Showing posts with label true history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label true history. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Well, I am Back (from England)

Jason and I stepped off the plane and returned to Austin about 7:45 local time last night.  It was a great trip, and your humble blogger is pleased to say the time spent in London was both educational and entertaining.  I haven't done much in the way of international travel, and I am sure many would say that London is barely international, and that, of course, is practically true.  The locals speak more English per capita than the locals in my own town, and its not like you're having to go by horseback or otter-car to get places in London.

For a collection of photos, please feel free to click here.

I do plan to upload more pics.  However, my camera died halfway through the trip, and I need to download the rest from my iPhone.

We had the good fortune of staying at a flat in Kensington, which seemed to be a fairly well-to-do part of London.  Having had never been to London, I didn't really have any expectations, but found it easy enough to navigate and appreciated the local insistence on telling you which direction to look for oncoming traffic at each intersection.

Inside the city, we either walked or took the tube, with one quick trip on a river boat.

To get it out of the way, here is a brief itinerary:

Friday:  
7:00 AM arrived
Slept briefly
Science Museum
Natural History Museum
Princess Victoria Pub
Sleep
Dinner at an Italian Place
Princess Victoria Pub

Saturday:
British Museum
Forbidden Planet Cult Entertainment Superstore
Dinner on High Kensington (I had fish cakes)
Ran into crowd of Indian nationals celebrating India's win in the Cricket World Cup Championship at Piccadilly Circus
Saw the comedy "The 39 Steps" at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus
wandered around Piccadilly, etc...

Sunday:
Thames, Parliament, Westminster, Eye of London exteriors
City Cruise
Tower of London with Yeoman Warder Tour
Trafalgar Square
Salisbury Pub

Monday:
Westminster Abbey tour
Churchill War Museum tour
National Gallery and Jason's strategic strike on important paintings (funniest bit of whole trip - mad dash to see 5 specific paintings before the museum closed)
Garfunkel's - the Bennigan's of England

Tuesday:
Get on a plane at 9:30 AM

Some observations:

  • London has the finest public restrooms I have ever seen
  • Virtually every exhibit in London should be subtitled "Get Rich or Die Tryin'"
  • I would guess maybe 50% of the people in London are actually English by ancestry
  • the curators at the British Museum are very against you seeing a carving of a man's dick.  The ancients are very about including dicks in their statues.  This causes a sort of queasy feeling in the Greek/ Roman section of the museum where the curator never met a dick he was not going to knock clean off a statue.
  • I have never been anywhere short of a library conference where I was certain I could take everyone around me.  I did not see anyone I wasn't sure I could take anywhere in London.
  • Big Ben is more impressive than you think its going to be
  • Every place you think you're going to visit in London as a perfunctory visit is way better than you think it will be
  • The wedding of Prince William and Kate is going to be a total riot if the number of collector's plates, flags and mugs displayed in windows is any indication
  • Piccadilly Circus is remarkably short on trained elephants
  • US Public Spaces got nothing on London
  • Judging by the ratio of pub to "American Italian" places...  Londoners apparently love pizza
  • The British comic market is virtually identical to the American comic market (and Austin Books is a World Class comic shop if Forbidden Planet is any indication)
  • Nobody working in the service industry has been in their job longer than a month, and many are not clear on what street they are working
  • Apparently there is a dress code in force for 20-somethings in the parts of London I visited.  Only 3 looks per gender are approved.
  • I dress, look and act very much like an American.  Indian ex-pats will find this amusing.
  • British police see no problem with their visitors and locals climbing all over public statues (in Texas, this will get you in trouble).
  • Henry VIII had issues.
  • The London Eye is kind of ridiculous.
  • When architecture is from every era, it kind of works crammed altogether, but I wouldn't want to draw a cityscape of London.
  • You do not need to put on the "replica hat" at the Churchill Museum just because the docent suggests you do so.
  • You should do whatever the docent tells you to do at Westminster Abbey.
  • Newton and Darwin are buried at Westminster.  The UK is playing by different rules.  I'm just saying.
  • Also buried there: Dickens, Handel and others.  We can learn from this.
  • Public transportation is what you make of it, America.
  • The number of products the US and UK have in common is shocking.  
  • My dad, left to his own devices, will watch the same kind of "true life crime" shows on basic cable that I tend to watch when unemployed.
  • The only major disagreement you will see the Steans Men have while travelling is over which beer is appropriate for this particular moment (the answer is: always start with Stella)


I'm not the first American to get bowled over by London, but in some small way I am glad that I didn't wind up there until I had a bit more life and travel under my belt than I might have had when I was, say, 18.  Through reading, movies, documentary TV, etc...  I have an extremely rudimentary working knowledge of British history today that I didn't have at all until the end of college, and so I suspect that much of what I saw would have been wasted on me then.

