The late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were the height of the Tokagawa Shogunate in Japan, and were characterized by self-sufficiency, foreign isolationism, and strict social order. It is personified by the samurai, the warrior caste of the land. In 1701, one of the 300 daimyo (samurai lords) of Japan, Asano Naganori, was grievously insulted by a minor bureaucrat of the shogunate, Kira Yoskinaka, and in his rage, attacked him (Kira called him an ill-mannered country boor for not bribing him enough). Kira survived and, backed up by the power of the shogun, ordered him to commit hari kari or ritual suicide. Asano, as a matter of honor, did so on 6 February, 1701.
As a result, his lands and retainers immediately became forfeit. His samurai became ronin, literally “wave riders” or masterless, and they were expected to die trying to avenge their master. Many tried and were slain, but 46 banded together with one of Asano’s junior councilors, Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshio.
Oishe was determined to kill Kira despite what was expected of former samurai to a disgraced master, i.e. to die immediately. Kira was heavily guarded, expected an attack, and Oishe knew their death would serve no purpose. He became a drunk, and over the next year many others took inconspicuous jobs as servants, merchants, or artisans. The Forty Seven were despised by society for lacking the honor to die trying to avenge their master.
But Oishe convinced the others to bide their time: it was all part of the plan to lure Kira into complacence. In the course of their new employments, the 47 Ronin infiltrated Kira’s household: they delivered his food, cleaned his stables, and one even married the daughter of his butler. One evening in December of 1701, Oishe and the Forty Seven Ronin attacked Kira’s compound and slaughtered his retainers, sparing only the women and children. They initially could not find Kira, who was hiding in a closet, but eventually he was recognized by the scar left by Asano. Kira, in a great disgrace, refused to commit hari kari, so Oishe beheaded him. The Forty Seven took his head to their master’s tomb and laid it reverently outside. They then awaited their fate.
The shogun could not tolerate the death of one of his officials, even one as minor as Kira, so he ordered the Forty Seven to commit suicide for their crime against his rule.
Without hesitation they committed hari kari, and all were buried outside of their lord Asano’s tomb.
Today, they are emblematic in Japanese culture of dedication, loyalty, sacrifice, and honor.
Every generation has a “Where were you when…” moment. Until 9/11, that moment for Generation X was 28 January 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded a minute or so after take off, killing the entire crew, including the first “Teacher in Space” Christa McAuliffe.
For a brief moment in time, space travel was open to normal people and the childhood dream of living in space in the 21st Century was a step closer to reality.
That dream came crashing down at 11:39am 28 January 1986 while sitting in my grandparent’s living room watching the launch on TV.
In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnitskiy’s Zaporozhian Cossacks revolted against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and with their Crimean Tartar allies began the end of the Commonwealth’s “Golden Age”. In 1652, the Cossacks and Tartars defeated the Crown Army at the Battle Batih, and Khmelnitskiy ransomed the Polish and Ruthenian prisoners from the Tartars and massacred them, eliminating the Commonwealth’s most experienced soldiers. With the cream of the Commonwealth’s army dead at Batih, Russia invaded the Commonwealth in 1654. With the Commonwealth fighting for survival in the east against the Tartars, Cossacks, and Russians, Sweden invaded from Pomerania to the northwest. Swedish King Charles X Gustav planned to break up the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, reduce the Duchy of Lithuania to a Swedish protectorate, and make good his claim to the Polish crown.
The Swedes brought fire and sword to parts of Poland and Lithuanian that had not known war for 200 years. The victorious Swedes slaughtered, raped and plundered Poland’s most populous and prosperous provinces. They ravaged Royal Prussia, Sieradz, Poznan, Mazovia, and Greater and Lesser Poland whom all quickly fell to the advancing Swedes. The capital of Warsaw was taken and sacked in September 1655, the ancient capital of Krakow in October, and King Jan II Casimir fled to Silesia in November. Lithuania dissolved the Union. The Swedish and tide swept over the Commonwealth, and this period of Polish history is known as “The Deluge”.
