Lon Chaney’s Cabin

High in the Sierras, the cabin of actor Lon Chaney, Sr., “the man of a thousand faces.”

Both of Chaney’s parents were deaf, and as a child of deaf adults Chaney became skilled in pantomime.

From this LA Times article:

“Tonight I start out for the High Sierra. No shaving, no makeup, no interviews for four long, lazy weeks. We take a stove along and the wife cooks the fish I catch. We sleep under the pines and I try to climb high enough to reach the snows. Camping’s the biggest kick in life for me,” Chaney told a writer in 1928.


The Forest Service considered destroying the cabin to comply with the 1964 Wilderness Act, which calls for the restoration of natural conditions in wilderness areas. But the agency changed its mind when it became clear that the amount of dynamite required to demolish the massive stone structure would cause major damage to the surrounding trees.


Good one from The Atlantic’s tribute to Neil Armstrong

“Astronaut John Young, Frank Borman and Neil Armstrong with Deke Slayton, during astronaut desert survival training near Reno, Nevada, in 1964.”

Logging Bunkhouse Interior, ca. 1895

from the University of Washington’s “Industries and Occupations” photograph collection.

View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow – Thomas Cole, 1836

go over to the Met and see it big.

Cole learned the rudiments of his profession from a wandering portrait painter named Stein

The fourth-highest peak in the Catskills is named after Thomas Cole:

From my cuz.


what a ruling champion of life.

I saw my own future!

(I should be so lucky.  E. B. White, via Letters of Note)

John le Carré


It has been said the book [Tailor of Panama] mirrors what you feel about England at the moment.


While abroad, I don’t want to talk gloomily about my country. I’ve become interested recently not in the macro-interpretation of my country, but the micro-interpretation. I live in a tiny, desolate part of England, where the real effects of what I see as terrible misgovernment—central misgovernment—can be felt in detail upon agriculture, fishing, communication, and transport, all of those things. My definition of a decent society is one that first of all takes care of its losers, and protects its weak. What I see in my country, progressively over these years, is that the rich have got richer, the poor have got poorer. The rich have become indifferent through a philosophy of greed, and the poorer have become hopeless because they’re not properly cared for. That’s actually something that is happening in many Western societies. Your own, I am told, is not free from it.

(Paris Review again, picture I found here credited to Jonathan Player of Rex Features)

Vincent Thomas Bridge

On October 26, 1990, 1964 Olympic diving bronze medalist Larry Andreasen was killed jumping from the west tower of the bridge in an attempt to set a diving record.

Wandering vs. staying put



I had an idea of myself as someone free and unencumbered, and virtuous for being so. Of course, one cannot live like this— I can’t, anyway. And in fact, I find that all the best things in my life have come about precisely through the things that hold me in place: family, work, routine, everything that contradicts my old idea of the good life. For years I lived mostly out of a backpack, traveling light and living cheap, often bestowing my mendicant presence on my brother, Geoffrey, and his wife, Priscilla, on my patient friends. But, you know, it seems as time goes on that the deepest good for me as man and writer is to be found in ordinary life. It’s the gravity of daily obligations and habit, the connections you have to your friends and your work, your family, your place— even the compromises that are required of you to get through this life. The compromises don’t diminish us, they humanize us—it’s the people who won’t, or who think they don’t, who end up monsters in this world. I’m not talking about dishonesty, I’m talking about having some give, sometimes letting go of things that you aren’t inclined to let go of, that you may even have attached the name of principle to, to justify your fear of bending.

(Tobias in the Paris Review, picture from the collection of the blogger)

Automatic Dumper, Jack Delano, 1943

from Library of Congress

Selling the Aga Cooker

Here’s Swedish inventor Gustaf Dalen:

Gustaf Dalen lost his sight in an explosion while developing his earlier invention, a porous substrate for storing gases, Agamassan. Forced to stay at home, Dalen discovered that his wife was exhausted by cooking. Although blind, he set out to develop a new stove that was capable of a range of culinary techniques and easy to use.

His invention was the AGA cooker:

In the 1920s these were sold, door to door, in the UK.  And the greatest AGA cooker salesman of all was David Ogilvy:

His success at this marked him out to his employer, who asked him to write an instruction manual, The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA cooker, for the other salesmen. Thirty years later, Fortune magazine editors called it the finest sales instruction manual ever written.

I went looking for this manual, and found it at Patrick Lannigan’s blog.  I make sure to link because Patrick Lannigan reports that “I’d have to say my number one obsession is playing with Google rankings.”  I wish him well.

Anyway, Ogilvy has some good writing and interesting advice:

Salesmen are only too often unpopular people in Aga-worthy houses.. Show straight away that you are not of the so-called canvasser variety. Never bully, get into an argument, show resentment, or lose your temper. Do not talk about “your husband” – “Mr. Smith” is less impertinent.