It strikes me that we in the vast, vast majority of the geography of the US do not have memorials to those who died more than 200 years ago, and the further west one travels in the US, the briefer our sense of history as much more than an abstraction of something left behind somewhere else.  A lack of living history, of being surrounded by those who've gone before (some winning, many not winning) may be what gives us an inflated sense of destiny, like a teenager who sees only a future as a rock star ahead of them when they pick up their first guitar and who can't be bothered to learn more than the chords of their current favorite songs.

And as hard fought as democracy has been here in the US, it was also the first step we took as a nation.  Everything prior to the French-Indian Wars is buried in a sort of promordial soup of witch-hunts and Indian killing that we'd rather not discuss.  In England, this period is just short of current events.  You can see the change from one-thousand years of feudal clashes to the rise of democracy in the stones and monuments, and there's something to that, I think.  We're a blip on the continuum, it seems to say, and what we do while we're here is important, but it will also pass, and those who are remembered are remembered as either good or terrible souls, and history will look back on you with an audio tour that will speak frankly about your deeds as people walk on your grave.

Anyhow, I'm not telling anyone anything they don't know, especially those of you who've been to London.

It was good to go, its good to be back.  I will definitely return for a longer tour of England at some point, and I'd like to see all of the UK at some point.  But I should likely see more of the US, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More True Facts of Thanksgiving!

I am afraid that in my haste to share with you the True Story of Legally Required Thanksgiving, I forgot to relay a crucial chapter in the tale.

Upon pondering the fearsome fate that could befall us all at the hands of the Turkey Goblins, you may ask: "if the Turkey Goblins pose such a threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Why the Presidential Pardon?".

Why the Presidential Pardon each holiday, indeed...

On April of 1945, the Allies were making tremendous progress in the European Theater.  Berlin would fall in the next month, but President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would not live to see the Allies take Germany, nor would he live to see VJ Day by the end of the summer.  With his passing on April 12, 1945, Harry S. Truman would assume the presidency.  And with that, the Secret Knowledge and responsibilities bestowed upon the President of the United States of America.

While the most famous weapon developed as an extreme measure during WWII was, undoubtedly, The Bomb (and clearly a product of Mad Science rather than Boring Science, which was developing better ways to starch a collar and ways to use lemon juice as invisible ink for most of the war), the wily scientists of the USA had more than one iron in the fire.   The Bomb was the most famous, but other, possibly deadlier plans were still being investigated.

While the story of Coolidge's discovery of Lincoln's secret headquarters is a fascinating tale, it will have to wait for another day.*  But suffice it to say, Coolidge's discovery meant the records of the Turkey Goblin Adventure had fallen into the hands of the US War Department where they had been stored in Secret Bunker X, where they had remained until the morning of June 8, 1942, when, after Midway, the US had finally just plain had it and began looking for options.

By July of 1942, Mad Science had come a long way, and in oh-so-controlled circumstances US Scientists began keeping a coop of turkeys, all of whom had tested positive for tryptophan.  They knew it would take at least a year and a half to see real results, and while few would call the horrendous deaths of several graduate students a "success", by August of 1943, the US had on its hands 6 Turkey Goblins who they knew were capable of quick and merciless slaughter (especially of unsuspecting graduate assistants).

Deployed in the Pacific Theater in the fall of 1943 with the assistance of Private First Class Lee Marvin, the Turkey Goblins were an expeditionary force, sent to islands considered suicide missions for even the iron-tough US Marines.  Across a year and a half, small batches of Turkey Goblins were deployed, serving with distinction and, ultimately, giving up their lives.