On 8 November 1655, a small Swedish army, of about 4000 mostly German mercenaries and Polish Protestants under Swedish General Burchard Müller von der Lühne, approached the town of Czçestochowa, a prosperous merchant town on the border of Lesser and Greater Poland. But Czçestochowa’s riches weren’t just temporal; they were also spiritual. On a hill overlooking the town, the Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra, “the Hill of Light”, housed Catholic Poland’s most sacred relic: The Black Madonna of Częstochowa. Legend has it that The Black Madonna was originally painted by St. Luke the Evangelist on the Holy Family’s cedar table top. The sacred icon was eventually presented to Constantine the Great in 326, and made its way from Constantinople through Hungary and Ukraine and eventually to Poland in the 14th century. With the widespread destruction of Catholic churches, icons, and relics during the Thirty Years’ War still fresh in the minds of the monks, they decided to defend the monastery against the Swedes.
A turncoat Polish noble, Count Jan Wejchard of Wrzeszczewicz, demanded that the monks turn the monastery over to him for “protection”, then after refusal tried to intimidate them with Müller’s approaching army. Father Augustyn Kordecki, the Prior of Jasna Góra responded, “It is better to die worthily, than to live impiously.” The monks also promised to denounce him and sanction any uprisings in his lands. The Count of Wrzeszczewicz’s men ravaged the monastery’s possessions outside the walls, and the Count hastened to the Swedes with encouragment to attack immediately. However, Müller was a professional and a veteran of the Thirty Years War, and standing at the foot of the hill looking up toward Jasna Góra, he respected its numerous artillery, thick bastions, and strong position.
In 1616, the reforms of King Sigismund III Vasa included the construction of walls and bastions to protect Polish Catholicism’s most holy site. Sigismund’s defensive improvements turned the monastery into a fortress, and were validated by the harsh lessons of the Thirty Years War. It 1655, the monastery was well stocked with cannon and powder, and Kordecki purchased 60 muskets to arm the 70 monks prepared to defend the monastery against the Swedes. Kordeki also hired 160 mercenaries and they were joined by 20 szlachta, or petty gentry, led by Piotr Czarniecki and Stephan Zamoyski, and 60 other local townspeople and peasants, who sought refuge in the monastery. Just before the siege, 12 cannon with crews, provisions and cattle, arrived from Krakow, sent by Stanislaw Warszycki, the First Lord of Wawel Castle. The monastery’s defenders were still woefully outnumbered by the approaching Swedish army, but Kordeki’s stronghold was well supplied and more importantly had a considerable advantage in artillery, both in quantity and quality. The monks’ cannon were simply larger, heavier, and more numerous. In an attempt to avoid the otherwise inevitable bloody and tough assault, Müller demanded the monks’ surrender in a letter to the Prior. Father Kordeki wrote later, “It was no longer the hour to write, but to take up arms… We answered by the muzzles of our cannons…”
The first Swedish assault on 18 November 1655 was savagely repulsed by the monks and the defenders of Jasna Góra, so much so that night Müller asked for a truce. The next day the Swedes hid their cannon in the town in preparation for another assault. The monks bombarded the town with incendiaries to destroy the town’s winter stores of grain so they couldn’t be used by the Swedes, and remove any cover for the Swedish artillery. The fires in the town forced the Swedes into the streets and fields where they were again easy targets for the Polish gunners. Müller again attempted to negotiate with Kordeki, this time pointing out that the entire country had surrendered to the Swedes, no Polish army was coming to relive the monastery, and his victory was inevitable. Kordeki refused. The Swedes settled in for a siege and began digging trenches at night. With preparations complete, on Sunday, 21 November, the Feast of Our Lady, Müller again presented demands. After making Müller wait all day while the monks celebrated mass and processed the Blessed Sacrament inside the walls, Kordeki answered with a simple negative.
