Monday, February 28, 2011

Frank Buckles, RIP -- February 28, 2011

Corporal Frank Buckles, the last surviving US Doughboy from World War One, has died. Thank you, Mr Buckles for your service to our country. He volunteered at 16 and lied about his age. Working for a shipping company, he was captured in Manilla during World War Two and held as a civilian prisoner until he was liberated by US paratrooper and Philipine guerillas.

There are only two known survivors of World War One, both British.

The image is an early edition of George M Cohan's "Over There," illustrated by Norman Rockwell.

This is the 900th entry in this blog.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Duke Snider RIP -- February 27, 2011

Duke Snider died. In the 1950s, he was one of three great New York area centerfielders, along with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. The card is from 1963, when he played for the New York Mets. In 1964 he played for the San Francisco Giants.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Clothing the Big Battle-Ship -- February 26, 2011

From the 21-February-1895 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. Click on the image for a larger view. Oregon was a pre-Dreadnought battleship, built at San Francisco's Union Iron Works. When the Spanish-American War was on the brink of erupting, Oregon sailed around the Horn to the east coast in three weeks. This provided ammunition for proponents of a Panama Canal. Oregon served in the fleet that destroyed the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba. In 1914 she visited the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Starting in 1925, she was preserved at Portland, Oregon as a museum ship. When World War II broke out, she was scrapped. The Harvey Process was a method of treating armor plate which produced a hardened face and a more elastic back which could prevent splinters from flying through the ship. The Holzer shot was a type of armor piercing ammunition.




Small Slabs of Blue-Gray Metal That Will Shield the Gunners.

The battle-ship Oregon, the next floating fighter from the Union Iron Works, is fast progressing toward the day of her completion. Even from the unfinished condition there is shadowed forth a promise of what the great steel destroyer will be when she springs full armed and equipped from the hands that molded her from shapeless masses of unsightly metal.
She is now taking on her first tier of forward turret plates, steel, and case hardened by the Harvey process. These small slabs of blue-gray metal are each 12 feet long, 8 feet wide, 18 inches thick and weigh 30 tons. The great density of this impenetrable armor can be readily understood when in recent tests a forged steel projectile which perforated uninjured with considerable velocity seventeen inches of wrought iron was broken like glass by the hard face of a Harveyized nickel plate.
An eight-inch Holtzer shot, weighing 250 pounds, with a 7700 striking velocity and an energy of 5008 foot-tons and a calculated perforation through 11.71 inches of steel, was shivered against a 10-ton plate.
A sample Harveyized plate, 10 feet long by 6 feet broad by 14 inches thick, representing 250 tons of nickel plate, was tested with three 500-pound steel shots from a 10-inch gun, with a striking velocity of 1400 feet per second. The penetration was slight and the projectiles were considerably damaged.
The 18-inch steel coating, weighing 420 tons, which is being riveted to the Oregon's forward turret, is valued at $140,000; costly but ample protection for the two 13-inch guns stationed there.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Hard Work Being a Cat #44 -- February 25, 2011

I took this photo on 06-February-2011.

It did not snow this morning, but there was heavy rain. By mid-morning, the sun was out, but it was still very cold.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Comic Book #2 -- February 24, 2011

I have mentioned it before, but I always enjoy seeing the Axis leaders get their comeuppance. Ham Fisher created Joe Palooka, a gentlemanly boxer. Here Joe usesHitler and Mussolini punching bags. I don't recognize the little guy who is beating up on Tojo.

It was very cold today and it rained much of the day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Benny Bufano #5 -- February 23, 2011

Benny Bufano's "Penguins," sometimes called "Penguin's Prayer" is made of granite and stainless steel. It stands on Davis Street near Washington, in the Golden Gateway Center.

It was very cold again today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

East Bay Terminal Being Demolished #5 -- February 22, 2011

Today they were tearing down the ramps south of Howard Street between First and Second. The building on the west side of First between Mission and Howard is now torn down.

