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Picturing Alaska history : USA territory to statehood

Turner Publishing (http://www.turnerpublishing.com) asked if I would consider reviewing a new book. I’m glad I agreed. Historic Photos of Alaska has just been published, a large format book of black and white photographs from the period 1867 to 1979. Dermot Cole, long-time columnist for the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer, provides the text and captions.

As a journalist, Dermot also has an interest in history (apart from his twin brother, Terrance, history professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks). Dermot Cole is the author of Amazing Pipeline Stories published by Epicenter Press in 1997, about the people and Fairbanks during the Alaska oil pipeline construction.

The perspective of Historic Photos of Alaska, is for those readers outside Alaska. That is, this is a pictorial history of Alaska as part of “America”. [Through no fault of this book, many in the US will still consider Alaska as a foreign body, along with New Mexico.]

The photos are arranged by time periods, from purchase to statehood– 1867-1905, 1906-1919, 1920-1940, and 1941-1979. These periods represent significant periods of US and Alaska relations. The orientation is a deliberate effort to stand apart from the usual Alaskana picture books. Another significant difference in this book is the choice of rarely seen photos and not the ubiquitous ones. The photos are reproduced with sufficient quality to review again and again and see something new each time.

Readers can follow themes such as regional changes (southeast Alaska also known as the Northwest Coast compared to Nome in northwest Alaska) and transportation. However, other themes can be chosen by readers according to personal interest.

    Dogs
    Most of the dogs are Alaska huskies (freight variety), such as ones on pages 44 and 55 and in harness, page 58. However, the team on page 67 is actually part of a Saami family (reindeer herders originally from Scandinavia. Note the hats and boot toes.) The harness setup is very different from that of the Eskimo family team on page 128. There are also sporting dogs (early 20th century conformation) such as the one on page 92 belonging to Jim Haly. Look carefully. The dog has just spotted another dog out of view, and kicked up a cloud of dust with his hind legs.

    Electric trees
    Even on the frozen tundra of Nome (page 111) and sprouting ever more branches over time in populated areas such as Cordova page 120 and Fairbanks page 151.

    Military
    One way to trace the influence of the military in Alaska is through men’s hats in the photos. Since Territorial days, the military has been a significant economic and development force in Alaska. Much of the early geological studies and geodetic surveys were military. World War II and then the Cold War continued the inflow of money and people. Photos from pages 168 to 180 show differing aspects of building the Al-Can or Alaska Highway and the later battles of Attu and the Aleutians. (see related posts here on the Al-Can and the Aleutians, https://theelderlies.wordpress.com/special-projects/photo-index-cking-wwii/)

    Miscellany
    Everywhere. The curiosity of Edwardian women’s fashion in open-air fish camp (useful against mosquitoes I suppose); the plank streets (for cars and horses) 400 miles from the nearest highway; even a Piggly-Wiggly store outside of the South.

Dermot Cole avoided the shop worn stash of Alaska photos. However, the next to last photo, page 197, is of the oil pipeline’s zigzagged engineering (to avoid temperature stresses) up the North Slope and over the Brooks Mountain Range. It’s a clever homage to the iconic Klondike gold rush photo of the future miners traipsing up the Chilkoot Pass.

I do have some quibbles with the book. There is an amazing variety of horses depicted but no photos of cows at Creamer’s Dairy in Fairbanks (I like the image of the wood stove chimney peeking out the milk truck to keep contents from freezing at 40 below).

More importantly, an outline map of Alaska is needed, with the places of photos identified.

The southwest of Alaska is mostly excluded. Considering that most folks in or outside Alaska believe everyone lives in an Eskimo igloo, it would also be helpful to include a map of languages/cultural regions in the state. Most readers will not be aware of the significance of the temporary, river going, hide boat depicted on page 44 built by the Athabascan Indian trapper to bring his skins to market. Compare with the more permanent skin boat built by Iñupiat Eskimo marine hunters on page 103. I already noted the Saami family.

The period of the first half of 1919 is missing although extremely important in the demography and history of non-urban Alaska. Upwards of 80% to 100% of people in some communities died during the pandemic of the “Spanish Flu”. The Jesse Lee Home (I ran across this recently published history) was one of several that cared for orphans left behind (those that survived long enough for help to reach them).

A suggested reading list would be nice, including Steven Langdon’s 1993. The Native People of Alaska. Anchorage, AK : Greatland Graphics. ISBN: 0936425172 9780936425177 OCLC: 27405205

A great companion volume would be John S. Whitehead’s 2004. Completing the Union: Alaska, Hawaii, and the Battle for Statehood. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press. ISBN: 0826336361 9780826336361 082633637X 9780826336378, OCLC: 55665367

This book is not supposed to be a comprehensive pictorial history. Cole did an amazing job just to make a selection from all the possibilities and put together such an enjoyable book.