The infuriated Swedes launched a three day assault on the monastery. There was hard fighting but the decision was never in doubt. Swedish attempts to burn down the monastery with incendiaries were met with organized firefighting efforts by the monks. Also, singing by the monks in the sanctuary during the assaults both demoralized and enraged the Swedes. On the night of 28 November, Piotr Czarniecki, the commandant of Krakow led a surprise sortie against the battered Swedish lines. Czarniecki and his men snuck out of the monastery, made their way through the Swedish trenches, and attacked the Swedish camp from the rear. They killed many officers in their tents, including Müller’s artillery commander, and destroyed two cannon, though at least one account says they were captured and brought back to the monastery. The confusion and fires in the Swedish lines caused by the sortie provided further targets and more Swedes fell to Jasna Gora’s gunners. For the loss of one man, Czarniecki inflicted dozens of Swedish casualties. Czarniecki’s sortie and the failure of the latest assault convinced Müller that he needed reinforcements and especially heavier cannon to take the fortress, which he requested from Arvid Wittenberg, the commander of the Swedish army that just seized Krakow.
While Müller waited, he continued his information war against the monks. He knew Kordeki read every proposal for their surrender to the entirety of garrison. Müller repeatedly stated that he’d respect the Catholic relics, allow the garrison amnesty, and, to provide a stick for the carrots, warned the garrison that further resistance only encouraged revenge against them and their families. Kordeki’s transparency initially worked against the Swedes. The Swedish actions in the previous year were well known, and the Poles had no reason to believe Swedish attitudes regarding Catholicism and the Commonwealth had changed. Nonetheless, the Swedish propaganda began to wear on the garrison, especially when it was delivered by respected Polish figures, such as the Prior of Wielun or Polish nobles who had previously fought the Swedes.
In the beginning of December, word was given to Kordeki that several of the garrison planned to defect. Kordeki immediately addressed the garrison and expelled the traitors. To prevent another such crisis in faith, the mercenaries were given an advance on their pay, and the defense reorganized. Older and more trustworthy monks were given charges to look after and dual command of each bastion was given to a noble and a monk. During this time, Müller threatened the lives of two monks who were hostages, unless the monastery capitulated. Unfortunately for the captured monks, the Swedes attempted to reposition their cannon and informed the garrison that if they interfered, the captives would be hung. Unwilling to risk the sanctity of the garrison for the monks lives, Kordeki ordered his guns to fire. Alternating bouts of fighting and negotiating continued, but Kordeki and Jasna Góra’s defenders were mostly resolute, if at times wavering in the face of overwhelming Swedish force.
On 10 December, Müller’s reinforcements arrived, including two 24 pound cannon, which inflicted significant damage on the northern bastion. But before they could create a breach, another sortie on 14 December, this one led by Stephan Zamoyski, destroyed a redoubt and one of the 24 pounders. Zamoyski sortied again on the 20th, collapsing a mine the Swedes were digging and killing the miners, destroying two more cannon, and massacring isolated Swedish detachments in the trenches. During the raid a cannonball devastated a tent where several Swedish officers were dining, killing all of the revelers. The Swedes suspended operations for two days to recover from the chaos caused by Zamoyski. Buoyed by the success, recent news of Polish victories, and the rumor of a Tartar army coming to the aid of the Commonwealth against their mutual enemies, all talk of capitulation among the garrison ended.
