Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I went and took images at Arlington National Cemetery on September 4, 2011, and again on September 10, 2011. Two full days spent walking around a 1,000-acre cemetery with 30 steep hills, in 90-degree heat and 60 percent humidity.

I posted most of these in September and early October 2011, but then got bogged down. Uploading these took a couple bhours. Describing them took a 30 days..

I like to know what it is that I'm photographing, especially when it comes to architecture, monuments, and historical images. I mean, if it's worth photographing -- surely there must be something to learn about it other than it's just a nice building with lovely sunlight dappling and shadows.

I had to learn more about the history of the place: When things were built, why, by whom, and what their significance was.

Most of the final images were of Arlington House (the Robert E. Lee Memorial), the view from the house, the Custis Walk, the John F. Kennedy grave site, the William Howard Taft grave site, and the Schley Gate (one of the ceremonial gates at the entrance to the cemetery).

Some of the descriptive stuff I knew already. I knew that L'Enfant had not been buried at Arlington originally (he died decades before the cemetery even existed), and I knew that he'd been reburied there in the 1910s. It wasn't hard to look up those dates, but it was interesting to find out that no one notable designed his tomb. That was done by the Commissioners of the District of Columbia! I knew that Arlington House had been damaged by the August 23 earthquake, although the extent wasn't clear to me. Now, from reports in November 2011, it seems that the mansion has been damaged quite a bit more than anyone thought. But there is no money to fix it, and the National Park Service is saying it'll remain closed to the public for years. Wow...

I had to do a lot of research on Custis Walk. It's clearly marked on maps, and the name quite obviously comes from the Custis family that owned the estate before Robert E. Lee's wife inherited it. (By the way, what a nasty woman she must have been: Deeply religious, but also deeply committed to slavery. Here's a woman who firmly believed that "Jesus told me to keep darkie enslaved." Wow. That's not just twisted, it's dangerous.) i knew who William Howard Taft was, but had no idea why he was in Arlington.

That's the sort of stuff I learned about.

* * * * * * *

Something that's been killing me, though, since September has been something called Sheridan Gate.

Here's what the Sheridan Gate was:

In 1800, two red brick buildings were built on the southeast and southwest of the White House. These identical buildings housed the Departments of Treasury (to the east) and State and War (to the west). In 1818, architect James Hoban built two more buildings, just north of the existing ones (and fronting on Pennsylvania Avenue): the State Department to the east and the War Department to the west (where the Old Executive Office Building is today). The State Department building was razed in 1866 to make room for expansion of the Treasury Building. The War Department building was razed in 1879 and the Navy Department building in 1884 to make way for the State, War, and Navy Departments Building, designed by Alfred B. Mullet. This building today is known as the Old Executive Office Building.

The War Department Building was designed by Hoban, based on designed by the British architect George Hadfield. The red brick building featured a portico supported by six white marble columns designed in the Ionic style. It is likely that the men who carved the ornaments on the White House also carved the columns and entablature of the War Department Building.

The columns were due to be destroyed in 1879 along with the 61-year-old brick building.

Meanwhile, Montgomery C. Meigs was in charge of Arlington National Cemetery. Meigs had been Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and had established Arlington National Cemetery. Although by 1879 he'd been promoted up and out of the job of Quartermaster General, he still retained control over the cemetery. Meigs was an avid Unionist, and was determined to turn Arlington from a livable estate into a shrine for America's Civil War heroes. He'd already built several war shrines on the Arlington property, and was determined to build more.

When Meigs learned that the massive marble columns were to be destroyed, he asked the Secretary of War for permission to transfer the columns as well as a large portion of the marble pediment they supported to the cemetery's control. In April 1879, the War Department's north portico was dismantled and moved to Arlington.

It's not entirely clear who designed Sheridan Gate out of the pieces of the War Department's north portico. Meigs claimed sole responsibility, but he probably did not do it alone. True, Meigs was an architect and engineer, but fragmentary evidence indicates that Lt. Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers probably helped. Meigs also consulted Washington, D.C., architect John L. Smithmeyer. Smithmeyer had constructed The Rostrum for the Old Amphitheater at Arlington, and knew Meigs and his aesthetic tastes well. Smithmeyer designed the wrought iron gates which were hung between the columns, and the D.C. firm of Charles A. Schneider and Sons constructed and installed them.