——————-
[Dermot Cole. 2008 Historic Photos of Alaska. Nashville: Turner Publishing Co.
# ISBN-10: 1596524243
# ISBN-13: 978-1596524248
# LoC 2007938665
Hardcover: 216 pages, Language: English, Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 10.1 x 1 inches, list price $39.95]


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Supercentenarian milblogger

(nonagenarian blog posts)

World’s Oldest Milblogger Tells All, William Henry Bonser (“Harry”) Lamin
from Kris Alexander at Danger Room from Wired.com http://blog.wired.com/defense/

Military blogs have changed the way we follow and understand war. One British soldier’s “blog” is gaining a large readership on the internet as he details the daily routine of being a soldier…in WWI.

Bill Lamin, Harry’s grandson, has done an excellent job of researching the historical background and weaving an interesting narrative of both the battlefield and the homefront. Worth a look.

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/01/worlds-oldest-m.html

WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier This blog is made up of transcripts of Harry Lamin’s letters from the first World War. The letters will be posted exactly 90 years after they were written. To find out Harry’s fate, follow the blog! http://www.wwar1.blogspot.com/


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Nonagenarian passion for solar

The problem with being ahead of one’s time is that it isn’t conducive to ever getting caught up. There must be a better way.

By Elizabeth Douglass, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 10, 2007

Forty years ago, Harold Hay came up with a way to heat and cool homes using water and the sun….

Now 98, Hay is making what he knows will be his final push.

The retired chemist promotes his cause by funding research. He vents his frustration in letters, e-mails, phone messages to anyone who will listen, and on his own website,

“The main point that he’s trying to make now is that all of our hopes are pinned on all of these complicated technologies, and it’s not that complicated. We could solve a lot of the problems by building our buildings correctly.”

Hay calls his invention the Skytherm system, and it was a wonder in the 1960s because it used the sun to heat and cool a home. The earliest version operated without any electricity, making it a purely passive solar technology.

Skytherm was the first of what’s known today as a roof-pond system….

Hay says he spearheaded the creation of the St. Louis Progressive Party, which helped get him labeled a communist. He came up with a chemical to purify drinking water, and he found a way to chemically toughen fiberboard to broaden its use. During World War II, the self-proclaimed pacifist worked on the development of synthetic rubber to avoid military service and jail. Along the way, almost as a hobby, Hays did groundbreaking research in the origins of medicine. […]

Read the very interesting article here
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fi-haroldhay10nov10,0,3607880.story

His website is
This series of Needles is written by Harold R. Hay, Trustee, H.R. & E.J. Hay Charitable Trust, Los Angeles, CA. at the age of 97. Fifty years of dedicated research in solar energy, plus prior successes in government, industry and academia permit a broad evaluation of reasons why solar energy (not renewable energy – a culprit) is not more uniformly accepted. The fault is with all involved – including me.


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Tolstoy’s bicyclists

more nonagenarians and centenarians

Too old to scuba dive at 80? Don’t believe it. We talk to eight intrepid people who prove it’s never too late to learn something new, whether it’s dancing, making a keep-fit video – or skydiving

Friday January 12, 2007, The Guardian

The journalist: Rose Hacker, 100

Last year, at the age of 100 and after being a politician, writer, artist, sex therapist and peace activist, Hacker became a journalist. She was at the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in Tavistock Square in London when a local newspaper reporter saw her give a speech and suggested she write a regular column. Called “She’s 100 so she should know a thing or two”, it runs in the Camden New Journal, a north London newspaper, every fortnight. She has written about issues including homelessness, the wealth gap, the divisiveness of religious education, greed and property ownership. “I’ve got so much I have to say. I look at my great-granddaughter who is three years old and think, what sort of world has she been brought into? I just can’t bear it.”

Every couple of weeks, a reporter comes to her room at the retirement home in north London where she lives and types away at a laptop while Hacker talks, surrounded by books on politics and art and photographs of her family. “Then he shows me on the screen in a big font so I can read it,” she says. “It’s very exciting. I can do anything – they don’t tell me what to write.

“It has given me a new lease of life. I was dying. I had my 100th birthday and everybody gave me parties; I had a wonderful time. Then I collapsed. I was unconscious; I had everything wrong with me. Now, in my second century, I’m like a baby, I’ve started all over again. I had to learn to walk again, come out of nappies.”

It’s not often that you meet 100-year-olds, but it seems unlikely that many are as lively as Hacker. She is partially deaf and blind but she walks unaided and her mind is crammed with information. She is funny, too. She’s wearing glamorous, big silver earrings that dangle furiously when she leans forward in her chair to make a point – and she has an opinion on everything.

Hacker was born in east London to Jewish parents. Her father, an immigrant from Poland, ran a tailoring business and Hacker became one of his clothes designers. Having always been interested in politics, she joined the Labour party and got married – to Mark, an accountant (he died in 1982, after 52 years of marriage). She gave up being a designer when she had children – two sons – but later joined the Marriage Guidance Council and became one of Britain’s first sex therapists. She wrote several books, including one about sex for teenagers. “Nobody talked about sex in those days,” she says. “These days, it’s all everyone seems to talk about”.