After the rejection of Christmas truce, Müller launched his largest, and final, assault on the monastery Christmas Day. During this climactic battle, both Swedish and turncoat Polish sources reference divine intervention: a “lady of a menacing countenance”, whom the Swedes referred to as a “witch”, who roamed the walls and used both blinding light and uneven fogs to sow terror and misdirect the aims of Swedish gunners. Swedes also spoke of a “venerable old man” clad in a “white mantle” who “swiped from the air” Swedish projectiles, and whose sword fell dead any Swedish soldier it pointed upon. Whether divine intervention or not saved Jasna Góra is a matter of faith, but both sides certainly believed at the time that the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul interceded on the Poles’ behalf. What cannot be disputed is that the final attack, and the siege, came to an effective end when the remaining 24 pound cannon malfunctioned and exploded. The explosion was most likely caused by a reused cannonball, which had previously hit the walls and rolled back down the hill. Reusing cannonballs was a common practice, and this one was probably cracked, and when it was re-fired, the crack in the projectile expanded and destroyed the barrel.
Unable to take the monastery by force, Müller attempted one last chance to save face: he offered to lift the siege for 60,000 thalers. Kordeki replied that he would have accepted the offer in November, but in December he needed the money to repair the damage done to the monastery by the Swedish guns. Müller lifted the Siege of Jasna Góra on 27 December, after he learned of nearby Polish victories by Colonel Gabriel Wojniłłowicz, which rendered his position untenable.
The monastery at Jasna Góra was the only significant fortress in the Commonwealth not to fall to the invaders during the Deluge. Its successful defense galvanized Commonwealth resistance against the Swedes, Cossacks, Russians, and traitorous Poles and Lithuanians. Father Kordeki and his defenders saved the heart of Polish Catholicism, although its most sacred icon, The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, was spirited away and hidden in a nearby monastery prior to the enemy’s arrival, with a copy remaining during the siege. The icon was quietly returned after the victory. The new Commonwealth resistance was not entirely due to the victory. The tide of the war began to change in December 1655 with the King’s and Wojniłłowicz’ victories, the death of Lithuanian traitor Janusz Radziwiłł, the arrival of Tartar host, and the beginning of a New Russo-Swedish war in Livonia. Nonetheless, across the Commonwealth, Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians, and Belorussians rose up to fight the invaders, inspired by the victory. The Count of Wrzeszczewicz was seized and beaten to death by “peasants armed with rods”. Most significantly, the victory at Jasna Góra gave impetus to the establishment of the Tyszowce Confederation on 29 December and consolidation of various uprisings into new armies under the remaining Grand Hetmans. On Sunday, 1 April 1656, King Jan II Casimir gave the Lwów Oath at Easter Mass, proclaiming the Blessed Virgin Mary perpetual Queen of Poland, and announced “Poland, if thou fightest for Mary, thou shalt be terrible to the followers of Hell.”
By 1658, Swedish forces were thrown out Poland, and would not return until the Great Northern War forty years later. King Charles X Gustav of Sweden died of pneumonia in 1660.
This is my reading list; there are many like it, but this one is not in Comic Sans. These used to be the books that were on my office bookshelf when I had an office, or the top shelves on my home office bookshelf when I don’t. I’ve expanded the list, but they’ll all still fit on a single standard bookshelf. I actually own and have read my recommended reading list. It doesn’t change based on the Flavor of the Month flag officer’s reading list, though it will change obviously if I read something worthy of it. For example, my Top Five had two new additions in the previous eighteen months when I first created this list.
Many will scoff at some of the titles (The “eye rolls” will be strong with some of you, but that’s ok because you’re smarter than me), but these books are the most important and useful professional development, history, or common interest books that I’ve read. I highly recommend every one of them. You’ll notice that they’re books for all ages because letting someone borrow one is the quickest way to get them to read it. And some of these books are on their fourth and fifth copies because I never ask for them back as long the borrower reads them (It’s a small price to pay).
If I should die tomorrow, I expect these books on a shelf next to the bar at my wake.
Bukowski’s Top Five
Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, Field-Marshal Viscount William Slim – Required reading for every military officer. The chapters on training and lessons learned are solid gold.
Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance, James L Ritchie-Dunham – If you are in the military, don’t let the description dissuade you, Mr. Ritchie-Dunham NAILED Mission Command. “Elegant” is the only word that is appropriate. If you deal in Mission Command and you haven’t read it, the conversation has moved beyond you.
