Driving through History: Visits to the USS Monitor, Smithsonian Air, Richmond, Gettysburg and Brawner’s Farm
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” ― William Faulkner,
William Faulkner famously struggled with the history of the South. Born and raised at a time when Civil War veterans still lived, he didn’t have to walk the battlefields at Gettysburg in order to be able to write his stirring piece on how those days in 1863 have never left us. But once the people of significant events have passed into that same history, no longer to tell their stories, we have to find other ways to touch the past.
Recently, I was made aware that the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the home of the restoration of the USS Monitor turret and other recovered artifacts, was giving tours of the facilities and the turret itself. See, the turret is kept in a tank filled with water the majority of the time, fresh water and a slight electrical current leech the accumulated salt from metal that spent 140 years on the bottom of the Atlantic. Of course, once I heard of the tours, I made plans, borrowed a car, and drove south on a Thursday afternoon.
The USS Monitor had a short lifespan, yet was a truly revolutionary ship. After careful perusal, I can actually recommend the Wikipedia article on her as a good source for her history during the Civil War and post recovery in 2002. I’ve read a lot about the Monitor during years of model building, general historical curiosity, and research for my New York Times pieces, so I was well versed in her past when I arrived at the museum on Friday morning. I was greeted by Hannah, who took me through the initial parts of the Monitor related exhibits, including a busted Dahlgren cannon fired from the CSS Virginia during the battle the day before her fight with the Monitor, and a full-sized partial depiction of the Virginia herself. Several preserved artifacts recovered from the Monitor’s wreck are displayed, the most impressive of which is the red signal lantern at the top of this entry. The red lantern, the distress signal the Monitor raised on New Years Eve in 1862, was the last thing anyone ever saw of her as she sank. 140 year later, it was also the first thing found of her wreck, spotted laying on the ocean floor, literally rolling in the sand, several hundred yards from Monitor herself. Continue Reading »
I initially wrote this review for cv5yorktown.com, a website I maintain about the history of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5). Black Shoe Carrier Admiral covers the career of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, a man closely tied to U.S.S. Yorktown and her career. He moved his flag to her in early 1942 and stayed with her until her loss at Midway. Lundstrom’s book focuses heavily on the first year of the war in the Pacific, and does so at a very high command level. Unlike many WWII histories, this book is much less of the day to day of maintaining and fighting a ship, and a lot more about the intelligence and decisions that brought the ships to the battles. I have to admit that when I first started reading the book, it didn’t hold my attention too well. I like books about specific characters, and while Fletcher is the man followed in Continue Reading »
It’s odd, but I have a thing for tornadoes. I grew up in southern Indiana in the 1970s and 80s when Tornado Alley still ran through the area, (did you know Tornado Alley moves about over the years like a wandering river?), and we had no shortage of incredible thunderstorms, filled with no end of tornado watches. Fortunately I and my family never had direct experience with the devastation a tornado brings, but we came close during the massive outbreak in April of 1974. A tornado went right through our area that day, blew a hole in our neighbor’s garage, destroyed a tool shed in our front yard, tossed about the trailer park a quarter mile down the road, and destroyed a few houses a mile away. We weren’t home at the time, were on our way back from town. My mother stopped the car alongside the highway and made us lay down in the back of the station wagon. I can still remember the green and orange sky. That’s as close as we came. We got lucky. Up until my parents moved out of our childhood home ten years ago, you could still walk the woods behind and see trees that had been snapped-off by that funnel cloud all those years ago.
That 1974 Super Outbreak, as it’s called, was the largest tornado outbreak on record, until the 2011 Super Outbreak came along. WHAT STANDS IN A STORM is a story of that Continue Reading »
This is part of a review of a new product line by IPP out of Korea. The original post, as below, that I did on the US Navy colors, and the follow-up review if the IJN colors can be seen HERE on the Modelwarships.com website.
Matt of Kraken Hobbies sent along some samples of the new lacquer based ship paints from IPP of Korea. The range is mostly made up of USN WWII colors at this point, but does also have some WWII IJN colors, as well as modern colors. The lineup as of now is, per Matt’s ability to order:
IJN: Sasebo Grey, Kure Grey, Linoleum Brown
USN: 20B, 5-O, 5-L, 5-H, 5-S, 5-N, 5-P
Modern USN: Deck Matt, Flight Deck Matt, Freeboard Superstructure Matt
JMSDF: Freeboard Superstructure Matt, Deck Matt
Per Matt, they also offer their own brand of thinner and leveling fluid, which I would recommend. More on why later.