As I was heading home, I saw Larry the Shoe Shine Guy was out of the hospital. He said he is feeling better.

Happy Birthday, President Washington #3 -- February 22, 2011

"Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." -- George Washington

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Presidents' Day #3 -- February 21, 2011

Presidents' Day commemorates all Presidents, some good, some not so good.

James A Garfield didn't have much time to prove whether he was a good president or a bad one. An Ohio native, like many other presidents, he reached the rank of Major General in the Civil War. In the 1880 election, he defeated another general, Winfield Scott Hancock, and became the youngest man elected president up to that time. Four months after his inauguration, Charles Guiteau shot Garfield twice in the Washington Baltimore and Ohio train station. Guiteau was called a disappointed office seeker, which gave impetus to Civil Service reform, but was basically a crazy person.

Garfield lingered for two months and might have recovered if his doctors had not tried so hard to find one of the bullets. After Garfield died, Guiteau admitted in his trial that he shot Garfield, but contended that the doctors had killed him. Unmoved, the jury convicted him and he was hanged.

When my family went to visit relatives in Ohio when I was young, we toured Garfield's home, Lawnfield.

I took the photo of the Garfield Monument in Golden Gate Park on 03-January-2009.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pulp #21 -- February 19, 2011

Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon was first published in three issues of The Black Mask in 1929.

We had heavy yesterday and today. I had to work very late. Today we went to the Blood Bank.
After 5 o'clock mass, we went to Kay Heung #2 and got some Chinese food. Then we went home and watched the Chinese New Year parade. It was cold, but it wasn't raining.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Slapstick #6 -- February 18, 2011

Shortly after the scandal which wrecked his career broke out, after a wild party in San Francisco, his wife Minta Durfee gave an interview to Movie Weekly. I think it is important to state: he didn't do it.

Lots of rain today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Door #8 -- February 17, 2011

I took this photo on 16-February-2011 on Hawthorne near Howard.

There was more hail last night. When I left the house this morning, there was still hail piled up in the planter boxes. During the day there was lots of heavy rain. My wife saw lightning in Pacifica.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Alley #16 -- February 16, 2011

Dashiell Hammett lived at 20 Monroe Street, the brick-faced building, in 1926. The street is now named after him. Across Pine Street is Burritt Street, where Sam Spade's partner Miles Archer would be killed early in The Maltese Falcon.

There was heavy hail this morning about 8:45. Then sunlight. Then violent rain around 12:30.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Roots of Film Noir -- February 15, 2011

This post is part of For the Love of Film (Noir), The Film Preservation Blogathon, hosted again this year by Ferdy on Films ( and The Self-Styled Siren (
Click on contemporary images to see larger versions.
Please be aware that if you haven't read any of Hammett's stories or seen any of the three movie versions of The Maltese Falcon, or the two versions of The Glass Key or the one version of The Dain Curse that there are spoilers ahead.
Our friends at Wikipedia tell us that French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton coined the term "film noir" in their 1955 book Panorama du film noir américain 1941-1953. Borde and Chaumeton say that film noirs (I'm going to avoid a long discussion on the proper plural for the term) have five defining characteristics: They are oneiric (dream-like), strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel. That sounds good to me, although I can think of some children's stories that are also oneiric, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel.
I am going to concentrate on one author whose books, and the films made from his books, had a significant influence on film noir.
Samuel Dasheill Hammett was born in Maryland in 1894. In 1915 he went to work for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He left Pinkerton to serve in the Army during World War One. He did not see combat, but he did contract a case of tuberculosis. After his discharge from the Army and the sanitarium, he returned to Pinkerton, working in the San Francisco office, in the Flood Building at Powell and Market, but after a while his health forced him to quit.

