Thursday, June 26, 2008

Berlin Airlift

Yeserday was the sixtieth anniversary of the start of the Berlin Airlift.

In June of 1948, the Soviet Union blocked all ground and water access to the Allied controlled portions of Berlin. The US and Royal Air Forces responded with the largest humanitarian airlift ever attempted. For over 300 days all food, medical supplies and fuel needed for over 2 million people were flown into the city. At the high point, a plane was landing every 90 seconds, 24 hours a day. Berliners worked at unloading the planes. Their efficiency was such that one 10 ton load was unloaded in under six minutes. Each flight crew flew multiple round trips per day. By late April 1949, the Airlift was bringing over 8000 tons of material, per day into the city. This was more that had been brought into city by rail prior to the blockade. On April 25, 1949, realizing that the airlift had reached a point where it could be carried on indefinitely, the Soviet Union called off the blockade. The airlift continued for another three months so as to create a stockpile of supplies within the city in case the airlift needed to restarted. In total 2,326,406 tons of supplies were airlifted. There were 278,228 total flights into Berlin. There were 101 people including 31 Americans who lost their lives in the operations, mostly from crashes.

One US pilot, Gail Halvorsen started dropping candy from his plane to the children waiting outside of the runway. His example was expanded and the flight became known as "Candy Bombers". Over three tons of candy were eventually dropped.

The Berlin Airlift was one the pivotal moments of the 20th century. Without it, the Western Alliance might not have formed, and the Cold War would have started with a Soviet victory.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, RIP

Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker and Tits.

You can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick.

George Carlin has died at 71 of heart failure.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Google Maps "Street View" hits Tulsa

Google has driven its funny van around Tulsa it seems. Street View is available for Tulsa. This is both pretty cool and kind of creepy. A while back, I called a friend in the DFW region and was able to describe his house, which I have never visited, to him, all courtesy of Street View. Kind of has a big brother aspect to it, especially when combined with the satellite views available on Google maps. I am sure that some criminals are finding this very useful data.

On the other hand, this will help a great deal with my research on Tulsa's architectural history. Rather than actually driving around to do my scouting I can sit here in Bartlesville in my underwear. With the current gas prices, this is great.

A down side, is that they don't seem to be done. There are blank spots all over the map. Especially troublesome is the large swath between Harvard and Yale from Pine to 41st Street, which has only about 15% of the streets covered. I notice that Tulsa doesn't have the little camera icon as you zoom out. OKC does and seems to have many fewer holes, so perhaps they are still driving, or processing data, or something.

Bobbio Orosius

Cross posted from Monstrous Beauty.

The Bobbio Orosius, from the 7th century, introduces an important motif to insular art, the Carpet Page. This is the oldest surviving carpet page. The design is not similar to the Carpet Pages in the later more famous gospel books (Durrow, Lindisfarne, Kells), but its purpose seem to have been similar; To serve as a sort of internal cover. As Dr. J. Kirsten Ataoguz points out over at Early Medieval Art, the Bobbio Orosius carpet page can be compared, at least in layout to the cover of the Stoneyhurst Gospels. (see below for image.) Like the later gospel books this carpet page faces a decorated initial. (I regret not having an image of the initial, and the poor image of the carpet page here, but it is all that is available on the net.)

The Bobbio Orosius also represents an important movement in the religious and artistic history of Europe. Although the manuscript was produced at a monastery in Italy, it was produced by Irish monks. The monastery in question, Bobbio was founded by St. Columbanus, who was from Ireland. Many important communities on the continent were founded by Irish monks. Many of the important "insular" manuscripts were in fact produced in the scriptoria of these communities. These monasteries were to play a vital role in the religious and artistic life of the next several centuries.

The manuscript itself (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana MS D. 23. Sup.) is a copy of the Chronicon of Orosius. In the seventtenth century it was given to the newly established Ambrosian Library in Milan, where it remains today. Dr. Ataoguz also has a discussion of this manuscript at Early Medieval Art.

The Stonyhurst Gospel Covers

Friday, June 13, 2008

Roman D&D

It seems that a 2nd century Roman glass twenty sided die was auctioned by Christie's for $18,000. The auction notes said that "Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used." But, we know, don't we.

Seriously, this is very cool. I wonder if they made four sided dice as well. And then stepped on them in the middle of the night.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Unicorns and Dragons and CERN, oh my

Unicorns are real! I think we should rethink the plan those crazy physicists at CERN have for creating dragons.