Artist's interpretation of one of the Fighting 999th


A month after taking office President Truman learned of the bravery of the Turkey Goblins at Iwo Jima, with only one Turkey Goblin (or T.G. Joe, as they were affectionately known by the Pacific fleet) still alive, Truman is said to have called home this last gobbling soldier.  What is known is that Truman, himself, flew secretly out to West Virginia to an undisclosed location where the Turkey Goblin was said to be kept.  What words passed between Turkey and President, none can say.  Nor does any man know what became of that Turkey Goblin.

What we do know is that after this meeting, President Truman became particularly sentimental about Turkeys.  And so, it is supposed that between Truman's access to the secret knowledge of the history of the Turkey Goblins and how he had seen them deployed in the Pacific, that he could never bring himself to see another gobbler harmed.

In 1947, Truman pardoned the Turkey brought to the White House.  It is said that upon leaving the Oval Office, he has left special instructions to each successor to read, detailing why the pardoning of the Turkey must be done.  Some have pardoned the Turkey.  Some have not, but the pardoning of a symbolic Turkey each and every year holds special significance not just to the pact between Turkey and Man, but as a coded message from President to President. 

President Truman's affection for our feathered friends and his awareness of our uneasy alliance would haunt him well past the end of his term

The Signal Watch is not a politically bent site, but we would point out that the pact that seems to have been forged Man and Turkey Goblin by US Presidents may fall apart should Sarah "What Else is in the Shot?" Palin take the Oval Office.

The Turkeys have not forgotten the former Governor's 2008 post-pardon interview and the slaughter of their young that occurred while Palin stood by, remorseless, as the television cameras rolled.  One shudders to think of what might occur should Palin ascend to the White House and the Turkey Goblins, quiet and dormant living just beyond our line of site for so long, take her election as a sign of aggression.


*Seriously, it's a pretty good story.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Completely True Origin of the Thanksgiving Holiday

"So," I said to Jamie, "Thanksgiving is coming.  Are you ready for your visit from the Turkey Goblin?"
"Turkey Goblin?"
"Yeah.  The Turkey Goblin."
"What is the Turkey Goblin?"
I, of course, was shocked.  But it occured to me that not everyone knows about the Turkey Goblin or the completely true story of the secret origin of Thanksgiving.  Luckily for you, I've got a history degree from a state university, and this is exactly the sort of thing we learn in class.

While it is true that in olden times when people drowned old crones to see if they were witches, some fairly misguided Englishmen fled the UK in a leaky boat and landed at Plymouth Rock where they would commence being all judgey and breaking bread with the locals... that's at best tangential to the true story of the Turkey Goblin.  But as an historical sidenote, the facts as they pertain to today's Thanksgiving that are true include:
  • Around Plymouth rock, with a solid blunderbuss and decent aim, one could find and shoot a turkey
  • A sort of "oh, we're not all dead of the pox yet.  Thanks, God!" dinner was held, and some locals came by once they heard a potluck was going down
  • Pilgrim women were invariably super sexy, right down to their buckled little shoes
  • Abigail saw Goody Proctor with the devil
This was, of course, all before SCIENCE.

As you know, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin made up Western Science, with Jefferson working on Boring Science, while Franklin worked to perfect Awesome (aka: Mad) Science, including his famous attempts to destroy Philadelphia with lightning, a key and a length of twine.

The key figure in our story is, of course, Abraham Lincoln, who in October of 1863 (more than 100 years after Science was invented) declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday.  And while we can all agree that Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation was heartfelt, honest and one of the great works of American historical-type writing whatzit, it's also an elaborate cover story and smokescreen cooked up by a President who knew his people should never, ever know the truth. 

Lincoln is here to tell you:  It is hard out there for a pimp

By Spring of 1863, the war between the States had raged for two long years, pitting citizen against citizen, brother against brother. Things seemed to be going poorly for the North, who could not believe they were losing an honest-to-god War to the fiddle-dee-dee-spewing, slack jawed racist yokels of the South.  In early May, after the second Battle of Fredricksburg, intelligence fell into the hands of the Union forces.  The reports were stupefying and near unbelievable, but there seemed to be a grain of truth as they pulled together clues that otherwise made no sense.

What had become of SCIENCE in the Confederate states?  What had the devious Jefferson Davis chartered them to do?  And what did the reports of whole regiments wiped out by beasts truly mean?

The answer was, of course, completely shocking.