He took up writing and supported himself by writing advertising copy for the Albert S Samuels Company, a jewelery store. Some sources claim that Hammett coined their slogan, "The house of lucky wedding rings," but Samuels' website says they started using it when the business opened in 1891. My wife and I bought our wedding rings there. A famous street clock stood outside of Samuels Jewelers on Market. The branch is gone, but the clock is still there.

Hammett found success as a writer, which allowed him to quit the advertising racket, by publishing stories, especially in Black Mask, a pulp magazine.

How did Hammett's stories and the movies made from them reflect the five features of film noir?

1. Oneiric (dream like) - Hammett's stories are realistic, but dreams creep in around the edges of many of them. The title of Hammett's novel The Glass Key is explained when Janet Henry describes a dream she has had about wandering through the woods with Ned Beaumont. They are both starving and they come across a cabin. Through the window they can see a table set with food. They find a key and open the door. The floor is covered with snakes. They get the snakes to come out and they go in to eat. Later she says she didn't tell him the truth about the dream. The key was made of glass. After it unlocked the door, the key broke. They couldn't lock the door and the snakes crawled on them and she woke up screaming.
At the conclusion of The Maltese Falcon, the sympathetic cop, Tom Polhaus, picks up the falcon, remarks that it is heavy, and asks Sam Spade what it is made of. Spade says "The stuff that dreams are made of."
2. Strange - The Dain Curse, Hammett's second novel, featured the Continental Op, Hammett's nameless detective. The Op gets entangled with Gabrielle Dain, a junkie who thinks she is both de-evolved and cursed. She believes that people who get close to her are going to die. And what do you know, almost everyone around her does die. Along the way, we encounter the Temple of the Holy Grail, an oddball cult with phantoms floating around its rooms. We wind up seeing the Op helping Gabrielle break her addiction. All of this probably explains why no one made a movie out this story until 1978. James Coburn, who resembled Hammett more than the squat, powerful Op, played a character who had a name. Sacrilege.
3. Erotic - Sam Spade, detective in The Maltese Falcon, was sleeping with his partner's wife. He flirted heavily with his secretary, Effie Perrine. After mystery woman Brigid O'Shaughnessy engaged Spade and partner Miles Archer to deal with international adventurer Floyd Thursby, things got complicated. Spade wound up sleeping with Miss O'Shaughnessy, too. It's not so clear in the 1941 movie, because of the production code, but it is quite clear in the book. There are more erotic scenes in The Glass Key, but I don't have my copy handy, so I can't quote from them.

4. Ambivalent - Sam Spade's partner Miles Archer followed Floyd Thursby down Burrett Street, seen above in 2010. The police had Spade come to identify Archer's body. The police were surprised that Spade did not want to go down the slope that existed on the left before the present buildings went up to inspect Archer's body. Spade later explained his ambivalence: "When a man's partner is killed he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it's bad business to let the killer get away with it. It's bad all around-bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere."

According to researchers like Don Herron of the famous Hammett Walking Tour, Spade and Archer's office was in the Hunter-Dulin Building, seen behind the former headquarters of Crocker Bank. The building was also the home of NBC's West Coast Orange Network.

In 2007, the San Francisco Arts Commission ( set up a series of posters representing characters from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (one of my favorite novels). Artist Owen Smith made this image to represent gunsel Wilmer and detective Sam Spade.

In a bit of ambivalent wording, Spade refers to Casper Gutman's gun-toting little boyfriend Wilmer as a "gunsel." Readers of the book and later the Breen Office, which administered the Production Code, assumed that "gunsel" refers to a gunman. Actually, it refers to a younger man kept by an older man.
On a larger scale, Hammett was a man of left-leaning attitudes, who later joined the Communist Party USA. Much of his work for Pinkerton involved breaking strikes. Talk about ambivalence.
5. Cruel - One of the most disturbing scenes in The Glass Key involves Ned Beaumont being tortured by the goons Jeff and Rusty. Jeff in particular enjoys beating Ned, referring to him as his "Little Rubber Ball" and marveling at the way that "You can't croak him. He's tough. He's a tough baby. He likes this."

