Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rocket Girl: The Story Of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist, George D. Morgan

c. 2013

Mary Morgan Sherman: invented hydyne in 1957, the rocket propellant that launched America's first satellite (in response to Sputnik); "retired" from work c. 1958; born 1921, "retired" 1958 at about age 37; one child at home; pregnant, and eventually four children (two boys, two girls) in that family (one much earlier in life given up for adoption)


Born / raised on a farm near Ray, North Dakota; November 4, 1921 -- three months older than my own dad. Father Michael. Three daughters: Mary, Elaine (youngest), Amy; three brothers: Michael, Vernon, Clarence (confirmed p. 243)

Started school two to three years late; rode horse she named Star to school; given to her by child protective services so she could get to school; emotionally (maybe physically) abused by three brothers, alcoholic father; one sister, Elaine

Valedictorian of Ray High School

Very, very strong in math, chemistry

The Great Escape: ran away from home, after high school; caught bus at Rachel's Diner in Ray; Rachel's Diner had Williams County's first neon sign

Bussed to Toledo, Ohio; DeSales College; first two years; never graduated

Recruited in sophomore year to work at Plum Brook Ordnance Works, the largest supplier of explosives for the US military during WWII; this book has a nice history of Plum Brook Ordnance Works

Mentions how she learned to play bridge; off the radio, 1943; American bridge export Alfred Sheinwold

Gives up newborn in 1944; travels to St Vincent's Hospital in Philadelphia; 

War ends; work ends at PBOW

First mentions his mother playing bridge, page 131; 

Takes bus to Los Angeles; finds her way to North American Aviation, Downey.

Irving Kanareck story begins on page 134; parents born in USSR; on job application he says parents born in USSR; clerk reviewing application for accuracy has never seen "USSR" before, changes it to USA;

Tom Meyers at NAA sees her application; he is human resources for theoretical performance specialist (TPS), someone who is strong in both chemistry and math; preferably college graduate;

Project Paperclip mentioned on page 149.

Accepted for position as "analyst" at NAA, at the Inglewood facility. "Analyst" = engineer without a college degree; lower pay than an engineer. Reported for work, July 15, 1947. Age: 26 years old.

First woman to be hired on the "engineering floor."

Meets Carl Amenhoff -- a TPS, just like Mary. Hired by Tom Meyers; her boss. Sees copy of one of Alfred Sheinwold's books on bridge; asks if she can play with the other engineers

Introduces his dad, page 162, 1950: George Richard "Red" Morgan. Caltech graduate (Pasadena). Author would be born three years later.

Working on "viable fuel and oxidizer compounds." By the end of 1950, almost all of the "viable fuel and oxidizer compounds had been theoretically calculated; many of them had been synthesized." All with pluses and minuses: hydrazine is an excellent fuel, and unlike LOX is liquid at room temperature, but highly explosive.

"Cocktail": mixture of two or more rocket propellants. The idea had been invented by the Germans.

On the day Richard Morgan began working for NAA, Mary was working on cocktail of oxygen and fluorine. Fluorine was nothing less than the best oxidizer in the universe; unfortunately it reacted with everything, page 164. She called the mixture FLOX.

Met by chance; relationship cemented over bridge; married six months later, July 29, 1951.

Page 172 on: Redstone propellant -- lifting power -- 93.10% -- would not reach orbit. Needed a better propellant. Huntsville, AL.

Specific impulse: measured in seconds, specific impulse is a sort-of horsepower rating for rocket propellants; the high the number, the greater the power. every fuel and oxidizer propellant combination had its own specific impulse value; calculated theoretically, then adjusted downward a few points; reality always trumped theory (great bridge analogy).

284: specific impulse for the Redstone rocket's current fuel/oxidizer propellant combination of alcohol and liquid oxygen. Same propellant used by von Braun for V-2. Best number one could get from LOX/alcohol mixture.

305: the minimum specific impulse value the Redstone propellant system need to push a satellite into orbit.

Huntsville Redstone team knew of NAA in California; sent team out to NAA to contract for better propellant.

Tom Meyers receives phone call: most important phone call he had ever received.

Tom Meyers (NAA) met Colonel Wilkins, Huntsville/Redstone -- new engine design

Mary: still the only woman among all the engineers

White Sands -- Huntsville -- Fort Bliss: "all the same" -- p. 178

Colonel Wilkens noticed that Irving Kanarek worked at NAA: he was the inventor of inhibited red fuming nitric acid -- a propellant that was being successfully used with the Nike program.

Colonel Wilkens wanted Irving Kanarek.

Tom Meyers said he had someone better than Kanarek: Mary Sherman.

Chapter 17.

Nick Toby, Lansing Chemical Company, cold call; meets Mary. Toby has a promising new chemical, diethylenetriamine -- looking for applications: di-ethylene tri-amine.

Tom Meyers asks Mary if she wants the Redstone project -- p. 187

Wikipedia: the name "Jack Silverman" pops up as the inventor of hydyne.

Author notes that the name Jack Silverman had come up only once in eight years of author's research. A September, 1955, paper, nothing to do with hydyne, authors listed as: M. S. Morgan, J. Silverman, and W. T. Webber. Author's copy had been in his archives for ten years.

