Not everything here is from the last century

I’m reading through this book right now. It’s the 1960 version of a long-winded, well written Wikipedia series. Each chapter covers one particular moment, almost all of which can and do have several tomes you can dig up. This book is the city bus tour of the historical period. It’s a great read to get an overview, an easy way to discover a new interest.

The San Francisco earthquake and fire gets 24 pages. And, for me, for that, it was plenty.

I’ve read three of the definitive biographies on Teddy Roosevelt, and two on the Wright Brothers, you see, it’s the subject, not the period. Some things are just more interesting than others. There’s one chapter here about a particular insurance man and his social life. Didn’t do much for me. There’s another on how J.P. Morgan forced the American banking system into avoiding a an economic collapse by force of will. It was intriguing, but you got the gist. Right now I’m reading about Peary’s sixth Arctic expedition. I’d probably enjoy a bit more of that. Here’s a bit from the chapter on the Great White Fleet, and a full telling of this story would probably be worth trying. Roosevelt sent the vessels around the world as a projection of American naval power — 16 battleships, 14,000 sailors on board them and their escort with ports of call on six continents — it was one of the first signals of the American century.

I’ve looked a fair amount. Several accounts refer to these cheers, but no one seems to know where they are from. I Assume some Chilean naval officer went to Cornell and brought all of that back. And when the Americans arrived in January of 1908, that was just part of the fanfare. A surrealistic bit of home for the American sailors who’d been on this mission for a month, making just their third port of call.

I wonder how many of the Americans recognized them. Cornell was a big player in early 20th century athletics, but still there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to Google this sort of thing in 1908.

This is from the same chapter. Walter Lord diverged a bit, which is rare in this book, but his point was what the returning sailors came home to after their historic circumnavigation. It was one of those moments where things were changing quickly in the culture.

If you’ve read about Europe in this period, or the American experience just before entering the Great War, you can see an entire world-shaking bit of foreshadowing going on there. It’s a good book. Written in 1960, when some of these things were frozen in memory, rather than frozen in amber. And while new perspectives and information have no doubt come along in the intervening years — Lord was much closer to his subject than we are to him here — the book holds up. Click on the cover, above, and pick up a copy for yourself.

And if you’re not interested in that …

Here’s a bit of Poseidon, god of water, bathtub mortal.

Achilles had his heel, Poseidon has his back paws, I guess.

I like to think he’s not fascinated by the water, but by the physics of the water’s retention and movement.

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