In this still from the 1941 version of the movie, note the smile on Sam Spade's face before he punches Joel Cairo.

Sam Spade ate a meal at John's Grill, which is still open on Ellis Street. Today it houses a replica of the black bird and offers the same meal that Spade ordered. Nothing to do with cruelty, just going on with Hammett's story.

Hammett left San Francisco and went to Hollywood, where he worked as a screenwriter and pursued his interest in drinking. At some point he began a long-term affair with writer Lillian Hellman, which provided some of the inspiration for his last completed novel, The Thin Man. Money from movies based on The Thin Man and radio shows based on it, on Sam Spade, and an original series called The Fat Man, provided Hammett with enough money that he didn't have to write to live.

When World War II broke out, Hammett again volunteered for the army. Despite his age and his lingering health problems, he served honorably during the war. When the Red Scare broke out after the war, Hammett, a liberal who had once belonged the the Communist Party USA, became a target. His radio shows were cancelled. He eventually went to prison because he refused to name names. His health broken, he died a few years later.
Samuel D Hammett, veteran of World War I and World War II, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I took all the contemporary photos between 2007 and last week. Magazine covers are from Cover Browser:
Thank you to Ferdy on Films ( and The Self-Styled Siren ( for organizing this blogathon. I'm having fun and learning.


Please consider donating to the Film Noir Foundation. We are raising money to restore The Sound of Fury, a film noir that should be better known.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Saint Valentine's Day #4 -- February 14, 2011

Happy Saint Valentine's Day, everyone.

Actress Martha Vickers made a great impression as Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep.

Pitchers and catchers report today. I'm excited.

There was rain and strong wind this morning. It was raining most of the day.

Tonight we went to Goodfella's and had a French Connection pizza.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

San Francisco History Expo -- February 13, 2011

Yesterday we attended a San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint. I was shocked at the size of the turnout. A guy at the Made in the Potrero table said the organizers had to turn away exhibitors. Woody LaBounty at the Western Neighborhoods Project (good to meet him in person) said visitors were beating down the door before it opened at 11am. The Market Street Railway had a large exhibit in a front office. Guardians of the City, the new combination of the Fire Department Museum and the Police and Sheriff's collections, had lots of items, and parked out front they had Truck 12, a 1937 Mack with a 1921 trailer. When we left, Engine 1 pulled up next to it and the firefighters had a nice chat with the museum volunteers. I took the photo looking down the hallway at the Mint.

After leaving the Mint, we had Vietnamese sandwiches at Latte Express on the Mint Plaza. Then we had gelati across the street at the San Francisco Center. Then we walked down Market to the Sees Candy at Sutter and made some purchases for Saint Valentine's Day.

Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, President Lincoln #4 -- February 12, 2010

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 202nd birthday. My favorite president.

An anonymous quote about Abraham Lincoln: "It never occurs to some politicians that Lincoln is worth imitating as well as quoting."

Today and tomorrow there is going to be a San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint, Fifth and Mission, from 11am to 4pm. I hope to get there today. Many local history organizations will set up mini museums and there will be a 1929 Mack hook and ladder truck parked out front.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Signs of the Times #36 - February 11, 2011

I went for a walk down Third Street on Wednesday and found these signs on every block I found the ice cream cone interesting, and the way "yourself" is broken into two words.

President Mubarak finally quit. I hope things go well in Egypt. People are very happy.

I was sad to hear that Cal has decided to eliminate men's baseball. Bad choice.

When I got off the BART train at Montgomery Street this morning, Muni was making a loud announcement that outbound traffic was stopped at Castro Station. On the way home, I got in the car and the announcer on the radio was saying that Castro Station had just reopened after a derailment in the morning.