Author met with W. T. Webber who said Silveman was a credit-grabber; he was Mary's supervisor; stole credit for others ideas/accomplishments

Author asks W. T. ("Bill") Webber to put his version in writing, swear to it, sign it.

Author obtains book from NASA on history of Rocketdyne. Author Robert S. Kraemer gives credit to Irving Kanarek for inventing hydyne (p. 44) of that book. Kraemer gives the formula for hydyne as "75% dimethylhydrazine, 25% diethylenetriamine." The author says that mixture is obviously wrong; every hydyne source available lists it as 60/40, not 75/25. Also, author has on video, in-person, in-depth interviews with Irving Kanarek in which he acknowledges that hydyne was the brainchild of his mother.

It turns out Kanarek was Mary's immediate supervisor and even had his desk adjacent to hers. Kraemer may not be completely accurate but at least he refutes jack Silverman's claim.

Mary's Redstone project appeared to be a set-up to make her fail. Engines/propellants designed together; Mary was to come up with propellant to work in existing engine.

Supervisor Kanarek and Tom Meyers both suggested she start with the oxidizer. Quick review: nothing would work. So she quietly turned her attention to the fuel side and did not tell anyone.

Chemical fact: handful of oxidizers; hundreds of fuels.

Her list of ten (10) properties and characteristics -- p. 192.

Tom hires two engineers to help Mary -- p. 196.
  • Bill Webber: masters degree, chemical engineering, Caltech (Pasadena)
  • Toru Shimizu: masters degree, chemical engineering, UCLA; four years in Japanese internment camp, Manzanar, northwest of Los Angeles
The boys' list of possibilities and Mary's reaction:
  • alcohol with fluorine; Redstone alcohol-compliant; but oxidizer side of system won't tolerate even a slight amount of fluorine -- no
  • fluorine and derivatives like FLOX -- no
  • hydrazine -- no
  • monomethyl hydrazine -- no
  • aniline with ozone; good isp but ozone too unstable -- no
  • propane with LOX -- no
  • JP-4 with LOX -- wrong mixture ratio -- no
  • all kerosene pairs -- wrong mixture ratio -- no, no, no
  • hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, my God, how did you even know about that? mixed with fluorien -- already a no; matched with nitrous oxide -- isp too low -- no
  • ethylene with LOX, not bad -- hold on to that one
  • ammonia with LOX -- no
  • B2H6 with hydrazine as an oxidizer? Innovative, but hydrazine is out on both sides -- no
  • aniline with RFNA -- no
  • hydrogen ... hydrogen!? what have you two been drinking -- no
  • methane with LOX -- maybe
  • lithium with fluorine!? my god you boys are dangerous
  • RP-1 with nitrous oxide -- no
  • turpentine with nitric acid -- no
  • nitrogen tetroxide and pentaborane with LOX -- no, and no
Hydrogen? commercially unavailable.

Hydrazine: fuel used as a coolant; hydrazine is a poor coolant, p. 201

Chalkboard at Mary's desk: 305   1.75  155  0.8580
  • 305: specific impulse
  • 1.75: ratio, 1.75 pounds of oxidizer to every pound of fuel
  • 155: seconds of burn time
  • 0.8580: density 
First criteria: chemicals that will yield an isp greater than 305 when mixed with LOX

Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, Bill's idea, p. 207; ISP of 315; invented by the Soviets

UDMH: density only 0.7914 -- way off, but Redstone says it might work

UDMH: won't work, p. 209

The boys come with the idea of a cocktail; adding another fuel with higher density that would reach mixture / cocktail density of 0.8580


Mary remembered the density but nothing else; needed to find the business card.

Nick Toby at Lansing Chemical, diethylenetriamine (di-ethylene triamine) -- DETA; Mary ordered four. Four pounds? No, four tons. -- p. 216

Ratio: 60% UDMH / 40% DETA


Santa Susanna (sic) at top of page, 221

Simi Valley: location of first successful oil well in California

1947: forty miles southeast of Simi Valley, in LA suburb of Downey, Dutch Kindelberger built a company, called in North American Aviation; major supplier of fighters and bombers during WWII.

NAA: built Santa Susana (sic) Field Laboratory (p. 224) in Simi Valley; thought it was far from civilization; then the San Fernando Valley happened; named after Mission San Fernando Ray de Espana

January 5, 1955: first test

First three tests failed

Fourth test

Flashback: October 6, 1957 -- Sputnik 1 launched

Chapter 22

Flashback: the story of James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger, born in Wheeling, West Virginia, May 8, 1895

The story of Tom Meyers facing of Kindelberger in his support for Mary -- pp. 259 - 261 -- "Mary Sherman is not just the best in the company, she's probably the best in the world." -- p. 261

Chapter 23

310 at 1.75 and 0.8615 for 155

Seventh test

I can't find the date of the successful test; was it in 1957?

Remember, the first test was January 5, 1955

Chapter 24: The Law of Unintended Consequences

Discovers his older sister, Ruth E. Fichter, Detroit, the one given up for adoption in 1944.

