Shocked, I tell you

Amelia Earhart ‘Lost Photograph’ Discredited

“The photo was the 10th item that came up,” [Kota Yamano] said in an interview with The Guardian. “I was really happy when I saw it. I find it strange that the documentary makers didn’t confirm the date of the photograph or the publication in which it originally appeared. That’s the first thing they should have done.”

Allow me to postulate: Could it be that they did little research because finding the original source of the photograph carried a high probability of ending their project right quick-like? Maybe better to leave it as a mystery, eh? Or, since this fellow found it in under half an hour, maybe they did find it and, perhaps not being completely familiar with how the internet works, hoped no one else ever would, but this is a horribly cynical view that, in court, I’ll deny I ever had.

Also discredited: The overwhelming majority of media that’s always willing to unquestioningly present every new Earhart theory as near-gospel – National Geographic included. Even now, after the source was found to have been published a full two years before Earhart’s ’round-the-world attempt, NBC News…well, gee, they still aren’t sure: “Questions Raised Over Unearthed ‘Amelia Earhart’ Photo”. Yes, questions such as “How is it that anyone bought into this hogwash in the first place?” and “So you’re saying NBC News was once a respected institution?”

The thing I’ve never fully understood is why the most likely scenario by far, of Earhart and Noonan running out of fuel and ditching in the ocean, seems so unacceptable to those who prefer castaway and prisoner stories. Is it just too bleak, too sad? Look, sometimes real life is – why not accept that?

History Channel’s PR department is desperately trying to figure out how to spin their bozo behaviour into something positive, but will probably instead try to misdirect by quickly announcing a new series on the mysterious connections between ancient astronauts, sharks, and Hitler, waving their arms as they yell, “No, look over here! Historical sharks!”

Nice view

In the course of decluttering, I came across lots of photos I took during flights on “Bomber” Bob Richardson’s B-17F “Kathleen” and the National Warplane Museum’s B-17G “Fuddy Duddy” many years ago. I never had a large scan of one of the nicer panoramic shots – only the small one in that linked article – so I just scanned one of the 3½x5″ prints at high DPI. I took this photo from the bombardier’s seat in the nose of the B-17F as we were departing Buffalo Niagara Airport and turning away from Lake Erie on our way back to the museum at Geneseo, New York, 60 miles east. Click on it for a 1920-wide version – then F11 will give you the full effect in most browsers.

It’s July and the loons are back

A man whose face you can’t see very clearly has a sharply receding hairline? A woman sitting on the dock with her back to the camera is definitely wearing trousers? Well, of course it must be Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. And one presumes their captors must have hidden their uniforms and weapons to avoid appearing ‘too gauche’ in the photo.

Has to be, right? Well, could be. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. Oh, good grief.

“It’s my feeling that this is very convincing evidence that this is probably Noonan.”

Having a feeling of very convincing evidence that something’s probably true seems like it might be just a skosh shy of an oxymoron, especially when that evidence is just a receding hairline and a prominent nose. Why, that could be Richard “Ski Jump” Nixon for all I know, but I can’t quite tell if the man has the requisite sheen of cold sweat.

If there aren’t already, there ought to be scientific and legal principles that say your evidence is actually not very convincing if you find yourself repeatedly pointing out to others that it’s all very convincing while sounding like you’re just continuing your own efforts to talk yourself into it.

This puts me in mind of pop archaeologists fond of coming up with mighty extrapolations such as “This small hole in the stone wall, which some might deem insignificant, is very convincing evidence that this is probably an ancient astronomical observatory and almost certainly the site of harvest rituals, possibly attended only by tribal elders while lesser members cowered in their huts, perhaps forbidden even to look upon the secret and mysterious ceremonies.”

Here, let me try one:

Men landed on the moon and didn’t sink completely beneath the surface dust as a handful feared they might*, so that is very convincing evidence that the moon is probably made mostly of supportive cheese.


“But again, for me, those things are all somewhat suspect until you have that photograph, which corroborates that she was there.”

Does not.

“To me, that’s just proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Is not.

Can you think of anything easier to refute? It’s like they’re not even trying very hard.

Anyway, it’s my feeling that there’s no hard – or even semi-soft – evidence suggesting either one of the figures is anyone in particular. I also feel strongly that increasingly sillier Earhart “evidence” will be brought forth approximately annually until approximately the end of time, or such time as the “science” and “history” channels’ hawkumentary money runs out.

*Astronomer Thomas Gold’s paper “The Implications of the Ranger Moon Pictures” is here.