Never talk down or show superior knowledge. Never appeal to a prospect’s pity because the more prosperous you appear the more she is likely to be impressed with you and to believe in you and your Aga.

The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore. Foster any attempt to talk about other things; the longer you stay the better you get to know the prospect, and the more you will be trusted. Pretend to be vastly interested in any subject the prospect shows an interest in. The more she talks the better, and if you can make her laugh you are several points up. If she argues a lot, do not give the impression of knowing all the answers by heart and always being one up on her. She will think you are too smart by half, and mistrust your integrity. Find out as soon as possible in the conversation how much she already knows about Aga; it will give you the correct angle of approach. Perhaps the most important thing of all is to avoid standardisation in your sales talk. If you find yourself on fine day saying the same things to a bishop and a trapezist, you are done for.

When the prospect tries to bring the interview to a close, go gracefully. It can only hurt to be kicked out. Learn to recognise a really valid reason for the prospect being unable to order (there are mighty few such reasons). With these reservations you cannot be too tenacious or too persevering. The good salesman combines the tenacity of a bull dog with the manners of a spaniel. If you have any charm, ooze it.

The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake the quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship.

Later, in the “Attack” section:

Learn to recognise vegetarians on sight. It is painful indeed to gush over roasting and grilling to a drooping face which has not enjoyed the pleasures of a beefsteak for years.

From the section “Wise-cracking”:

The longer you talk to a prospect, the better, and you will not do this if you’re a bore. Pepper your talk with anecdote and jokes. Accumulate a repertoire of illustration. Above all, laugh till you cry every time the prospect makes the joke about the Aga Khan. A deadly serious demonstration is bound to fail. If you can’t make a lady laugh, you certainly cannot maker buy.

David Ogilvy might be better than Mystery.

The Los Angeles Basin

(wikipedia via Landsat)

More Rockwell Kent

Bob Ross

After enjoying this video:

I did a typically cursory investigation into his backstory:

Ross enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at age 18 after graduating from Elizabeth Forward High School in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania and was living in Florida early in his military career when the Air Force transferred him to Eielson AFB (in Alaska), where he first saw the snow and mountains that later became recurring themes in his artwork; he developed his quick-painting technique in order to be able to create art for sale in brief daily work breaks. Having held military positions that required him to be, in his own words, “mean” and “tough”, “the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work”, Ross decided that if he ever moved on from the military, “it wasn’t going to be that way any more”, “vowing never to scream again.”

The sexual indeterminates at Oxford, how Randolph Churchill got pants’d, and the White Rajahs of Sarawak: a Wikipedia journey

If you read much about England between the world wars, sooner or later you’ll start hearing about the “King And Country Debate.”  So I went to reading about it on Wikipedia:

The King and Country debate was a discussion at the Oxford Union debating society on 9 February 1933 on the motion: “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country”. It was passed by 275 votes to 153, and became one of the most famous and notorious debates conducted in the Union.

Here’s a picture of the Oxford Union debate chamber:

  C. E. M. Joad argued on the side of the ayes:

Joad delivered what was described as a “tour de force of pacifist rhetoric”. He claimed that the motion really meant “that this House will never commit murder on a huge scale whenever the Government decided it should do so”, and argued that although limited wars might have been justified in the past, the scale of destruction now possible with modern weapons meant that war had become unthinkable.

And this apparently carried the day:

When the motion was put, President Frank Hardie declared it carried by 275 votes to 153.

Hard to imagine a college debate being a big deal, but this one was:

A Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford at the time, R. B. McCallum, claimed that the “sensation created when this resolution was passed was tremendous. It received world-wide publicity…. Throughout England people, especially elderly people, were thoroughly shocked.”

The Daily Express said of it: “There is no question but that the woozy-minded Communists, the practical jokers, and the sexual indeterminates of Oxford have scored a great success in the publicity that has followed this victory…. Even the plea of immaturity, or the irresistible passion of the undergraduate for posing, cannot excuse such a contemptible and indecent action as the passing of that resolution”.

Daily Express reporter claimed to have found the Mayor of Oxford, Alderman C. H. Brown, and his wife sitting in front of the fire reading their bibles, with Brown claiming “I say that as mayor of a city that fathers a university of such foreign communistic sentiments, I am ashamed”. Cambridge University was reported to have threatened to pull out of that year’s Boat Race because of “incompatibility of temperament.”

