10,000 annual fee.  Most customers are urban, female white-collar workers
between 18 and 35, he noted.

Beijing housewife Zhang Jingwen, 28, loves Taobao for cheap prices and the online guidance of previous buyers but prefers traditional shopping centers for higher-quality purchases, she said.  Using a Taobao app on her iPhone, she enjoys discounts buying daily toiletries, but, like many online shoppers worldwide, can’t resist the gimmicks either.

“If I met Jack Ma, I would thank him and say ‘you not only changed our lives, but also our whole village,’ ” said Meng Lili, 32, Jia’s wife, who is eight months pregnant with their second child and still works the computers as one of nine employees fielding orders.

Jia’s illiterate mother appears stunned by the sharp change in family fortunes.  An Shouhua, 61, learned weaving at age 9, and never went to school.  ”No woman in the village could find a husband without skill in weaving,” she said.  Government officials used to collect her woven goods – and pay just 5 cents day, she added.

Her son now plans a holiday to the USA or Europe, the first time Jia and his family will have left China. 

“We’re middle class now, and we can afford it,” he said.

His dad, Jia Chunwen, 62, still grows wheat and corn on the family’s typically small plot, but is prouder of his computer skills, and ability to chat with former navy comrades over QQ, a messaging service run by major Alibaba rival Tencent.

More than 600 million Chinese now use the Internet, just under half the entire population.

In Wantou’s Communist Party-run village committee, Deputy Secretary Jia Chuncui, 58, has no computer in his office or home but supports the e-commerce trend.  ”You don’t need a large space, or much funding, and you can still farm your land,” Jia said.  The government has offered land cheaply for a large Taobao Mall now under construction.

Rural China generally loses its children, to toil as migrant workers in distant cities.  Wantou sees them return to join its e-commerce boom. Inside a former dentist’s clinic, Jiao Chuanlei, 24, runs one of 20 courier companies in the village.  “It’s all because of Taobao there are so many couriers here,” he says.

Critics of the Chinese Internet complain that copycat businesses pre-dominate, Communist Party censorship inhibits innovation, and counterfeit goods still flow freely. Jia Peixiao says Taobao sellers are under pressure from the public to provide higher quality, legitimate goods.

“We all want our platform to be ever bigger and better, so the cake will be bigger for all of us to eat,” said Jia, already enjoying the taste of a better life.  On Tuesday, a Taobao delivery man arrived with his latest order– highly expensive, edible bird’s nests, from one of many Taobao sites specializing in tasty Chinese delicacies.


Via Google News/NewsLeader/Taluswood Films/Vimeo

* * * * * * * * *

China has rapidly moved from Maoist communism to becoming the best capitalists on the planet in less than three generations.  Seen as an economic savior of sorts, Jack Ma is floating all boats for China’s lower and middle classes, with the approving nod from its government paving the way forward.

If you haven’t heard of Jack Ma, you soon will. 

America, we need to step up quicklyand wisely.

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Secrets of the Egyptian Pyramids


Cairo: 1920



Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


It’s an amazing tale.

There are many ancient Egyptian secrets out there begging to be
discovered underneath the sands of time. 

We only have to find them.  This video from Kheops Pyramides lets us in on one of these shocking untold stories. 

No one believed these deeply kept rumors until now.  It was only after the hard evidence was found that this dark mystery was finally revealed for the first time and brought to light.

Keep looking.  Under the couch.  …That remote must be somewhere.

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Ancient Infant’s DNA Unlocks Clues to Origins of First Americans


Genome Mapped of 12,600-Year-Old Clovis Culture Baby


–Child Found to be Direct Ancestor of an Entire Continent


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Move over, Europeans.  A genetic study suggests present-day Native Americans are descended from some of the continent’s earliest settlers– and they’re not your ancestors.

The DNA of a baby boy who was buried in Montana 12,600 years ago has been recovered, and it provides new indications of the ancient roots of today’s American Indians and other native peoples of the Americas.

It’s the oldest genome ever recovered from the New World.  Artifacts found with the infant show the boy was part of the Clovis people, a widespread, sophisticated Ice Age culture in North America.  They appeared in America about 13,000 years ago and hunted mammoth, mastodon and bison.

The boy’s remains, uncovered at the Anzick Site in Montana in 1968, were associated with distinctive Clovis stone tools.  In fact, it is the only known skeleton directly linked to artifacts from this culture.

The DNA indicates the boy’s ancestors came from Asia, supporting the standard idea of ancient migration to the Americas by way of a land bridge that disappeared long ago.

The boy’s genome showed his people were direct ancestors of many of today’s native peoples in the Americas, researchers said.  He was more closely related to those in Central and South America than to those in Canada.  The reason for that difference isn’t clear, scientists said

The researchers found that around 80% of today’s Native Americans are related to the “clan” from which the boy came.  The researchers said they had no Native American DNA from the United States available for comparison, but that they assume the results would be same, with some Native Americans being direct descendants and others also closely related. 