Reverse musical chairs

Repurposing my media cabinet as a display case the other day ended up kicking off a home decluttering project that’s going so well it feels a bit like conjuring. Moving the Lunar Module case and the other figurines freed up lots of space on a six-tier bookshelf on the other side of the living room, which allowed me to move some of the books I had piled on top of other things to that shelf. Two small purchases have helped carry this increasingly nifty game of reverse musical chairs several rounds forward and it’s still in progress. A new 2-tier Winsome bookshelf – my fourth – allowed me to clear all the remaining books that were piled on other things, letting me further declutter those other things. A second 16″ long clip-on drawer for the InterMetro commercial wire shelving in my kitchen allowed me to declutter the six shelves on that 74x48x18″ unit, and also store lots of little kitchen gewgaws that had been sitting in my simplehuman dish strainer for many moons simply because I had no good place to put them. That in turn allowed me to give the strainer a good scrub this morning, and so the list goes on.

My aims are 1) to go through everything and toss anything I haven’t even looked at for a decade unless there’s a damned good reason to keep it – no rationalising allowed – 2) excepting the Samsung TV and Dimplex fireplace insert cartons, get rid of empty packaging unless the item it held is still under warranty, and – the main point – 3) not have things piled on top of other things. I’m about three-quarters there, but will pause for several days until the dumpster is emptied again, which occurs fortnightly. Since last week, I’ve tossed out a 3-yard dumpster’s worth and probably have about one yard left to toss.

Some of the inspiration for this was the woman in the middle of the three units here moving out eight days ago. It got me thinking, “Geez, what if I suddenly had to move? What a nightmare that would be.” Now, less so. And the house is looking spiffier by the hour.

News junkie no more

I used to be a voracious news junkie. That stopped years ago, starting gradually at around the time of the introduction of the 24-hour news cycle, before which a half-hour in the evening seemed sufficient to most. In between those extremes, it got better all too briefly with one hour late at night on NBC News Overnight. That, it turned out, was precisely enough.

The incessant – and initially inconsequential – padding that news organisations have had to come up with day after day to fill every 24-hour period has since taken over nearly completely, at first in television and now in most media. It’s not a surprise because it’s so much cheaper and easier to produce than anything of substance, and people do love a dust-up – even a made-up dust-up.

In the end, it’s as pointless as making a crossing guard work all day and all night because the crosswalk is there all the time even if people aren’t. Bored at first in the middle of the night, they’d perhaps start reflexively directing traffic that’s not there while motioning to unseen pedestrians to hurry along, and before you know it, they’ve gone a little funny in the head. You know, just a little…funny.

“…and, uh, he went and did a silly thing.”

The audio/video future is much nicer looking

Click for a larger version

This media cabinet in my living room used to contain two more shelves and lots of audio-video gear that’s now all obsolete. I think the new contents, shown in more detail below, are much nicer to look at. Here’s what I used to have:

  • Turntable: Replaced with an Ion USB turntable next to my desktop PC for much easier digitising.
  • A/V receiver and five speakers: Replaced by a Vizio 38″ 5.1 soundbar that sits under my TV and does Bluetooth and optical audio, with left, right, and centre speakers in the bar and a wireless subwoofer that also drives the two rear bookshelf-sized speakers.
  • VCR and DVD recorder: The VHS tapes that I needed to transfer I’ve done, or their contents have become digitally available (examples include the complete Larry Sanders Show boxed set, the French-issued Tex Avery Complete, and the Japanese boxed set of Jûzô Itami’s ten films), but I am keeping these two in the spare room in case I run into something else I need to digitise in future.
  • LaserDisc player: All the LaserDiscs I had – maybe fifty – have been re-released on DVD and/or Blu-ray and I have the replacements I wanted.
  • DVD/CD player and Western Digital DLNA player: Replaced with the LG All-Region/All-Zone DVD/Blu-ray/CD/WiFi DLNA/Internet player you see above that plays 1) every kind of disc from any country you can throw at it, automatically converting PAL to NTSC as needed, 2) programmes and films from my file server via the free Universal Media Server much better than Windows Media Server – and 3) from online services like Amazon Video and Netflix. My Samsung TV independently does numbers 2 and 3 as well. The LG player is two years old and no longer sold, but you can find its current equivalent by searching for LG BPM55 Multizone on Amazon.
  • Cable TV box: Pffft. Not replaced. I have Internet-only service now.
  • About 500 feet of all sorts of cables and wiring: I filled up a tall kitchen trash bag with those and happily tossed the lot.

You can click any of the following to see a larger version:

Only one of the astronauts’ A7LB spacesuits should have the commander’s red striping, used to easily distinguish who’s who in live video and photographs. I’ll fix that one of these days.

These Red Hot Riding Hood and Wolfie porcelain sculptures by Kent Melton were produced in 1995. Red’s saucy pose is from her dance routine in this excerpt from “Swing Shift Cinderella”.