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, Victor Davis Hanson – “The Warrior” vs “The Soldier” laid out like TA-50.
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour, James D. Hornfischer – “This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” LCDR Robert W. Copeland USNR, Capt. of the USS Samuel B Roberts “The Destroyer That Fought Like a Battleship” 25 October 1944.
Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, Patricia Crisafulli – Required reading for Humanity. There really is hope.
Mission Command: the Who, What Where When and Why, An Anthology Vols I & II, Donald Vandergriff and Stephen Weber
Taking the Guidon: Exceptional Leadership at the Company Level, Nate Allen and Tony Burgess
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, Elliot A Cohen
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Robert Corham
The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error In Complex Situations, Dietrich Dorner
The Top Ten Leadership Commandments, Hans Finzel
The Systems Bible: The Beginner’s Guide to Systems Large and Small, John Gall
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
How To Say It Best, Jack Griffin
Acts of War: Behavior of Men in Battle, Richard Holmes
Maneuver Warfare, an Anthology, Richard D Hooker
System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life, Robert Jervis
The Logic of Violence in Civil War, Stathis N. Kalyvas
Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, Maureen Metcalf
Neostoicism and the Early Modern State, Gerhard Oestreich
Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Frans PB Osinga
The Cognitive Challenge of War: Prussia 1806, Peter Paret
Wavell in the Middle East, 1939–1941: A Study in Generalship, Harold E. Raugh Jr.
An Introduction to Military Ethics: A Reference Handbook, Bill Rhodes
Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance, James L Ritchie-Dunham
The Global Public Relations Handbook, Revised and Expanded Edition: Theory, Research, and Practice, Krishnamurthy Sriramesh and Dejan Vercic
The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness, Jonas Salzgeber
The Greenhill Dictionary Of Military Quotations, Peter G. Tsouras
Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty, Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe
The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805, Charles Edward White
Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, Saul Alinsky
Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You, Deborah J. Bennett
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini
Influence: Science and Practice, Robert B. Cialdini
Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer
Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond, Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman
What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People, Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson
Counter-Democracy: Politics in the Age of Distrust, Pierre Rosanvallon
From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation, Gene Sharp
General Military History/Theory
Composite Warfare, Eeben Barlow
The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, Max Boot
The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815, Tim Blanning
On War, Carl von Clausewitz
Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, David Galula
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power, Victor Davis Hanson
Hybrid Warfare: Fighting Complex Opponents from the Ancient World to the Present, William Murray and Peter Mansoor
Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, Peter Paret
Clausewitz and the State: The Man, His Theories, and His Times, Peter Paret
One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies: Battle And Tactics Of Chinese Warfare, Ralph D. Sawyer
Definitive Military History
The Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson
Crete: the Battle and the Resistance, Anthony Beevor
La Grande Army, Georges Blonde
Monte Cassino: Ten Armies in Hell, Peter Caddick-Adams
The Triumph, HW Crocker III
White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920 and The Miracle on the Vistula, Norman Davies
Never Come to Peace Again: Pontiac’s Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America, David Dixon
Closing With the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945, Michael D. Doubler
When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House
An Improvised War: The Abyssinia Campaign 1940-1941, Michael Glover
El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, Ioan Grillo
A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, Victor Davis Hanson
In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
The Story of the U.S. Cavalry, 1775-1942, John K Herr
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour, James D. Hornfischer
Neptune’s Inferno,The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal, James D. Hornfischer
The Peloponnesian War, Robert Kagan
The Armada, Gareth Mattingly
Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, Field-Marshal Viscount William Slim
The Pacific War Trilogy, Ian Toll
The Fatal Knot: The Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain, John Lawrence Tone
The Big Red One: America’s Legendary 1st Infantry Division, James Scott Wheeler