Winston Churchill condemned the motion in a speech on 17 February, 1933 to the Anti-Socialist and Anti-Communist Union as “That abject, squalid, shameless avowal… It is a very disquieting and disgusting symptom”:

My mind turns across the narrow waters of Channel and the North Sea, where great nations stand determined to defend their national glories or national existence with their lives. I think of Germany, with its splendid clear-eyed youths marching forward on all the roads of the Reich singing their ancient songs, demanding to be conscripted into an army; eagerly seeking the most terrible weapons of war; burning to suffer and die for their fatherland. I think of Italy, with her ardent Fascisti, her renowned Chief, and stern sense of national duty. I think of France, anxious, peace-loving, pacifist to the core, but armed to the teeth and determined to survive as a great nation in the world. One can almost feel the curl of contempt upon the lips of the manhood of all these people when they read this message sent out by Oxford University in the name of young England.

Particularly upset over the King and Country debate was Winston Churchill’s son, young Randolph (seen here on the left, with his father and son):

Three weeks after the associated pacifist resolution was passed, [Randolph] Churchill  proposed a resolution at the Oxford Union to delete the “King and Country” motion from the Union’s records but this was defeated by 750 votes to 138 in a rowdy debate (one which was better attended than the original debate), where Churchill was met by a barrage of hisses and stink bombs. A bodyguard of Oxford Conservatives and police escorted Churchill back to his hotel after the debate. Sir Edward Heath records in his memoirs that Churchill was then chased around Oxford by undergraduates who intended to debag him (i.e. humiliate him by removing his trousers), and was then fined by the police for being illegally parked.

Possible these guys weren’t entirely overreacting:

Benito Mussolini was particularly struck by the sentiment expressed by the undergraduates and became convinced that the Joad declaration proved that Britain was a “frightened, flabby old woman”. While considering whether to take British threats seriously while embarking on his Abyssinia adventure Mussolini often referred to Joad declaration on why he didn’t cave into British demands.  Sir Winston Churchill would after the war write how Japan and Germany too took note of the Joad resolution which altered their way of thinking about Britain as a “decadent, degenerate … and swayed many [of their] calculations.”

Anyway.  It all made me curious about who had done the debating.

The proposer of the resolution at the King and Country debate was one Kenelm H. Digby, and how could anyone fail to be curious about what became of him?  Well, it turns out he moved to Sarawak in Borneo, where he worked for the White Rajah as a legal advisor.

“Who were the White Rajahs of Sarawak?” you sensibly ask.

Side trip: The White Rajahs of Sarawak

The first one was James Brooke:

who bought himself a ship, helped kill some rebels who were bothering the Sultan of Brunei, and was awarded in return the province of Sarawak.

Brooke spent his career fighting pirates and local warlords.  Wikipedia offers some insight into his love life:

Throughout his life, Brooke’s principal emotional bonds were with adolescent boys, though his biographer and contemporary Spenser St. John gives an account of his love for and brief engagement to the daughter of a Bath clergyman.

And he got a plant named in his honor:

His son Charles took over after him, and then his grandson Vyner:

The Daily Telegraph described him as “a cloud-living Old Wykehamist, … one of the few monarchs left in the world who could still say l’Etat, c’est moi.” Similarly, his Who’s Who entry read thus: “Has led several expeditions into the far interior of the country to punish headhunters; understands the management of natives; rules over a population of 500,000 souls and a country” 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2) in extent.

That was Kenelm Digby’s boss.

Back to Kenelm Digby:

When the Japanese invaded Sarawak, they interned everybody.  Digby survived three and half years at the Lingang internment camp, which was no easy place:

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 12.06.04 PM

Plus he was separated from the woman he loved:

Digby met his wife-to-be Mutal Fielding on a P&O liner on the way back to Kuching in 1940, and they became engaged in Singapore in 1941. Mutal lived in Hong Kong, and before they could be married the war intervened. Mutal was interned at Stanley Internment Camp… Digby and Mutal were finally reunited in November 1945 in Southampton, when Digby arrived home on HMS Ranchi…The Digbys were married on 21 February 1946 at Sherfield English near Romsey in Hampshire, before returning to Sarawak.

Sounds like a touching story.  Someone wrote a book about it:


Digby looks like he got the better end of the deal, if you ask me.

The end of Digby’s wikipedia page is poignant:

For Digby, the fall-out from the Oxford debate of 1933 lasted through many decades. A lifelong socialist but never a communist, Digby’s suspected communism made him unpopular with the authorities in Sarawak and brought his career there to a premature end, and he was rarely briefed by solicitors when working as a lawyer in the UK. After his death, [his wife] Mutal commented: “That Oxford Union motion haunted him. It dogged him wherever he went.”

Rockwell Kent


1) Kaley Cuoco:

As a child, Cuoco was once a nationally-ranked amateur tennis player, a sport she took up when she was three years old but had to give up in 1992, when she was six.

2) Darius Rucker:

He also likes the film Stir Crazy, which he has seen more than 100 times.