“It would be so easy for me to sit in this chair, listen to music and do nothing,” she says. “I can understand people my age who just give up.” So why doesn’t she? “Because of the state of the world. I think it’s very important that people should listen to people like me – and we’re being totally ignored.” Does that make her angry? “Yes. But I’m furious about everything.” Not least what Hacker, a lifelong socialist, sees as the betrayal by New Labour. “I wrote to Blair and said if you go to war in Iraq, after 80 years of hard work I will resign. The same day I got a certificate that makes me an honorary lifetime member of Highgate Labour party, so I’m not sure I can.” Did she ever think the future would be this bad? “No, I thought we would have a wonderful future. We’d built a welfare state and it worked. We had a health service. We built schools. But the monsters have taken over the world.”
Emine Saner

The keep-fit fanatic: Seona Ross, 90

Ross is 90 and has just made her first exercise video. “I enjoyed it thoroughly,” she says. “It was fun, a real challenge. I had three members of the exercise class I run working with me to show that older people can do it. I had thought about doing a video before when I was younger but never did, so when Help the Aged asked me, I agreed without even thinking about it. I hadn’t seen any [other videos] I thought were suitable for older people.” For the elderly, exercise is, she says, “absolutely essential. The main thing about the work I do with senior citizens is it is keeping them in their own homes. I’m saving the NHS and the government a hell of a lot of money. I’ve had people come to me who decide they don’t need to take all the pills they had been taking – they’re not going into care homes.”

The video and DVD, Step to the Future, contains 40 minutes of exercises for older people. “Exercise is vital in having the right attitude to life. All those endorphins are good for you. The video shows that older people can exercise and enjoy it, but we focus a lot on how to do it safely.” In her classes, Ross, a music fan, relies on good tunes to keep her members moving. What did she choose for her video? “The music was dead boring, to be honest,” she says and laughs. So what does she choose for her class? “All sorts, but very little of your modern music – as far as I’m concerned, that’s not music at all. All that repetitiveness.” She makes an exasperated noise. Ross likes Latin American music and old showtunes.

Ross, who has three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and lives in Wiltshire, decided she wanted to become an exercise instructor when she was 14 and saw a demonstration by the Women’s League of Health and Beauty in Glasgow, the institution founded by Mary Bagot Stack to introduce exercise to all women. “My parents thought I was mad and said I had to finish school.”

Just before she turned 17, she moved to London and attended Stack’s school to train instructors at a time when women were expected to be able to dance, but not do these strange stretches and jump around in shorts and vests. “We were pioneers,” says Ross. “We would do demonstrations in Hyde Park and great crowds would come. They must have thought we were mad but we were treated like pop stars.”

Now, in her 10th decade, she says it is exercise that has kept her young. “I still go out and enjoy myself and see my friends. I’m just as fit and frisky as I was when I was 70.” Step to the Future is available on DVD and video (£12) from http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/homeshopping or 0870 770 0441
Emine Saner

“The student: Bernard Herzberg, 98

Herzberg was 81 when he did his first degree, and is now just months away from getting his MA in African economics and literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London. His final paper, an essay on the inevitability of military rule in Africa after decolonisation, was handed in four months ahead of the deadline.

“This is the second time I have written this essay,” says Herzberg, who lives in East Finchley. “The first time the lecturer did not agree with the way I wrote it, so I had to redo it.” This time the 98-year-old is confident that he will pass. But whether he does or not hardly seems to matter: his wife died last month, and studying is now a way for him to keep himself occupied. “I didn’t want to sit at home doing nothing, especially now that I am alone,” he says.

At Soas he has made many friends among his fellow students and lecturers, all of whom are a lot younger than him. “Do they treat me well? Oh, yes, very much so.”

As a Jew growing up in 1930s Germany, Herzberg was denied the chance of a university education. In his early 20s he emigrated to South Africa, where he lived for half a century before moving to London in 1985. Married with two children, he didn’t get round to university until after he had retired from the chemical industry in his early 80s. But this latest MA will join a long list of educational achievements, including another MA in refugee studies gained in 2005, and a degree in German and German literature before that.

Whatever the outcome in May, Herzberg is satisfied with his accomplishments. “Whether I get the third degree or not is immaterial,” he said. “I have lived a good life.”
Mildred Amadiegwu”


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name not a number pedal cycle“Name not a number”

John Huston movie from the Aleutians

re:

“”Report from the Aleutians,” directed by John Huston, follows the daily life of American soldiers serving in the Aleutian Islands, which extend in sequence off the shores of Alaska. Despite being cold, barren, and generally disagreeable, the Aleutians held military bases of immense strategic value in the Pacific theater of World War II. The film describes the geographic importance of the islands, and provides a portrait of daily wartime operations, such as attack planning and bombing raids, that take place at the bases. Huston pays particular attention to life on the island of Adak in the wake of the Battle of Dutch Harbor, culminating in a first-person perspective of an actual American bombing run against the Japanese.

Producer: John Huston Audio/Visual: sound, color
Creative Commons license: Public Domain


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