Hue, 1968, Mark Bowden
Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, Bernard Fall
Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, HR McMaster
Dispatches, Michael Herr
Summons of Trumpet, Dave Palmer
Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, John A. Nagl and Peter J. Schoomaker
A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam, Lewis Sorley
The Village, Bing West
Sword and the Scimitar, Raymond Ibrahim
The Quranic Concept of War, Brig S. K. Malik
The Arab Mind, Raphael Patai
Milestones, Sayed Qutb
The Unraveling, Emma Sky
Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, David Zucchino
Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, Sean Naylor
Passing It On: Fighting the Pashtun on Afghanistan’s Frontier, Sir Andrew Skeen
Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban, Stephen Tanner
The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, Jake Tapper
Hints on Irregular Cavalry: Its Conformation, Management and Use in Both a Military and Political Point of View (1845), Charles Farquhar Trower
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Mark Bowden
Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World, Patricia Crisafulli
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Roméo Dallaire
States and Power in Africa, Jeffery Herbst
The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence, Martin Meredith
The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912, Thomas Pakenham
The Colonial Frontier
Telling the Truth About History, Appleby, Hunt, and Jacob
Modern Historiography: An Introduction, Michael Bentley
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn
The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa, Michael L. Burgoyne
Team Yankee: A Novel of World War III, Harold Coyle
The Third World War/The Third World War: The Untold Story, Sir John Hackett
Three Cups of Bullshit, Greg Mortensen
First Clash: Combat Close-Up In World War Three, Kenneth Macksey
Defense of Hill 781: An Allegory of Modern Mechanized Combat, James R. McDonough
Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, Steven Pressfield
The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, Ernest Dunlop Swinton
Battle Cry, Leon Uris
The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, H Porter Abbot
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition.
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, R.W. Burchfield
Essaying the Past: How to Read, Write, and Think about History, Jim Cullen
It was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande
The Best Punctuation Book, Period., June Casagrande
The Law of Self Defense 3rd Edition, Andrew Branca
You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense, Charles Bukowski
Back to Basics, Abighail R. Gehring
The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central Eastern Europe, Vaclav Havel
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger
Do the Work!, Steven Pressfield
Rugby: The Player’s Handbook, M. B. Roberts and Ronald C. Modra
Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes
The Three Musketeers Trilogy, Alexandre Dumas
Conan/Soloman Kaine Collection, Robert E. Howard
Eye of the World/The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
The Annotated Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
Rock and Roll, An Unruly History, Robert Palmer
The Trilogy/The Teutonic Knights, Henryk Sienkiewicz
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
The Raiding Forces series, Phil Ward
The Sword of Honour Trilogy, Eveyln Waugh
On 9 October 1600, a play by William Shakespeare, “a mydsommer nightes Dreame’”, was registered with the Stationers’ Company at Thomas Fisher’s Bookshop on Fleet Street in London. The first draft was typecast and printed from Shakespeare’s own handwritten copy and was published for Lord Chamberlin’s Men, an acting troupe of whom Shakespeare was a member. However, it would be another four years before A Midsummer Night’s Dream reached the stage of The Globe Theatre with Shakespeare himself playing Duke Theseus.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be”. – Puck.
“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about t’expound this dream.” – Nick Bottom
On 20 September, 2002, Joss Whedon’s iconic space-western Firefly premiered on TV. Firefly is the story of the eclectic crew of the outdated Firefly class space transport “Serenity” as they take jobs to survive and stay out of the path of the oppressive “Alliance” that rules the star system, all the while staying one step ahead of their pasts. Firefly is creator/writer/director Joss Whedon at his finest, and was the creative pinnacle of his career.
Though set five centuries in the future, Firefly deals with real issues with real people, and you could drop the cast and the writing in any modern time period, and it’d still be relatable. Firefly is Joss Whedon’s love letter to libertarianism. No matter how hard the Alliance or their proxies try to keep the crew down or impose their will by violence or coercion, Mal and his crew always find a way to do the right thing, even if the right thing isn’t exactly legal. The world building is top notch, and unequaled for a low budget TV show, except maybe for the original Star Trek.