Tomorrow and Sunday there is going to be a San Francisco History Expo at the Old Mint, Fifth and Mission, from 11am to 4pm. I hope to get there Saturday. Many local history organizations will set up mini museums and there will be a 1929 Mack hook and ladder truck parked out front.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hawke's Bay Herald -- February 10, 2011

Henry Van Der Weyde was a son of Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde. After service in the American Civil War, Henry emigrated to England, where he became a pioneer in taking photographs using artificial light.

This article, from the 05-April-1882 Hawke's Bay Herald (New Zealand), mentions the use of "Vanderweyde patent windows." I have to find that patent.

This photo is from Tennis By John Moyer Heathcote et. al: "C. Saunders volleying the service from the pent-house."

Mr S. Carnell yesterday opened his new photographic studio in Shakespeare-road, in the premises recently occupied by Mr Cassin. He has had the place re-fitted and made most convenient for the uses of a photographer. There are waiting-rooms and retiring-rooms for ladies, and all the accessories of a complete establishment. The studio has been erected behind the main building, and the Vanderweyde patent windows have been repaired and utilised. The room is 17ft wide by 35ft long, and is, we believe, the largest studio in the Australian colonies. Determined to protect himself as far as possible from another disastrous fire, Mr Carnell has also built a brick strong-room for the reception of his more valuable instruments and appliances. We wish him every success in his new start in business.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Train Station #31 -- February 9, 2011

The San Francisco Caltrain Station at Fourth and King replaced the old Southern Pacific depot at Third and Townsend. I took this photo of the concourse looking from Townsend towards King Street on 08-February-2011.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

DVD: Gaumont Treasures -- February 8,

It took me a while to get through it but I recently finished watching the three discs of Gaumont Treasures. Gaumont and Pathé are the oldest surviving motion picture production companies in the world. Taking pride in its heritage, Gaumont sponsored the restoration of several of its historic pre-World War One movies. I have heard that this box is a subset of a larger set issued in Europe.

The first disc features movies directed by Alice Guy from 1897 to 1907. She was head of production for the company. There are more movies on the disc than I could count, ranging from actualities and one of the many serpentine dances recorded by different companies in 1897, to single-scene comic bits and vaudeville turns, to 1905 sound-on-disc Chronophones to a 1906 33 minute life of Christ, to developed dramatic stories. Alice Guy married Herbert Blaché and moved to America, where she directed for Gaumont, then started her own company, Solax.

I noticed on this disc that the menu by year did not include all of the movies for a given year. I had to refer to back of the box and go to the alphabetical index to find many movies.

The second disc features movies directed by artistic director Louis Feuillade. I'm grateful for a short documentary, which finally allowed me to learn how to pronounce his family name. The movies include short comedy sketches, fantasies, historic tragedies, from his series "Le film esthétique", and modern-day soap operas, from his series "La Vie telle qu'elle est (Life As It Is)". There is only one series comedy, "Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant", but it is a good one. My family enjoyed it very much. Most of the longer movies are made up from a series of scenes each done in a single shot, but the staging keeps them interesting.

The third disc features movies directed by Feuillade's successor as artistic director, Leonce Perret. I had heard of Perret as a comedian and had often read about The Child of Paris, but I had never seen his work. The disc has a short documentary and only two movies directed by Perret, the featurette "Le Mystere des roches de Kador" and the feature L'Enfant de Paris. Perret wrote, directed, and played the villain in Kador, in which a psychologist tries to cure a demented woman by making a movie that reenacts the event that traumatized her. The Child of Paris is the most complex film in the whole set. The action moves from Paris to Nice and includes many beautiful exterior. Both movies features wonderful lighting effects. I hope to see more of his work.

In general, the music was appropriate and enjoyable. Sometimes it felt repetitious, and I often became aware of themes that were used to accompany more than one movie.