Ruth flies out to Southern California; she had never seen the Pacific Ocean before. Sees the Getty Museum, the Griffith Observatory.

Chapter 25.

January 31, 1958 -- first US satellite launched; Explorer 1

Wernher von Braun's reaction to the launch, p. 278:
"In his room that evening, he fired off a letter to North American Aviation. america's first satellite had only been possible due to the invention of hydyne. Without it, the US would have continued to trail the Russians for months, if not years. The only thing he knew about its creation was that a woman at North American Aviation had cooked it up. It was a curious cocktail of two little-used chemicals, and it had done its job perfectly. He did not know her name, but he wanted to thank her. Von Braun took out pen and stationery and wrote, Dear Unknown Lady. People, like satellites go nameless.

Mary died in 2004.

Chapter 26: Wings of the Condor

Mary cleans out her desk; less than one full cardboard box. Included a congratulatory letter from Wernher von Braun.

Apparently she decided to quit on her own; she had one child at home; pregnant with another. Wanted to raise a family.

Spelled Santa Susana Pass Road -- p. 286

On her last day at work, she was invited out to Santa Susana Field Laboratory to do the calculations; saw a California condor;

Santa Susanna (sic) in the author's note, p. 296.

It appears Mary had five children:
  • Ruth (Fichter)
  • George (Morgan)
  • Stephen (Morgan)
  • Monica (Weber)
  • Karen (Newe)
and then page 298, in Acknowledgements: Santa Susanna Field Laboratory.

Wiki spells "Susana" with one "n."

The Catholic saint is spelled with two "n's."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Libraries


Top Shelf

How The Scots Invented The Modern World, Arthur Herman, c. 2001

My Anaïs Nin Library

Linotte: The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1914 – 1920, preface by Joaquin Nin-Culmell,
The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 4: 1927 – 1931, preface by Joaquin Nin-Culmell
The Diaries, Volume I, 1931 – 1934, Anaïs Nin
The Diaries, Volume II, 1934 – 1939, Anaïs Nin (purchased 2010, completes the series)
The Diaries, Volume III, 1939 – 1944, Anaïs Nin
The Diaries, Volume IV, 1944 – 1947, Anaïs Nin (purchased 2008)
The Diaries, Volume V, 1947 – 1955, Anaïs Nin
Anaîs Nin: A Biography, Deirdre Bair, 1995
In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays, Anaïs Nin, c. 1976, earliest essay c. 1966,
Incest: The Unexpurgated Diary, 1932 – 1934, Anaïs Nin
Fire: The Unexpurgated Diary, 1934 – 1937, Anaïs Nin 
Anaïs: The Erotic Life of Anaïs Nin, Noël Riley Fitch, c. 1993 
A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin & Henry Miller, 1932 – 1952,
Henry and June: The Unexpurgated Diary, from “A Journal of Love,” Anaïs Nin 
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
Henry Miller: The Happiest Man Alive, Mary Dearborn, c.1991
D.H. Lawrence: The Story of a Marriage, Brenda Maddox, c. 1994

My Virginia Woolf Library

Passionate Apprentice: Virginia Woolf, The Early Journals, 1897 - 1909, Virginia Woolf, edited by Mitchell A Leaska, c. 1990
Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell: A Very Close Conspiracy, Jane Dunn, c. 2000, $6.98
The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to VW and Bloomsbury, Sarah M. Hall, c. 2007
Selected Works of Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf, c. 2005
Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, Julia Briggs, c. 2005
The Mrs Dalloway Reader, Virginia Woolf et al, edited by Francine Prose, 2003
Virginia Woolf, Nigel Nicolson, c. 2000
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Manic Depression and the Life of VW, Peter Dally, c. 1999
Who's Afraid of Leonard Woolf, Irene Coates, c. 1998
Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden, Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson, c. 1997
Virginia Woolf, Hermione Lee, c. 1996
Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf, Panthea Reid, c. 1996, $7.98
Virginia Woolf: Interviews and Recollections, edited by J. H. Stape, c. 1995
Virginia Woolf, A to Z: Mark Hussey, c. 1995
Virginia Woolf, James King, c. 1994
Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press, 1917 - 1941, J. H. Willis, c. 1992
Mrs Dalloway: Mapping Streams of Consciousness, David Dowling, c. 1991
Virginia Woolf: The Major Novels, John Batchelor, c. 1991
Virginia Woolf, Modern Fiction, Susan Dick, c. 1989
Congenial Spirits: The Selected Ltrs of VW, edited by Joanne Trautmann Banks, c. 1989
Virginia Woolf, Modern Critical Reviews, edited by Harold Bloom, c. 1986
The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to VW, edited by L. DeSalvo and M. A. Leaska, c. 1985
Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life, Lyndall Gordon, c. 1984
Virginia Woolf: Revaluation and Continuity, edited by Ralph Freedman, c. 1980
The Unknown Virginia Woolf, Roger Poole, c. 1978
Virginia Woolf, Susan Rubinow Gorsky, c. 1978
Moments of Being, Virginia Woolf, c. 1977
A Moment's Liberty: The Shorter Diary, abridged and edited by Anne Olivier Bell, c. 1977
Virginia Woolf: A Biography, Quentin Bell, c. 1972
Recollections of Virginia Woolf by Her Contemporaries, edited by Joan Russell Noble, c. 1972
Downhill All the Way, 1919 - 1939, Leonard Woolf, c. 1967
A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf, edited with an introduction by Leonard Woolf, c. 1953
The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf, c. 1925
The Diary of VW, Volume One, 1915 - 1919, c. 1977, hardback,
The Diary of VW, Volume Two, 1920 - 1924, c. 1978, softback,
The Diary of VW, Volume Five, 1936 - 1941, c. 1984, softback,
Bloomsbury: A House of Lions, Leon Edel, 1979, hard cover, warehouse sale.
Mrs Woolf and the Servants, Alison Light, c. 2008, Harvard Bookstore, hard cover, $7.00;