Firefly has some of the best characterization and character arcs in the business. The ship Serenity is her own character. Mal, the Serenity’s supremely competent captain keeps the crew focused while always thinking of the big picture. His war buddy Zoe complements Mal in every way without being a cliché sidekick. Zoe’s husband Wash is the ship’s pilot and is essentially the stereotypical warrant officer. Cheery Kaylee is the stupid hot ship’s mechanic. The mercenary Jayne is the ship’s muscle and says what everybody is thinking, or at least what needs to be said. The crew is rounded out by one-time passengers: the preacher Shepherd Book, the high society companion Inara, and the stuck up doctor, Simon, and his brilliant and powerful but insane little sister, River.
Unfortunately, Firefly only lasted one season because Fox aired the episodes out of order, and switched time slots three times. Viewers tuned out not knowing the context of the exceptionally deep episodes, or even when the show was being aired. Fan demand brought the crew back together for the full length movie Serenity, which tied up many of the plot lines. However, if you watch the Firefly episodes in order followed by Serenity, there are few better shows in television, and certainly no better Science Fiction shows.
On 4 September 1950, the comic strip Beetle Bailey debuted in the United States. Beetle Bailey was the longest running comic strip still scripted and drawn by the original artist, Mort Walker, who continued to draw until the day he died in 2016 at the age of 93.
Everyone’s favorite Joe didn’t start out in the Army though: he was originally a college student at the University of Missouri. But with the Korean War on the front pages in the summer of 1950 no one wanted to hear about college shenanigans, and only 12 papers picked up the strip. Beetle struggled through college until the spring of 1951 when he suddenly dropped out of school and joined the Army.
The new Beetle Bailey strip was an instant hit, and in weeks every major paper in the country was following the hijinks and tomfoolery of Sham Master Beetle, his friends, and his superiors on Camp Swampy. The strip revolved around the ineptness of those in positions of authority, but was at its best and funniest when it explored the ironic or unintentionally humorous relationships between its characters. The Beetle Bailey cast included Beetle’s squadmates Privates Rocky, Diller, Plato, and Zero; the bumbling but loveable SuperLifer Sarge, Sarge’s competent fixer dog sidekick, Otto, and Sarge’s girlfriend Louise; the enterprising but off-putting Cookie, the stereotypical second lieutenant LT Fuzz and stereotypical first lieutenant LT Flap, the commander General Halftrack and his wife Martha, and every Joe’s dreamgirl: the lovely Miss Buxley, among many others.
I think I’m just going to go behind the building now, put my hands behind my head, cross my legs, and go to sleep.
In the 1850s, the Industrial Revolution was moving forward steadily in the United States, but in Europe, which at the time was technologically about 30 years ahead, it was beginning to slow. The Industrial Revolution was tied to coal, and in 1850s Europe, coal was starting to reach the limits of its commercial viability. Mining coal was (and is) a labor intensive process, and the mines couldn’t keep up with the demand. A new and cheaper energy source was needed.
Everyone knew that energy source was oil, but there was no efficient method of extracting it. The only practical way of harvesting oil was whale fat, and tens of thousands of innocent whales were being slaughtered each year. However, while whale oil was good for lamps, it was not economically viable for industrialization. In 1850, there were only a few places on the planet where oil was known to exist in the ground.
One of those places was Baby Jesus’ Chosen Land and America’s Keystone State: The Grand Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the picturesque glens, moraines, and dales of glacier formed Central and Western PA, there had always existed “oil seeps”. For hundreds of years, its former Amerindian inhabitants, the Iroquois and their subject peoples after them, and the hardy Scots-Irish and German immigrants who followed them, knew of this phenomenon. But, they avoided those areas because the hunting or farming was horrible, and not practical.