The set is worth the money and the time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Firehouse #40 -- February 7, 2011

Engine Company 23 on Washington Street was built in 1893. It is now a house. I like the hose-drying tower. I took the photo on 22-March-2010.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan 100 -- February 6, 2011

Some people think Ronald Reagan was the greatest US President ever. I remember a little bit of when he was Governor of California and I remember his presidency well. From the time he was governor, I remember hearing about the tax increase mentioned in this poster. I remember more and more people with mental problems being shoved out into the streets because Reagan closed the state hospitals but did nothing to fund community treatment. From the time he was president, I remember him actively ignoring the AIDS crisis. I remember Iran-Contra. I remember him cutting and running from Lebanon. I remember him cutting taxes and claiming that trickle down economics would benefit everyone. I remember him running up our national debt by jacking up defense spending. He often gets credit for forcing the end of the Cold War. It was more complicated than that. I remember the savings and loan crisis.

I remember the day Reagan was running for reelection in 1984. A school friend said "If Reagan wins, I'm leaving the country." I laughed, trying to remember how many times I have heard that statement. The next day, after Reagan won, my friend was late for class. He had been to the Australian consulate and had arranged to emigrate.

I don't understand how he became a saint to some people.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Book: American Uprising -- February 5, 2011

Amercian Uprising/the Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen is a study of the 1811 Louisiana slave revolt that threatened New Orleans.

The revolt, involving hundreds of slaves, required years of planning. Rasmussen does a good job of talking about the societies from which many of the slaves had been kidnapped, and how their methods of methods of warfare influenced the revolt.

Rasmussen was faced with many problems in relating the events. The uprising lasted only two days and may have killed only two whites. There are no written records from any of the slaves involved in the uprising, and only a limited number from any slaves in the United States.

One solution to the problems was to go into excellent detail about the history of Louisiana, of sugar farming with slave labor, of the Louisiana Purchase and the first, terrible, US Governor, William Claiborne. Rasmussen spends a significant amount of time on the conquest of West Florida. This made sense when I saw that this was the subject of an award-winning Sophomore essay. It was also important because at the time of the revolt, much of the US Army force in Louisiana had been diverted to West Florida.

Once the revolt was defeated, largely because of a surprise attack by a party of planters from across the river, the planters took brutal revenge on the surviving slaves. They then set to work to suppress the memory of the revolt. Rasmussen describes this and explains the motives of the planters and Governor Claiborne. He devotes most of a chapter to the ways that historians treated the revolt in later years.

I enjoyed reading the book and had only two real criticisms. I got lost in a jump from talking about Louisiana to talking about the revolt in Haiti, which provided inspiration for the rebels in Louisiana. Also, I had trouble finding the one map in the book, when I wanted to go back and trace the progress of the revolt.

This is the author's first book, based on his Senior thesis at Harvard. Based on this, I'll keep an eye open for his future work.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Magic #2 -- February 4, 2011

Alexander Herrmann was born in France. Alexander's father Samuel started the family in the magic business. Alexander's brother Compars (Carl) carried on the business and taught it to Alexander. Alexander toured the world, but chose to settle in America and become a naturalized citizen. He married Adelaide, who became his collaborator. Herrmann the Great was the most popular magician in America until he died in 1896. Madame Herrmann carried on the act, joined by his nephew Leon, who assumed the title Herrmann the Great.

The ad is from the 26-November-1895 San Francisco Call.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy #4 -- February 3, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year. This is the year of the rabbit.

The image is from Walt Disney's 1927 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon "Trolley Troubles." Oswald's appearance changed over the years. Disney lost control of the character the next year and didn't get him back until 2006. This cartoon, the first Oswald to be released, includes some wonderful Ub Iwerks travelling shots from the point of view of the trolley as it barrels along the tracks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day #2 -- February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day to all. This groundhog doesn't look too happy.

We went to Nick's at Rockaway Beach for dinner. The sunset was red and many shades of blue.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Parseval Airship -- February 1, 2011

Bavarian August von Parseval designed several non-rigid airships before and during World War One. I can't read the year on this postcard, but I'd guess this is something like the 1909 PL 4. Before the war, he delivered PL 18 to the Royal Navy.