Franklin Mint art deco figures “Promise in Gold’ and “Galaxy in Gold”

Clipper Young America

Two weeks after I turned eleven, I had my first commercial flight, which was from JFK to Heathrow on one of Pan Am’s first 747s, the Clipper Young America, just eight months after Pan Am started flying the first jumbos off the Boeing line. I remember the thrill of seeing that name on the huge aircraft through the boarding area window.

The Pathé short below is from the time of Pan Am’s first 747 flights in January 1970 and so likely includes both Clipper Young America and Clipper Victor, the first two delivered by Boeing. Pan Am swapped the names of the two aircraft at the inaugural flight to London because the original Young America – the name they wanted for that flight – had mechanical problems on the day.

The name comes from this clipper ship launched in 1853 that plied the California trade, primarily sailing from San Francisco.

Clipper Young America pushback at Frankfurt Airport

Sadly, Clipper Young America (renamed back to Clipper Victor at the time) and many lives were lost at Tenerife seven years later when, in heavy fog, a KLM 747 attempted to take off without clearance while the Pan Am jet was still taxiing down the active runway. 583 people died in the worst aviation accident in history.

Clipper Young America featured in a two-page Pan Am advert

Not a unitasker

So far, I’ve used my 8″ cake lifter for things like this more than actual cake lifting. You can’t find a nice big bench scraper under that name, but it turns out this is one anyway. Very handy.

I used it in the production of glazed carrots after I unexpectedly found the other day a half-meatloaf still in the freezer. After finishing it, I want more, so I’ll probably make another couple of loaves soon.

The other compelling argument

I just skimmed this article, and I can understand what they’re saying, but all the while I was thinking, “Okay, but this is all made irrelevant by the single overriding and compelling argument not to join the fool thing in the first place: one glance at its founder. I would not buy a used car from that man.” I always thought the same of Richard Nixon.

[Dingleface’s] small print may be the next big thing in European antitrust as watchdogs home in on how the world’s biggest social network collects information from users that helps generate vast advertising revenues.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is examining whether [Dingleface] essentially takes advantage of its popularity to bully users into agreeing to terms and conditions they might not understand. The details that users provide help generate the targeted ads that make the company so rich.

In the eyes of the Cartel Office, [Dingleface] is “extorting” information from its users, said Frederik Wiemer, a lawyer at Heuking Kuehn Lueer Wojtek in Hamburg. “Whoever doesn’t agree to the data use, gets locked out of the social network community,” he said. “The fear of social isolation is exploited to get access to the complete surfing activities of users.”

[more at the link]

Flying to a specific South Sea isle

I became curious last night about George Lawler’s sources for his 1938 “Fly to South Sea Isles” painting for Pan American Airways, so I did some digging. The auction listing I quoted in my earlier post spoke of a fantasy setting that he likely merged from multiple sources, but it seems to me that there’s just one primary source: It’s clearly a view of Mont Rotui from either ‘Ōpūnohu Bay or Cook’s Bay in Mo’orea, Tahiti. If it’s from Cook’s Bay, the Clipper’s direction of travel in the painting might not be right as it probably would have inconveniently scraped one or two other mountains from that direction, but even so, the pleasing juxtaposition and opposing symmetry of the aircraft and the woman are reason enough for a little artistic licence, don’t you think?

You can click on most of the images below for larger versions.

The 50th anniversary print, from the National Air & Space Museum archive:

Mont Rotui circa 1940:

Mont Rotui circa 1960:

In the course of my search, I remembered that my print was issued by Hansa Editions to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Clipper service, and then was a bit amazed to find the Islands magazine advert from which I ordered in the 1980s. This print, probably the finest of the various reproductions made over the years – some are appallingly amateurish in quality – goes for considerably more than US$25 these days.

I also found a photograph in the Smithsonian archive that gives a better sense of scale of the behemoth that was the B-314 – click the 1970 x 1343 image to see more clearly the two men on the right wing. This is the same California Clipper, NC-18602, at Pearl Harbor circa 1939-1940 with the view over the wing from the #1 engine. I see no weathering at all, even around the engines, so I favor mid-1939, possibly right after its maiden voyage to Hawaii. That open hatch is the navigator’s windowed observation hatch.

Below is NC-18602 at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay on christening day, Tuesday 25 April 1939, with the Bay Bridge in the background. The platform it’s on is moveable and could be winched up the ramp while the aircraft remained level; the aircraft was then towed ashore for maintenance using the beaching cradle it sits on.

Aerial view of man-made Treasure Island with the maintenance ramp at the lower right leading to the Pan American Airways hangar doors:

This hangar and the one to the right of frame are both intact on Treasure Island, two of just a handful of original 1930s structures still there. Section 7 of this article on Treasure Island then and now shows the buildings today.