My Hemingway Library
The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1923 - 1925, Vol 2, edited by Sandra Spanier, et al, c. 2013, hardcover,
The Hemingway Women, Bernice Kert, c. 1998 
How It Was, Mary Welsh Hemingway, c. 1951, $4.98, hard cover;   
Travels With Myself and Another: A Memoir, Martha Gellhorn, c. 2001
Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn, edited by Caroline Moorehead, c. 2006, $14.98, hardcover;  
Papa Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner, c, 1966 
Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences, James R. Mellow, c. 1992, hard cover  
Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, Carlos Baker, c. 1969, $5.98, hardcover;  
The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway: The Early Years, Charles A Fenton, c. 1954, $5.00; hard cover; very, very hard to find;   
Hemingway: The Final Years, Michael Reynolds, c. $4.98, hard cover, 1999  
Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved, and Lost, 1934 - 1961, Paul Hendrickson, c. 2011, full price
Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917 - 1961, edited by Carlos Baker, c. 1981, $9.98, hardcover
Islands In the Stream, Ernest Hemingway, c. 1970 by Mary Hemingway; $5.98, soft cover
A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, c. 1964, Scribner Classics, $22.00, hard cover

My James Joyce Library

James Joyce, Edna O'Brien, c. 1999,  $7.98, hardcover,
James Joyce, Edna O'Brien, c. 1999,  $7.98, hardcover, (2nd copy)
James Joyce, Bernard Benstock, c. 1985, $1, hardcover
A Reader's Guide to James Joyce, William York Tindall, c. 1959, soft cover
Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's Ulysses, Don Gifford, c. 1988, soft cover,
James Joyce: A Literary Life, Morris Beja, c. 1992, $7.98, soft cover,
James Joyce: The Citizen and The Artist, C. H. Peake, c. 1977, $2.98, soft cover, 
Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, Carol Loeb Schloss, c. 2003, $9.98, hard cover, 
Dubliners, James Joyce, c. 1967, $4.98, soft cover,
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, c. 1992, soft cover,
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, c. 1994, soft cover, Dover Thrift Edition,
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, c. 1968, soft cover, $3.98; Viking Critical Library,
Ulysses: Portals of Discover, Text, Criticism, and Notes, edited by Chester G. Anderson, c. 1990; $1.00, hardcover
Ulysses: The Complete and Unabridged Text, as Corrected and Reset in 1961, James Joyce, c. 1934, 1961,
Ulysses: The Complete and Unabridged Text, as Corrected and Reset in 1961, James Joyce, c. 1934, 1961, Modern Library, The Modern Library's #1 Novel of the 20th Century
Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, c. 1999, Penguin,

My Thomas Hardy Library

Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, Penguin Soft Cover, 1891
Tess of the D'Urbervilles, edited by Scott Elledge, a Norton Critical edition, c. 1965 Far From The Madding Crowd, edited by Robert C. Schweik, a Norton Critical edition, c. 1986
A Laodicean, Thomas Hardy, Everyman softcover, 1997 
Thomas and Florence Hardy, Thomas Hardy, c. Woodsworth, 2007
Oxford Reader's Companion to Hardy, edited by Norman Page, c. 2000
Hardy, Martin Seymour-Smith, soft cover, c. 1994

My Hunter S. Thompson Library

Hell's Angels, Modern Library edition, 
The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955 - 1967
Fear and Loathing in America: The Gonzo Letters, Volume II, The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, edited by Douglas Brinkley; two copies
The Rum Diary, soft cover
The Great Shark Hunt, soft cover,

My Brontë Library

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, edited by Linda H. Peterson, c. 1992, (perhaps the best edition ever; several critiques, case studies in contemporary criticism
The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family, Juliet Barker, c. 2012; $25.00 Brontë Parsonage Museum, A Souvenir Guide, c. 1998,
Critical Essays on Charlotte Brontë, edited by Barbara Timm Gates, c. 1990, $1, hardcover
The Life of Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, c. 1975, $2.48, Penguin Classics, soft cover, 
The Brontë Myth, Lucasta Miller, c. 2001, $15.00, soft cover
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, edited by Mark Schorer, c. 1959, $1.98, softcover
Reading the Brontës: An Introduction to Their Novels and Poetry, Charmian Knight and Luke Spencer, c. 2000,
The Art of Emily Brontë, edited by Anne Smith, c. 1976, $1, hard cover,
Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life, Lyndall Gordon, c. 1994, $1.98, hard cover
The Landscape of the Brontës, Arthur Pollard, c. 1998, $4.00, hard cover
Villette, Charlotte Brontë, c. 1984, $4.98, soft cover, Oxford World's Classics
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë, c. 1992, $3.98, soft cover, Oxford World's Classics