Texas Governor's Mansion

This is a few days old, but there was major fire at the Texas Governor's Mansion in the early morning last Sunday. It appears to have been arson. Although I hate to see any historic structure lost or damaged, this one hits a little closer to home. When we lived in Austin, there was a major bus transfer point in front of the mansion. I spent a lot of time waiting on buses admiring the mansion. We always said that we ought to tour the mansion some time, but never did. This should be a lesson to not assume that things will always be around. Gather rosebuds while you may.

The good news is the the mansion was in the middle of a major renovation (which is why security was so lax) and all of the artworks, furniture, and artifacts were in storage. The bad news is that a lot of the historic fabric is gone. For example, the banister rail had filled holes where Governor Jim Hogg had driven nails to keep his kids from sliding down the banister. From the pictures I've seen, that rail is a complete loss.

The picture above is courtesy of the Texas Governor's Office. The Governor's office has also posted more images of the damage here. Governor Perry has vowed to rebuild, whatever the cost. I saw one estimate that said that other similar structure with comparable damage cost 20 million dollars to repair. If I know Texas that are probably several dozen rich dudes who would be willing and able to foot the entire bill. I also can't imagine the Texas legislature not coming up with the money.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Kiddie Park

Kiddie Park roller coaster
Originally uploaded by ezeiza
Today we renewed a family tradition. We went to the Kiddie Park in Johnstone Park. For those not from Bartlesville, the Kiddie Park is small amusement park in Bartlesville primarily aimed at small children. The perfect age is 5. By the time a child gets to six some of the rides are already too small. The park is maintained mainly through donations and volunteers. There are sixteen rides, most of them variants of going around slowly in a circle. Many of the rides are vintage things kept running through loving care. The biggest ride is the roller coaster. The highest hill is about 12 feet tall. Tickets cost 25 cents and most of the rides cost 1 ticket. The remainder cost 2 tickets.

One of the highlights is the miniature train which runs out into Johnstone Park and back, running through a "tunnel" (really the shed the train is kept in in the winter) where it is traditional for young girls to scream in pitches not usually possible for humans. If you stay until closing time, the last train ride is free.

It's a gentle place. There are loud speakers playing music, but unless you right under them they serve mostly as background noise. None of the rides have loudspeakers or the like, so they just make a quiet clacking sound as they run. The child to adult ratio is pretty close to 1:1 the families with Mom, Dad, and grandparents along to watch the single child have fun, match the few families with multiple kids. The kids are remarkably well behaved. The kids running the rides are basically recent graduates from being customers. The park hires 14 and 15 year old kids, giving them an early chance at learning job skills and get some experience. because of the short hours and sub-minimum wage pay the kids can expect to earn about 400 bucks a summer. The Elder Daughter is already plotting what she will do with her riches when she is old enough to work there in a few years.

I was very glad to be able to got today. I was worried Monday. Last year the flooding in Bartlesville flooded the Park. It was closed most of the summer. Monday the river was up high again. Some major roads were closed and the water was into Johnstone Park. The Kiddie Park stayed dry and the water was ten feet lower today.

The kids had good time. The Younger Daughter rode the roller coaster for the first time and came off squeaking "I love it, I love it". The Elder Daughter got in four rides. The younger daughter demonstrated that you can dye significant portions of your body blue with a single snow cone. (BTW, who in the hell decided that blue was the appropriate color for raspberry?) The only down side is that a few of the rides including the train were down for repairs. With luck, and if the river don't rise, we will be back a dozen or more times this summer.

Note: The picture above is from Flickr and not from today's trip.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tulsa Architecture, Hooper Brothers Coffee

This is one of my favorite historical buildings in Tulsa, in part because I can find it, and most people don't know that it exists. It took me the better part of an hour to find it the first time though. It is in downtown, being within the inner dispersal loop, but just barely.

The building was built in 1924 and was active in the coffee business until 1961. The railroad tracks run right behind the building. Coffee beans were unloaded directly into the building, where they were roasted and ground. The coffee making machinery is long gong. In 1978, when the building was added to National Register of Historic Places, it still had the last working hydraulic elevator in Tulsa. The architect and builder are unknown. It is a rare survival of a 1920s commercial building.

The view above is the from the southwest. Below the view from the northwest.

The sign reading "Hooper Bros Coffee" on the front of the building is raised brickwork.

As can be seen above, the south facade has rectangular windows. There are panels with raised decorative brickwork between the windows of the two stories.

The windows on the west facade have low arches.

The west facade had a painted sign that is still faintly visible.