Enter entrepreneur Colonel Edwin Drake, and his blacksmith assistant, Billy Smith. They formed the Seneca Oil Company in 1858, and were determined to prove that “rock oil” was profitably extractable. With an old steam engine and a drill used for salt mining, they moved to Pennsylvania in search of commercially viable amounts of Mother Nature’s Sweet Sweet Nectar of Civilization. On 27 August, 1859, just outside the town of Titusville, in beautiful and bountiful Pennsylvania, Drake and Smith struck oil. Their discovery (g)ushered (Ha!) in the world’s first oil boom.
Pennsylvania’s Oil Boom first fueled the continuation of Europe’s Industrial Revolution, and within a few years it pushed America’s own Industrial Revolution into high gear. It supercharged the growth and expansion of the railroad industry, which massively expanded, replacing turnpikes and canals, and connected the West with antebellum East. The boom turned Pittsburgh from the center of America’s glass making industry to America’s Beating Industrial Heart.
One can easily argue that late Modern America started 161 years ago today. Thank you Pennsylvania, in particular your sons Messrs. Drake and Smith, for being a net exporter of energy, and laying the economic foundations necessary to free the slaves, defeat the Confederates, save the whales, advance Western Civilization and human rights, defeat the Nazis and Communists, raise countless billions out of poverty, and like a cherry on top, enjoy Sunday Steelers’ Football.
In the late 50s, vicious mob boss Johnny Stompanato owned L.A., and by extension, Hollywood. The stage crew, writers, and actors’ unions were all under his “protection”. He also owned the studios. He made sure the workers showed up on time and didn’t strike, and the studios “loaned” him money, which of course he never had to repay. The Greater Los Angeles’ Metropolitan Area was Stompanato’s personal fiefdom.
Actress Lana Turner was trying to resurrect her career and turned to a relationship with Stompanato, but it was far from ideal. In March 1957, Turner was filming “Another Time, Another Place” with unknown 27 year old British actor, former Mr. Universe contestant, Royal Navy vet, Scottish patriot, and male sexbot template, Sean Connery (OK, I made the last one up. It’s just not true…yet).
Stompanato, being the jealous type, wasn’t happy that Connery was poking Lana Turner (because of course he was), so one day he decided to intimidate him. Stompanato showed up on set waving a revolver around and started yelling at Connery. Connery, unimpressed, disarmed his adversary, pistol whipped Stompanato with his own gun, and beat him to a bloody pulp right there on the set.
Sean Connery just gave a beating to the most powerful and ruthless man on the West Coast. There could be only one result: Sean Connery had to die.
On 4 April 1958, Stomapanato vowed to sneak into Connery’s hotel and murder him, as he had done to others a dozen times before. He was just waiting for dark. But that evening, Lana Turner came home from filming, and Stompanato proceeded to beat her, as he was wont to do. The beating was so vicious, that Turner’s 12 year old daughter, Cheryl, ran into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and stabbed Stompanato… 12 times, killing him.
Another Time, Another Place released in June and featured credits with “Introducing Sean Connery” as opposed to “Dedicated to…”
Almost exactly three years later, archetypical English gentleman and actor David Niven, by far the favorite, lost the spot for the new role of James Bond to his only real competition: a still nearly unknown Sean Connery.
Duke Kahanamoku was born on 24 August 1890 in Honolulu in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Duke Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimming champion, Hollywood actor, lifelong friend and confidant of John Wayne (the “Other Duke”), and the Father of Surfing. Duke Kahanamoku won the gold 1912 Olympics for the 100m freestyle and a silver in the relay, two gold medals in the 1920 Olympics, and a silver in the 1924 Olympics at the age of 31. “The Big Kahuna” is best known for popularizing the Hawaiian traditional wooden “long board” or heavy board, and his amazing rescue of the crew and passengers of a sinking yacht off of Corona Del Mar in 1925.