My Joseph Conrad Library

Joseph Conrad, Adam Gillon, Twayne's English Authors Series, Kinley E Roby, Editor, c. 1982, $1, hard cover, 
The Secret Agent, Joseph Conrad
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

My Graham Greene Library

Graham Green: The Viking Portable Library, edited by Philip Stratford, c. 1973
The Life of Graham Greene, Vol III: 1955 - 1991, Norman Sherry, c. 2004
The Life of Graham Greene, Vol II: 1939 - 1955, Norman Sherry, c. 1994
The Life of Graham Greene, Vol I: 1904 - 1939, Norman Sherry, c. 1989
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

My Jane Austen Library

Critics on Jane Austen, edited by Judith O'Neill, c. 1970, $1,
Jane Austen in Context, edited by Janet Todd, c. 2005, $9.98 
Jane Austen: The Cambridge Companion, edited by Edward Copeland, c. 1997,
Emma, The Norton Critical Edition,
Pride and Prejudice, Wordsworth Edition, $3.98 
Northanger Abbey, Norton Critical Edition,  

My Shakespeare Library

Lectures on Shakespeare, W H Auden, c. 2002
Shakespeare's Sonnets Freshly Phrased, Joseph Gallagher, c. 2011, $7.98
Who's Who in Shakespeare, Peter Quennell and Hamish Johnson, c. 1995, $8.00
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom, c. 1998,
Richard III, Book-of-the-Month Club, c. 1995
Richard III, Signet Classic, c. 1963;
Richard III, Folger Shakespeare Library, c. 1996
Complete Works of Shakespeare, Viking Press
Richard III, Paul Marray Kendall, c. 1955; this edition, 1973
Who’s Who and What’s What in Shakespeare, Evangeline M. O’Connor

My Harold Bloom Library

Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, Harold Bloom, c. 2005
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom, c. 1998
Virginia Woolf, Modern Critical Reviews, edited by Harold Bloom, c. 1986
Hamlet, Poet Unlimited, Harold Bloom, c. 2003 
The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages,  Harold Bloom, c. 1995 
Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Harold Bloom, c. 2004 
Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds, Harold Bloom, c. 2002  

British and French History

Heloise & Abelard, James Burge, 2003
Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, Alison Weir, 1999, soft cover;
Henry VIII: The King and His Court, Alison Weir, c. 2001, soft cover 

My Ornithology Library

85 Years Birding, Kenneth J. Johnson, c. 2005;
On Rare Birds, Anita Albus, c. 2011; full price, $24.95; Chatham, MA
The History of Ornithology, Valerie Chansigaud, 2009; $12.00; HBS sale
The Wisdom of Birds, Tim Birkhead, c. 2008, $7.99; HBS sale

My Art Book Library

The Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musee d'Orsay, c. 2014, hard cover; $45
The Musee d'Orsay, Alexandra Bonfante-Warren, c. 2003; gift, hard cover
The Journal of Eugene Delacroix, Phaidon Press, 3rd edition, c. 1995James Ensor: Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889, Patricia G. Berman, c. 2002
James Ensore, Herwig Todts, c. 2008
The Pre-Raphaelites, Timothy Hilton, c. 1970, small softcover
Pre-Raphaelites And Olympians, art gallery of New South Wales, c. 2001, a small monograph
Vincent Van Gogh: A Psychosocial Perspective, Richard H. Rahe, M.D., a short monograph
Turner: Painting The Nation, English Heritage, c. 1996, a small softcover
The Life and Works of Monet, Edmund Swinglehurst, c. 1994, a small softcover
Manet By Himself, edited by Juliet Wilson-Bareau, c. 1991, hardcover, small
Monet, Christopher Heinrich, Taschen, c. 2000, a small softcover
Monet By Himself, edited by Richard Kendall, c. 1989, softcover, small
Monet and the Impressionists for Kids, Carol Sabbeth, c. 2002, softcover, 21 activities
Salvador Dali: Life and Work, Frank Weyers, c. 1999, small hardcover

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Los Angeles Before Hollywood: Journalism And American Fmil Culture, 1905 To 1915, Jan Olsson

c. 2008

This is a wonderful book I stumbled across while shopping in a Japanese bookstore in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. As mentioned in an earlier post at another blog, 90% of the offerings at this bookstore were in Japanese, but the English-book section was outstanding. I picked up a "Manga" book on electricity, and a graphic novel on Steve Jobs. But the best buy was the 2008 Los Angeles Before Hollywood by Jan Olsson. I enjoy it mostly because it is a most challenging book to read; very, very dense; somewhat obtuse writing, I guess, one would say. I have started the book several times, and have had to read the first two or three pages three or four times to figure out what the author's intent for the book was. I have now gotten through the introduction after the fourth or fifth try, and for the first time, finally looked at the author's bio on wikipedia. It looks like it's a much better book than I had even imagined.