At the outset of the war, Jefferson Davis had set about collecting the finest Scientists of the South (those not schooled exclusively in the Southern Sciences of moonshining, deep-frying and inventing NASCAR), and began a top secret project.  By the Fall of 1862, the project had proven a small success and that winter, Union Troops trembled on the field of battle before the might of 7-foot, Confederate Turkey Goblins.

Receiving dispatches at his Top Secret Underground Command Center, Lincoln considered each bit of evidence anew, and the report was grim.  Indeed, it seemed the nefarious SCIENCE minds of the south had gone ROGUE SCIENTIST, and the turkeys of the South had been mutated and weaponized.  From an egg, turkeys would grow at a normal rate for up to a year and a half, at which point...  they swelled to tremendous size and ferocity, and could follow simple commands, such as "go kill all those guys over there."  Lincoln's blood ran cold.  Pensively, he fiddled with the brim on his stove-pipe hat.  Northern researchers, who were from real colleges and not made up diploma mills like Mizzou and LSU, would still need time, and time was not what they had.  And the thought of fighting Giant Goblin Turkeys with Giant Goblin Turkeys...  the fallout was unthinkable, let alone what the nation would do with these beasts once the fighting was done.

But Davis' scientists had only succeeded so far in producing a small batch of Turkey Goblins.  They had not yet been announced to a wary Southern public, who, Davis believed, would likely wish to fry them or ask for both a giant duck and a giant chicken to shove within his prized new force and cook them up.

Lincoln picked up the red phone (he also had secretly already invented the telephone) and called together an elite squad, which he himself would lead into the South.  The names are now mostly meaningless to Americans:  Samuel Clemens, Frederick "The Fist" Douglass, Undead Davey Crockett, and "Tiny" Thomas Edison - Boy Inventor.

Frederick "The Fist" Douglass was a master of hand-to-hand combat and invented the 8-Track Cassette
What is known is that the team dropped in by line from their air-balloon insertion vehicle, and were able to dispatch the existing Turkey Goblins with a thrice-blessed silver blunderbuss and shot made from silver, iron, argon and forged in the flames of a sacrificial fire and cooled in holy water.  However, to their horror, the squad learned that part of Davis' mad scheme was to release a version of the virus that created the Turkey Goblins into the water supply,coding that virus with a message to kill "Americans", believing that the Confederacy would certainly succeed, and, in his maddened state, that only those in the North could possibly ever be affected.  Insisting that he would stop Davis' mad scheme, Lincoln learned that this plan was something Davis had actually put into motion days before.

After kicking Davis' ass and escaping, Lincoln and his team weighed their options.  Turkeys were plentiful, and lived all over the US.  The team had learned that the only sign that a turkey had the potential to mutate to a Turkey Goblin was that it would carry an odd chemical in its blood, something harmless to humans and the turkey, called tryptophan.

Master of all manner of vehicles, languages and seduction techniques, Clemens seems to have disappeared behind a pseudonym following the Turkey Goblin mission, never to be heard from again.


And that's when the young but clever former steam boat worker, Clemens, had an idea:  if we can't kill all the turkeys, let's, once a year, ensure a culling of the population before it grows and mutates.  Once a year, let's ensure a mass extermination of the birds while people can still eat them.

Lincoln looked at the blood-spattered blunderbuss in his hands, his own reflection glinting in the silver:  "The pilgrims, psychotic zealots that they were, may have given us an out on this one.  Men, we're going to give Thanks.  And we're going to do it each and every year, whether our brethren wish it or no...  We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, and in no way for a horrific new breed of murderous seven foot turkey goblins, shall not perish from the earth."

Douglass designed the messaging, Clemens helped run the PR campaign,  "Tiny" Edison invented a special pair of forks for turning turkeys over in a pan, and Undead Davey Crockett returned to his subterranean tomb where he lay, waiting to be called once again into service in the name of freedom.

On October 3, 1863, Lincoln brought the reign of terror to an end as later that November, the population of turkeys was culled before it could rise up and destroy us.

That's not to say that every once in a while a turkey doesn't make it through and grow and change.  And sometimes the Turkey Goblin comes for you in the night, its horrible "gobble gobble gobble" the last thing some men hear.

And that is the completely true story of why we have Thanksgiving.

Beware his terrifying gobble
 But, honestly, I have no idea why Canada has Thanksgiving, too.  Those dudes are totally in the clear.