The following paints were tested by myself and IJN expert Dan Kaplan. I’ll comment on the three USN colors, Dan will chime in on this thread with his thoughts on the IJN offerings. Testing was done by spraying the paints on white styrene, unprimed, to match as close as possible the Snyder and Short paint chip cards (hereafter S&S) that both Dan and I possess. Continue Reading »
Photos and information added to the USS Benson page HERE.
I don’t know that I’ve ever enjoyed books so much that I have so many problems with. I’ve rarely been so lost as to what was going on with the plot as I was initially with these books. At the same time, it didn’t phase me as the characters and the pace of action more than made up for it. It’s not a combination that’ll work for everyone, but it did for me. Cook has a great reputation as a fantasy writer, so this style must work for a lot of people.
In the Black Company series, Glen Cook shuns almost all of the common themes and tropes of fantasy novels. There are no intricate histories read as if from a text book, no detailed descriptions of what people look like, no pages of descriptions of meals, nor involved descriptions of what the world looks like. There’s nothing other than what you Continue Reading »
“The Great Influenza” could be used as a text book for a class on the flu virus and the history of the medical community’s battle against it. It took me a while to get into the book, as the first 100 pages deal with the establishment of the modern doctor and the systems that were put in place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to train the modern physician. Honestly this bit was a little dry for me; not because it wasn’t interesting, but because it’s not my main area of interest in this topic.
I’d honestly hoped for more of a “life on the streets” tale, as entire cities such as New York and Philadelphia were effectively shut down during the height of the epidemic in late 1918. During that time, thousands died every single day, and bodies were stacked on porches and sidewalks to be collected much as they had been during the medieval days of the Black Plague. There’s a bit of Continue Reading »
Recently I finally got some closure on a project from some years ago. I made it out to the museum in Building 92 of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Part of their collection is a large scale model of the famous battleship USS Maine. A model that I helped build.
Back in 2010 a friend of mine, ship modeler extraordinaire Gary Kingzett, asked me if I’d like to assist him on a build for a museum. My odd work schedules over a 5 or 6 year period allowed me the freedom to travel to his home and workshop in northern New Jersey. Material for the ship’s hull was a large sheet of poured urethane resin, known as butter board. I’ve put some photos in the Continue Reading »
I loved the movie. I walked home in a daze after seeing it. Now, 12 hours later, maybe I have a little perspective to write about what I saw.
There’s lots of talk of nostalgia in regards to Star Wars. As someone that saw the original Star Wars in 1977 as a 7 year old, nostalgia for these films is big for me. HUGE. The Force Awakens has this in droves. Just as the original Star Wars pulled from various Sci-Fi serials and samurai films, this film pulls from the original trilogy. Make no mistake, this is an original trilogy film, not a prequels film. There is action, depth, a lived-in-world feel, and humor. This film is funny in the same way that A New Hope was. The snarky banter and sarcasm is fantastic.
It’s not perfect. I can see where some come from saying that parts of the plot are recycled from the original trilogy. That’s true. Do I care? Not in the least. The parts that are recycled are done in a way that they make logical sense (in as much as military theory in a fantasy setting can make sense) and the themes that we’re familiar with that are here again are mostly used because they are EFFECTIVE. The biggest issue I have with the film has to do with the hardware. I love Star Wars ships, I became a model builder because of these movies. In this movie, I wanted more. This is something I’m only now realizing, though, because while watching the movie, I was too enthralled by the performances and chemistry between the characters to care about the ships.
And those characters. Finn and Rey have fantastic chemistry together. They just belong in this universe. Poe is fantastic. I want more. And Adam driver. He commands every scene he’s in, a wonderfully flawed villain. Sorry, R2, but I have a new favorite Astromech in BB8. There’s one scene with him (her?) that I still bust out laughing every time I think of it. And from the original movies, Han, Leia, Luke, Chewie, R2 and 3PO are back and have never left. They’ve been living in this universe, waiting three decades for us to get back to them.
The Force Awakens has brought us back to that galaxy far, far away, and it’s a wonderful trip. Enjoy the ride.
After a long hiatus, I’ve finished a red Swingline replica. You can find it on eBay here:
The actual stapler on auction is pictured above.