I don't recommend the book for anyone but the most diehard movie historians. It has real heft, again literally and figuratively. It looks compact but it is "heavy." It has ten chapters (plus an introduction), 394 pages; notes, 50 pages; a 14-page bibliography; and a 19-page index.

The book covers the history of film in Los Angeles and the West Coast from 1905 to 1915, a period the author considers a transitional period for film. Two films serve as symbolic bookends for this decade: Escape From Sing Sing (1905) and The Clansman, later The Birth of a Nation (1915). I recall seeing the latter many years ago, but I forget where and exactly when -- but it must have been back in high school, if you can imagine that. It left a huge impression on me. 

I doubt I will finish the book any time soon. I may not finish it at. Certainly, I will skim some portions of is. It is interesting, rewarding, and fulfilling to see my alma mater, University of Southern California mentioned often.

The early 1910s was a period when social scientists and progressive reformers began mapping the amusement and recreational geographies in America. In the spring of 1911 renowned social scientist Dr Emory S Bogardus was summoned to Los Angeles at the behest of the University of Southern California's president.
The mission: establishing a department of sociology at USC. The result: a highly regarded and in several respects groundbreaking academic institution crafted during Bogardus' long tenure at the helm.
According to a small news item from December, 1911, Dr Bogardus, during his first year as a professor at USC, had thirty-five students in a civic-education course prepare to maps of downtown Los Angels marking all its places of amusement and recreations based on a systematic inventory of 3,600 blocks.

1905 - 1915: a transitory period for film

Paging through the newspapers during this time period may be one of the best ways to learn about the evolution of film during this transitory period.

Bookend movies: Escape From Sing Sing (1905; the reel has been lost); and The Clansman (re-titled, Birth of a Nation, D. W. Griffith, 1915).

1905: the nickelodian craze.

The Saunterer. From the net:
One hundred and thirty years ago today, the new owner of the Los Angeles Daily Times, Colonel Harrison Gray Otis, reported to work in this modest building at Temple and New High. According to the 1882 newspaper announcement, Otis would have editorial oversight of the Daily Times and Weekly Mirror (now the Los Angeles Times). Otis and his wife Eliza had purchased 15% of the newspaper. While Harrison published bombastic editorials, Eliza wrote articles for the women’s section and columns called “The Saunterer” and “Susan Sunshine.” By 1886, the couple bought out their partners and owned 100 percent of the newspaper. -- the blog posting was undated
"Otis saw a glorious future for Los Angeles whose population totaled about 12,000 when he joined the Times. ‘Los Angeles is in a transition state,’ he wrote in an early editorial. ‘She has finally waked up from the dull lethargy of those old days when she was one great sheep-walk and cattle range. All she needs now is men of brawn and brains to grow up with her.’" [Harrison Gray Otis became the newspaper's editor in July, 1882.]
 The Times.

The flaneur.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Great Gatsby

Having completed my Girl-With-The-Dragon-Tattoo phase I am now in my Great-Gatsby phase. 

Truthfully, it will be awhile before I get out of my GWTDT phase. In addition to everything else, the novel has an interesting structure, several stories within the novel, which is not unusual, but the way the author bookended the murder mystery with a boring financial exposé was fascinating. I'm not sure if I had seen that type of structure in other books I have read. It was a great book, but probably one I won't read again. On the other hand, I will watch the movie over and over, probably any number of times, before I finally get it out of my system, if I ever do.

On the other hand, it is very likely that I will read The Great Gatsby over and over, any number of times, and I may never get it out of my system. It took a long time for me to "get over" Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. While reading Mrs Dalloway the second time, I had the uneasy feeling, I wasn't "getting it." I tried to solve that by typing the entire novel. That exercise took about six months, typing a couple of hours every other night or so. When I was done, I found myself blown away by the novel, and was able to read it a third time, and can now go back and enjoy reading it again and again.

The Great Gatsby is going to be like Mrs Dalloway for me. I won't re-type the entire novel, but I certainly might type out all the impossible-to-understand and almost-impossible-to-understand phrases, sentences and paragraphs. I don't recall reading TGG in high school or college. I don't remember ever reading it until 2004 or sometime around then when I was beginning my aggressive reading program. I read it, and remembered parts of it, but it wasn't until I saw the 2013 movie, that I really followed the story line.

I'm slowly reading TGG again. Today on page 116, chapter VI, a bit more than halfway through the book, I recognized the climax.

According to wiki:
According to Freytag, a drama is divided into five parts, or acts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement. Although Freytag's analysis of dramatic structure is based on five-act plays, it can be applied (sometimes in a modified manner) to short stories and novels as well, making dramatic structure a literary element.
Briefly, J. Gatsby has spent the last five years of his life, ostensibly, trying to "get back" with Daisy, the love of his life. Wow, as I write that, and try to think next what to say, it becomes overwhelming. It is an incredible book, and an incredible story. Of course, it helps to know the ending. In fact, one needs to know the ending to a) recognize the climax; and, b) realize how really great this book is/was.