The burial site, northeast of Livingston, Mont., is the only burial known from the Clovis culture.  The boy was between 1 year and 18 months old when he died of an unknown cause. 

He was buried with 125 artifacts, including spear points and elk antler tools.  Some were evidently ritual objects or heirlooms.  The artifacts and the skeleton were covered with powdered red ochre, a natural pigment, indicating a burial ceremony.

The skeleton was discovered in 1968 next to a rock cliff, but it’s only in recent years that scientists have been able to recover and analyze complete genomes from such ancient samples.

The DNA analysis was reported online yesterday in the journal Nature.  Some researchers have raised questions about the origins of early Americans, with one theory even proposing a link to Ice Age Europeans.  But the Nature study places the origins of these ancient people in Asia.

The burial site lies on the property of the parents of one of the study’s authors, Sarah Anzick.  It is known as the Anzick site.

Shane Doyle of Montana State University in Bozeman, another of the authors and a member of the Crow tribe, said the indication of such ancient roots for American Indians fits with what many tribal people already believed. He also said plans are underway to rebury the boy’s remains at the site after the winter.

The boy “was not a chief or a great hunter,” but his burial showed love and respect, Doyle said at the Montana Historical
Society in Helena on Wednesday.

Next will be a memorial at the site, he said, “Something small, so that the state of Montana, people around the world will know the importance of that place.”

In a telephone conference with reporters, the researchers said that once they discovered the link between the boy and today’s Native Americans, they sought out American Indian groups to discuss the results.  Co-author Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, an expert in deciphering ancient DNA, called for scientists to work closely with native peoples on such research.

On Wednesday, he noted there were Native American groups who said their oral history showed that they were descendants of the first people in the Americas.

“Well, they turned out to be right,” Willerslev said at the Montana museum, where artifacts from the site are on display.

The results are “going to raise a whole host of new ideas and hypotheses” about the early colonization of the Americas, said Dennis O’Rourke, an ancient DNA expert at the University of Utah.  The DNA casts doubt on theories that the Clovis were descended from Europeans or colonists from

The former theory relies, in part, on close similarities between Clovis tools and those of the Solutrean culture, which thrived in Ice Age France and Spain.

The latest results place the homeland for Native American peoples – including the Clovis – in Siberia.

Interestingly, however, the teams found that Native American ancestors coming in from Asia split into two groups.

One group was ancestral to native peoples presently living in Canada and the other one– which is represented by the Clovis boy– was ancestral to virtually all Native Americans in South America and Mexico.

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Via Google News/BBC/CBS

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The Real Tammany Hall Political Machine


The Forgotten Virtues of Corruption and Social Service, Intertwined


Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel


Terry Golway
The New York Times


Political machines clearly aren’t what they used to be.  

Last fall’s designation of the old Tammany Hall headquarters on Union Square as a city landmark is a reminder of just how powerful the nation’s most famous machine was, and why it remains a presence in political conversations.

Tammany Hall — shorthand for the faction that controlled Manhattan’s Democratic Party for most of a 150-year period — has a well-deserved place in the annals of urban misgovernment in the United States.  It stole elections, it intimidated political antagonists, and it shook down contractors and vendors.

It produced the very face of political corruption, William M. Tweed, known to friend and foe as “Boss.”  And it was, at best, indifferent to the grievances of African-Americans and later, Hispanics, in New York.

But there’s more to the story:  Tammany Hall’s leaders delivered social services at a time when City Hall and Albany did not.  They massaged justice at a time when the poor did not have access to public defenders.  And they found jobs for the unemployed when the alternative was hunger and illness.

Barbara Porges, a Tammany district leader years before women won the right to vote, prided herself on knowing the names and predicaments of peddlers who worked on Orchard Street in the heart of her district.  When one of them, an onion seller, contracted tuberculosis, Ms. Porges raised money to send him to a drier climate.  Nobody saw reason to ask how this was achieved.

For generations of immigrants and their children in Manhattan, the face of government was the face of the local Tammany ward heeler.  And it was a friendly face.  This was something entirely new for Russian Jews, Southern Italians and, to be sure, the Irish who dominated the machine.  Their experience with politics in the old country was not quite so amiable.

For Tammany, power rested on voter turnout.  And turnout was a function of relentless outreach and tireless service.

The legendary Tammany leader George Washington Plunkitt — the man who coined the phrase “honest graft” — met with constituents and lesser Tammany officials in his district several times a week to find out who was happy with Tammany’s services and who required some special attention.

Plunkitt was a leader of Tammany Hall and was, by the standards of our times and his, undeniably corrupt.  As his Boswell, newspaperman William Riordon, noted:


“In 1870 through a strange combination of circumstances, he held the places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor and drew three salaries at once — a record unexampled in New York politics.

Facing three bidders at a city auction of 250,000 paving stones, he offered each 10,000 to 20,000 stones free and having thus dispensed with competition bought the whole lot for $2.50.”


