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I am seriously thinking of adding a new category to this blog, for messages having to do with Florida. If I do, I’ll call it something like “The Old Country,” because I lived in the Orlando area from 1966 to 2006. Being that close to Walt Disney World meant I didn’t realize how unreal life in Florida can be, until after I moved away. While I was there, the main reminder I got of strangeness came from a group called the Florida League Against Progress (FLAP), which tried to discourage people from moving to Florida by publishing a calendar every year. This calendar had a negative, and often bizarre news story, for every day of the year!
Now here is a list full of offbeat stories that would surely go into the FLAP calendar if it was still being published. Many of them involve critters, no surprise there. No wonder Chuck Shepherd, the author of News of the Weird, lives in the Sunshine State (St. Petersburg, if I remember right).
Last night’s rain turned into snow, and this time it was more than a dusting; when we woke up this morning, there was 2-3 inches on the ground. On my street, life usually comes to a standstill when that happens. I did go out in the early afternoon, because I figured it was a good day to give a pint at the local blood center; the only signs of activity in the neighborhood were tire tracks in the snow, and two houses with snowmen in the front.
Despite the weather, all the locals seem to have taken it in good stride. There was a good turnout at the blood center, and when I went on our newspaper’s website, Kentucky.com, to see if the snow caused trouble anywhere, there were no articles on it. Instead the headline was this afternoon’s basketball game, between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville! Yes, it’s time for the annual grudge match; the true community priorities can be seen again.
Once upon a time, your social and ethnic background was expected to shape your political views. If you belonged to a minority, for instance, you were likely to have liberal views and become a Democrat. Nowadays, however, if you don’t have the expected viewpoint, your ethnicity is questioned. The best example is how black conservatives are called "not black enough," especially if they succeed on their own merits, without claiming to be a victim. For instance, a leftist may view Thurgood Marshall as a black Supreme Court justice, but not Clarence Thomas, though his skin color was always darker than Marshall’s. This allows liberals to get away with treating Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, Herman Cain, etc., the same way that racists used to treat blacks in general. It never fails to amaze me how much conservatives of color are detested by progressives of pallor.
I don’t think using one’s views to determine his identity is an improvement over the days when we did the opposite. We saw how absurd this can be in 2012, when a Latino Jew was described as white, because it fit the media’s race narrative better, while a white woman running for the Senate became a Cherokee Indian.
Along those lines, does anyone remember when Bill Clinton was called the first black president, because he was raised in a single-parent home, liked fried chicken, and got in trouble with white conservatives? That ended in a hurry when Barack Obama came along.
While the Napoleonic Wars were the main event in continental Europe, a smaller war was taking place in the British Isles. This was the United Irishmen’s Revolt (1796-98), an unsuccessful rebellion in Ireland against British rule. I had written about the revolt for Chapter 12 of my European history, but I did not know the full extant of how France gave aid to the Irish, so here are two new paragraphs to fill in that gap:
Meanwhile, the French launched two diversionary attacks on Great Britain itself, to keep the British from sending reinforcements to Ireland. One squadron went to the important port of Newcastle, but poor weather and mutinies forced it to return to France without making landfall. The other squadron originally headed for Bristol, and the same adverse winds drove it to south Wales. There it managed to land 1,400 men, who called themselves "the Black Legion," at the town of Fishguard (February 22, 1797). These were not France’s finest; only 600 of them were regular French soldiers, while the rest were prisoners sent on a punishment assignment–deserters, common criminals and royalists of dubious loyalty. This motley crew was led by an Irish-American, Colonel William Tate, whose qualifications were that he was a veteran of the American Revolution and had taken part in an unsuccessful plot to capture New Orleans for the French.
Anyway, the plan was to march across Wales to Bristol, but discipline broke down immediately. The convicts deserted, got drunk when they found wine, and looted a local church. Consequently the Welsh cooperated with England, instead of joining the French in an anti-English uprising. There was also a report of French soldiers seeing Welsh women at a distance wearing red shawls and black hats, and mistaking the traditional costume for the uniforms of British soldiers. Morale was so bad among those French who were not sick and drunk that a cobbler, Jemima Nicholas, singlehandedly captured twelve French soldiers, though she was only armed with a pitchfork. There was a skirmish when the local British militia arrived at Fishguard, and realizing that they could not succeed with both the Welsh population and the British army opposing them, Tate and the French officers surrendered. That ended the expedition, only two days after it landed in Wales; today it is sometimes called "the last invasion of Britain."
Yesterday I read two stories from British history that I had never heard before. The first concerns Lady Jane Grey, who was queen in the middle of the Tudor period for only nine days. The second had to do with a French invasion of Wales in 1797; I will talk more about that in the next message on this blog.
For Jane Grey, I added this footnote to Chapter 10 of my European history:
Did I say the succession went from Edward to Mary to Elizabeth? Well, there was a brief interruption. A powerful noble at Edward’s court, the Duke of Northumberland, married his son, Guildford Dudley, to the king’s teenage cousin, Lady Jane Grey. When Edward was on his deathbed, he wrote a new will that gave the crown to Jane, instead of Mary. Northumberland probably persuaded him to do this, to keep the crown out of Catholic hands and to give his son a chance to become king. Upon Edward’s death Jane Grey moved to the Tower of London, to await coronation, while Mary went to East Anglia to raise an army. The late king’s advisors, the Privy Council, recognized Mary as the rightful heir; that and popular support allowed Mary to enter London without resistance. Thus, Jane was queen for only nine days, and because she was now a prisoner, she never left the Tower of London after entering it. Mary had Jane and her husband put on trial for high treason, and both were sentenced to death, but the sentence was suspended. Then in January 1554, a minor Protestant rebellion broke out; Jane had no part in it, but it gave Mary the excuse she needed to have Jane and her husband beheaded.
Well, if the president of the United States doesn’t want to be friends with Israel, here is a president who does.
So much is wrong with this, I hardly know where to begin. Can anyone imagine the response if someone tried to rewrite the Koran?
All right, I knew he was Italian, long before reading this story. Still, how else does one explain the actor appearing in a 500-year-old Renaissance painting?