This was Fitzgerald's third huge, immeasurable, success. Two earlier novels had made him the "rock star" of his generation. He was having trouble, probably sensing intense pressure, to "do it again," to hit a third home run. The Great Gatsby was a grand slam; he predicted as much but did not live long enough to see that play out.

Wow, what a digression.

Briefly, J. Gatsby has spent the last five years of his life, ostensibly, trying to "get back" with Daisy, the love of his life. And then this, Chapter 6, about halfway through the book, on page 116, near the bottom of the page. J. Gatsby felt that he had failed up to that point in winning Daisy back. His "friend," his neighbor, the novella's narrator, declares:

    "I wouldn't ask too much of her, "I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."

    "Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"

    He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

That was the climax. Then begins immediately the downward trajectory of the dramatic arc:

    "I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said, nodding determinedly. "She'll see."

At that point it is just a matter of seeing how the novel plays out. In the end, the story becomes a metaphor not only of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life but the lives of many who read the book and realized how really good this book was.

It literally happens that fast. One is casually reading the book, and then it hits, the climax, "you can't repeat the past. Can't repeat the past? Of course you can." Talk about stripping down a literary effort to a dozen words, an practically monosyllabic at that. Wow.

[It's possible some folks will argue that the climax was the moment when Gatsby and Daisy got together for tea at Nick's house. But that was not a "moment." It was a scene. That scene begins somewhat earlier than the "true" climax, beginning on page 91. It is a comedic scene, not a tragic scene, and does not "feel" climactic." The scene does not provide the weight (as in "gravitas") that a climax would need for a book to be called a classic.]

[There may be a foreshadowing of the climax on page 98, still part of the "tea" scene. The narrator suggests that the "colossal significance of {the green light at the end of Daisy's dock} had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it has seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Not it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.]


Did F. Scott Fitzgerald recognize he was trying to re-live his past? Was he his own psychoanalyst? I need to go back and read his biography and Zelda's to review what was going on in their lives in 1920. He was starting to write the book in 1922 or thereabouts (published in 1925), so whatever the book is "about" was based on his internal struggles before 1922. This Side of Paradise was published in 1920; The Beautiful and The Damned was published in 1922. Born in 1896, he was only 26 years of age in 1922.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Juggling And The Boulogne (France) Coat-Of-Arms

Some years ago I read for the first time Andrew Bridgeford's 2005, 1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry, but as so often with my reading, I did not really recall the thrust of the book. Rushing out the door the other day, I grabbed a book to read just in case I had spare time. It was Bridgeford's book again.

For background one may want to quickly read Wiki's overview of the Angle-Saxon Chronicle.

Then, this paragraph (which I have broken up) -- second from the end in Bridgeford's book:
It was at St Augustine's Abbey that one of the versions of the Angle-Saxon Chronicle was kept up, nowadays called the E version. The E version of the Chronicle tends to be the most favourable towards Earl Godwin and his family, but it, like the other versions of the Chronicle, passes over in silence the whole matter of Harold Godwinson's fateful journal to the continent that was the catalyst of all that followed.
The truth behind Harold's mission, and with it King Edward's crucial wishes toward the end of his reign, was recorded at St Augustine's not, on this occasion, in ink scratched upon parchment but with colourful stitches pierced through white linen cloth (the Bayeux Tapestry).

In this sense, the Bayeux Tapestry can truly be described as the lost Angle-Saxon Chronicle as wellas the secret Chronicle of the House of Boulogne, a generation before the blood of Charlemagne achieved a new pinnacle of success in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
I can add something to the mysteries of the book: the origin of the coat-of-arms for the French region of Boulogne: the three balls.

Modern heraldry is traced back to the 12th century. The knights, 1066 A.D., in the Bayeux Tapestry carry shields, but there appears to have been no system of hereditary coats of arms. However, if one looks closely, one sees the "three balls" on the shield of Eustace II.

The tapestry begins with the scene of a juggler holding a couple of horses readied for the invasion of England by William the Conqueror.

Heraldry, juggler, the importance of Turold the juggler in the tapestry, and the three balls on the shield of Eustace's shield seem to be several dots that can be connected.

Turold, through the Song of Roland is considered the father of French literature. The Song of Roland relates the exploits and successes of Charlemagne. Eustace was a descendent of Charlemagne. Eustace II, Count of Boulogne, showed his respect for Turold by placing him in the tapestry, at the very beginning, no less, and perhaps further "honored" him by placing the juggler's "universal symbol" on the coat of arms for Boulogne. See also Taillefer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Journal Of The Plague Year, Daniel Defoe, 1722 -- The Plague Year Was 1666

A Journal of the Plague Year published 1722 notes begun on 22 July 05 by Daniel Defoe (1660 - 1731) born in London.