Plunkitt was not only corrupt but a hardworking, perceptive and appealing politician who took care of his constituents, qualities one rarely find in any plurality of combinations in politics these days.

Politics, Plunkitt said, “is as much a regular business as the grocery or the dry-goods or the drug business” and it was based on studying human nature.  He claimed to know every person in his district, their likes and their dislikes:


I reach them by approachin’ at the right side . . . For instance, here’s how I gather in the young men.  I hear of a young feller that’s proud of his voice, thinks that he can sing fine.  I ask him to come around to Washington Hall and join our Glee Club.  He comes and sings, and he’s a follower of Plunkitt for life.

Another young feller gains a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot.  I bring him into our baseball club.  That fixes him.  You’ll find him workin’ for my ticket at the polls next election day. . .

I rope them all in by givin’ them opportunities to show themselves off.  I don’t trouble them with political arguments.  I just study human nature and act accordin’.”


Plunkitt also believed in sticking with his friends: “The politicians who make a lastin’ success in politics are the men who are always loyal to their friends, even up to the gate of State prison, if necessary.  Even if it’s only one man. . . you get his cousin, and his cousin and so on, until you have your own organization.”

His prescription for becoming a statesman was to go out and get supporters.  Nothing so dramatically illustrates this than a typical day for Plunkitt, as recorded by newspaperman Riordon:


Plunkitt was aroused a two a.m. to bail out a saloonkeeper who had been arrested for tax law violations.  At six he was again awakened, this time by fire engines.  Tammany leaders were expected to show up at fires to give aid and comfort.

“At 8:30 am he was getting six drunk constituents released.  At nine he was in court on another case.  
At eleven, upon returning home, he found four voters seeking assistance.  At three he went to the funeral of an Italian, followed by one for a Jew.

“At seven p.m. he had a district captains’ meeting.  At eight he went to a church fair.  At nine he was back at the party clubhouse listening to the complaints of a dozen pushcart peddlers.  At 10:30 he went to a Jewish wedding, having “previously sent a handsome wedding present to the bride.”

He finally got to bed at midnight.”


It was a principle that worked well for Tammany Hall, which at its height early this century had 32,000 committeemen and was forced to use Madison Square Garden for its meetings.

Another notable Tammany district leader who worked his way up from poverty, Jeremiah T. Mahoney, once insisted that he and other Tammany colleagues never forgot the dire circumstances of their impoverished childhoods amid the splendor of late 19th-century Manhattan.

Those memories, he argued, led Tammany to support progressive reforms like workers’ compensation, the beginning of minimum-wage laws, the federal income tax, public pensions for widows and children, greater government regulation of the workplace and private property, and other laws that helped set the stage for the New Deal in the 1930s.  The Tammany machine’s two greatest advocates for social reform were Mahoney’s law partner, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and the four-time governor Alfred E. Smith.

At the same time, Tammany resisted the reform movement’s impulse to impose an evangelical Anglo-Protestant morality on the Catholics and Jews who made up the bulk of New York’s poor.  Many private charities in the early 20th century were obsessed with dividing the poor into those considered worthy of help and those whose personal lives disqualified them for assistance.

Tammany figures, many of them descended from survivors of the potato famine in the mid-19th century, made no attempt to investigate the claims of those who sought their help.  One of the machine’s legendary scoundrels, “Big Tim” Sullivan, explained how he approached those who sought a free meal in his clubhouse: “I never ask a hungry man about his past.  I feed him not because he is good, but because he needs food.”

Yes, many Tammany figures, including Sullivan, were corrupt.  But it’s hard not to detect more than a little bigotry in the rhetoric of the machine’s foes.  

Andrew D. White, president of Cornell University and one of the late 19th century’s most-celebrated reformers, once complained that under Tammany and its imitators, a “crowd of illiterate peasants, freshly raked from Irish bogs, or Bohemian mines, or Italian robber nests,” exercised “virtual control” over New York and other cities packed with immigrants.

Indeed they did, thanks to Tammany’s embrace of an early form of multiculturalism.  Tammany’s Irish leaders were quick to incorporate Jews into their clubhouses (Herbert Lehman, the first Jew elected governor of New York, was vice chairman of Tammany’s finance committee in the mid-1920s), and while it was hardly ahead of its times on race relations, it encouraged black participation at a time when fellow Democrats in the South suppressed voting rights.

Tammany Hall certainly was guilty of many of the offenses arraigned against it.  But those flaws should not overshadow Tammany’s undoubted virtues.  

Tammany Hall was founded in 1854; its golden age lasted until the three-term LaGuardia administration began in 1934.  For only ten intervening years was Tammany out of office.  We got rid of people like Plunkitt and machines like Tammany because we came to believe in something called good government.

But in throwing out the machines we also tossed out a philosophy and an art of politics.

The machine succeeded not simply because it could round up votes.  It succeeded because it was unafraid of the grunt work of retail politics and because it rarely lost touch with its voters.


Terry Golway is the author of the forthcoming book “Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics.”

* * * * * * * * *

(Via Undernews)

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