The north facade also had a painted sign that can only be seen in the lessened wearing of the bricks.

The corners of the building do not meet squarely, causing them to have a jagged appearance. The corner below in an "interior" corner. It is on the south facade, along the west edge of the, now boarded over, main doorway. I assume it represents an extension of an interior wall that was not built at a right angle to the south exterior wall. The southwest corner of the building has a similar appearance.

The Beryl Ford Collection at the Tulsa Library did not have any vintage images of this building online. They did have an image of the 1940 Hooper Brothers Coffee calendar.

Thanks to my brother for the photography of the building and to the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society for the calendar image.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Buy Danish

My Brother has a "Buy Danish" logo on his blog. Here is an example of why. The subtitles suffered a bit in translation. "I have neutralized one...motherfucker", and the ever popular ">taunting<".

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cathach of St. Columba

The Cathach of St. Columba is the starting point for Celtic manuscripts. The traditional story is that Columba was lent a psalter by St. Finnian on the condition that he not copy it. Columba nevertheless copied in a single miraculous all-night session. When Finnian discovered the manuscript, he appealed to the local king, who awarded the copy to Finnian. Columba raised his kinsmen which resulted in the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne. Columba went into exile, where he founded Iona, as penance for the men killed in the battle. The Cathach is traditionally identified with Columba's copy. The Cathach, however, has been dated to the 7th century on paleological grounds. Throughout the Middle Ages it was carried into battle as a talisman, a practice from which it gets it name. "Cathach" means "battler" in Irish.

The decoration in the Cathach is limited to the first few letters of each Psalm. This decoration establishes several themes that are explored in great depth in later manuscripts. The first letter of each Psalm is enlarged. In earlier manuscripts initial letters had been enlarged and decorated. Bit the decorations in those manuscripts were used to fill space or were appended to the latter. In the Cathach, the decoration distorts the shape of the letter, so that the letter becomes the decoration. Subsequent letters were drawn into the decoration through the gradual shrinking of the letters. In earlier manuscripts the letters after the first letter were the same size as the he rest of the text. In the Cathach, each subsequent letter is a bit smaller than the preceding letter until the letters reach the size of the bulk of the text. The letters are often decorated with small red dots. These three ideas the distortion of letters for decoration, the dimidation of letters, and the use red dots for decoration are ideas worked out in great detail later.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Forty four years ago today, thousands of young men endured a horror I cannot imagine. By the end of the day, they had changed the future of the world. Every day fewer and fewer of those young men are left. The Tulsa World ran a profile on one of them today.

Here are the memories of some of the other those men.

Monday, June 2, 2008

NPR can't say hero.

Today, as I was driving to work, NPR ran a short story saying that President Bush would be honoring PFC Ross McGinnis today. Although they described the act of heroism, throwing himself on a grenade in order to save four other soldiers, they never mentioned what he was being awarded. It was, of course, the Medal of Honor, posthumously. According to Wikipedia McGinnis is on of US servicemen to have thrown themselves on live grenades. The others were Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor, and Marine Rafael Peralta. Dunham and Monsoor were awarded the Medal of Honor and Peralta is waiting presidential approval.

5th century Coptic manuscript.

This manuscript represents a bit of a frustration for me. I had read Weitzmann, and some other sources so I thought I had a pretty good idea what were the important manuscripts. Then I checked out Lorenzo Crinelli's, Treasures from Italy's Great Libraries (New York, The Vendome Press, 1997). One of the early manuscripts was this 5th century Coptic Old Testament fragment (Naples, Biblioteca Vittorio Emanuele III, 1 B 18). Illustrated here is Job and his daughters. I wrote an article about it for Wikipedia. It makes me wonder though, how many more very early manuscripts am I missing? Are there other 5th century Coptic manuscripts. What about other eastern manuscripts. I know about Syriac manuscripts (The Rabula Gospels and the Bible in Paris) are there more? I haven't found a text in English on Coptic manuscripts, although there are some in French. It may be worth my while to struggle through them.

All of that aside, so that you won't have go read the Wikipedia article, here are the basics. This is a fragment of 5th century manuscript of the Old Testament written in the Coptic language. The manuscript has only 8 surviving folios and includes the text from the Book of Job and from Proverbs. One folio has a large pen drawing illustrating Job and his daughters with Job pictured as a bearded man wearing a crown and short tunic. His daughters wear tunics with jewels and diadems. The iconography of Job is very different in this manuscript from that in later centuries. Here he is seen as royal figure while in later portrayals he is seen as humbled and sitting on a dung heap.