  • A political rabble-rouser -- for which he was imprisoned several times -- and pamphleteer. 
  • Sustained financially with his wife’s sizeable dowry -- nonetheless, bankrupt by 1692 -- and never recovered. 
  • At age 59 (1719), Robinson Crusoe -- fictional biography -- followed by several more “biographies.”
  •  “Arguably the most prolific writer in the English language -- considered by many the father of the novel and the founder of modern journalism. 
  • Influenced Benjamin Franklin. Left Church of England --> Presbyterian Dissenter, 1662 
[interesting to read this, just as I have finished Rob Roy where Presbyterian Dissenters are referenced].

Introduction to the Journal Plague Year: 1665
  • (Defoe would have been about 4 - 5 years old) 
  • (The “journal” was so good, I thought it was nonfiction! It was only later that I learned that it was fiction, but Defoe refused to write anything that was fiction. It had to be as near truth as possible.)
  • The Journal published 1722 (Robinson Crusoe had been published 3 years earlier -- 
  • Crusoe: origins of the modern novel. Great fire of London, 1666 -- destroyed 3/4 of housing in London!! 
  • The South Sea Bubble popped in 1721 --> economic ruin for many. 
The Journal: “really a novel, reveling in Defoe’s infallible ear for the cadences of real speech” (definition of novel includes characters speaking)

London at the time: recovering!

Continental war over -- restoration of Charles II, Cornwall dead.

Defoe: the plague was divine intervention -- but he can’t understand it: “the wealthy get what they deserve, but the poor die just as quickly”

He wrote the journal at age 62 -- he was known for his research -- but the emotional aspect must have been based on what he saw / remembered from age 5 or 6! I wonder what family members / what friends he lost to the plague?? He wrote this --as a journal -- of an adult male who had lived through it --so -- HISTORICAL (FICTION) NOVEL.

The plague -- like business cycles -- was cyclic.

Previously: 1656 Sept 1664: Londoners heard plague returned to Holland (Amsterdam / Rotterdam) 1663: Amsterdam / Rotterdam -- from Italy? from the Levant via their Turkey Fleet? from Candia (Crete)? from Cyprus?

(Drury Lane: way west of walled city of London) (St Giles) No newspapers (remember the oldest newspaper was in Scandinavia about this time) Word of mouth -- from letters/ memos; written by merchants 1st known deaths in London: -- two Frenchman, Nov / Dec 1664 -- Long Acre, upper end of Drury Lane Parish of St Giles in the Fields and Parish of St Andrew’s Holburn

See website:

“spotted fever” -- typhus or meningitis -- I would bet typhus

“Certificates of Health” -- p. 9 -- required to travel through towns and lodge at inns.

Location of H.F.’s house -- p. 9 His own plans -- p. 9 - p. 10

Divine cause -- why he felt he should not flee London -- p. 12

How Islamics fared -- p. 13 -- badly -- because they felt outcome was all predestined -- they took no precautions -- it was all in hands of God

Decides to stay in London, p. 15 Mid-July, 1665 Talks of the comet that appeared just before the plague, p. 20

Mentions Poor Robin's Almanack (Poor Richard’s?)

Merry-andrews: clowns

Pudding-jacks: jesters, p. 30

Quack: this word goes back at least to he 17th century! p. 31

 ...gardens, walls, pales (beyond the Pale) (pales - think “picket fence” -- what is the word for the pointed logs used in American forts? that’s what I envision “pales” are” ) [pales to poles? -- yes! from a website: Middle English, from Old English pal, from Latin plus, stake; see pag- in Indo-European roots. “beyond the pale” --- “off the reservation”

The notes at the end of the book are superb. Rats are mentioned only once. -- p. 116

The quarantine actually worked -- p. 37 -- had it really been enforced -- could more lives have been saved?

Why did plague end so abruptly? Plague reached its peak in September; great statistical analysis, p. 213

Not only were active cases decreasing but more people were surviving -- initially death -- 4/5; now it was 3/5 surviving. [4/5 die; now 2/5 die] Other cities after London: Norwich, Peterborough, etc.
 Quacks = Mountebanks

Monday, September 15, 2014

The God Particle

Two books that are fun to read together if interested in "pop" physics:
  • The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edget of a New World, Sean Carroll, c. 2012
  • Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, Lisa Randall, c. 2011
If I had time to read only one, I think I would recommend Sean Carroll's. Lisa Randall's is just a bit too wordy. Sean has some nice glossy photos and a great graphic of the Standard Model.

There are four forces: electromagnetic, strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and gravity.

There is a fifth force field: the Higgs field.

Our universe would not need the Higgs field or Higgs boson to exist but it would be a very, very different world. The four "legacy" forces are the forces that mediate relationships among the particles of the universe.
  • the electromagnetic: charged particles
  • strong nuclear: hold hadrons together inside the nuclear; 100x stronger than the e-m force
  • weak nuclear: radioactivity; neutron decay
  • gravity: very, very, very weak; 
The Higgs field gives mass to all particles: without the Higgs boson, all particles would be massless. The Higgs field is also a force field -- just as the four "legacy" fields are force fields, but the Higgs field is much different. It is likely physicists and students will be referring to "four" forces of the universe for a long, long time, despite knowing there is a fifth force, the Higgs field.

As least that's how I understand it.