In April 1880, Meigs, Casey, and Smithmeyer finally settled on the design specifications for the gates. Arlington already was bounded by a low red sandstone wall. The same red sandstone would be used to build large square plinths to support the columns, two on each side. The pediment and its blank frieze would be placed atop the columns, in a post-and-lintel format. Wrought iron gates, painted black, would be hung from the plinths. The designers had initially considered hanging a large bronze plaque from the center of the gate on which an inscription would be made. But by April 1880 this plaque had been abandoned.

The gateway in the red Seneca sandstone wall was cut in July 1879, and the plinths constructed. The columns were placed on the plinth, and the pediment on the columns. But shortly thereafter, a portion of the cornice collapsed. The historic pediment was damaged, but it was repaired and the broken marble pieces secured in place with lead toggles. The iron gates were installed in July 1881.

The gate (which as yet had no name) stood 34 feet, 2.5 inches high. Each of the columns had six segments, and was 23 feet high and 3 feet, 8 inches in diameter. Masonic symbols were carved into the columns, most likely by the original quarriers and carvers. The distance between the plinths was 12 feet across. Each red sandstone plinth was 11 feet wide and 4 feet deep, and rested on stone piers. The pediment across the top of the gate was 32 feet wide. The frieze was only 28 feet wide, and set back by 3 feet, one-quarter inch from the front and back. A row of 83 dentils (knobs) ran across the front and back, with nine on each end. A cornice cap (lip) ran around the middle of the pediment, and was 37 feet wide. The pediment was held in place with bolts. After the cornice collapsed in 1879, lengthwise holes were drilled through the pediment. Iron I-beams were inserted into the holes to reinforce the masonry.

The lower portion of the pediment (below the cornice cap) normally would have been decorated with bas-relief classical figures. Instead, Meigs had the following inscription carved into the frieze:
Six Columns Erected In The Portico Of The War Office, Washington, In 1818, Were On The Demolition Of Tha Building In April, 1879, Transferred To The Gateways Of This Arlington National Military Cemetery.
Each of the letters was 5 inches high. Each of the columns was to be inscribed with the name of a Union Civil War hero. Meigs had already settled on three of the names by the time the gate was constructed. They were, left to right, Scott (for General Winfield Scott, U.S. Army Chief of Staff), Lincoln (for President Abraham Lincoln), and Stanton (for Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton). Meigs considered inscribing the last name of James Garfield, a Union general who had gone into post-war politics (and later would be President of the United States), but was not sure if Garfield's military stature merited such an honor. So the column was left temporarily blank.

The wrought iron gates folded in the middle, and were hung on wrought iron posts set into the stone piers. Artwork on the gates included scrolls, palmettes, and rosettes. In the center of each side of the gate was a shield device based on the Great Seal of the United States, pierced with four swords and four daggers. Around each shield device were inscribed the words "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" ("it is sweet and noble to die for your country").

In 1882, the iron gates were vandalized. That same year, the city of Alexandria asked that Garfield's name be inscribed on the blank column, but Meigs declined the request. When Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, his was the name carved into the fourth column instead of
Garfield's. When Union General Philip Sheridan died in 1888, his name was carved onto the
entablature. Each of the letters in Sheridan's name were 11 inches high.

From this inscription, the center gateway became known as the "Sheridan Gate."

Repairs to the gates and lettering were made in 1888, and again in 1890. The stonework and lettering were repaired again in 1902, and the columns painted with a heavy mixture of lead and white paint. The gates were also slightly gilded with gold at this time.

In 1905, 1906, and 1915, heavy rain damaged approach to the Sheridan Gate.

Arlington National Cemetery did not use all of the former Arlington Estate when it was founded. Most of the cemetery was originally around Arlington House, and against the wall with adjoining Ft. Myer. But in time, all of the estate west of the Georgetown & Alexandria Turnpike (later known as "Arlington Ridge Road") was occupied by the cemetery. The area east of the turnpike was largely meadow, but in 1900 this land was transferred from the Army to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for use as an experimental farm.

In 1964, Arlington National Cemetery underwent its first major expansion since the Civil War. The 200 acres east of Arlington Ridge Road were transferred to the cemetery, and the road closed. (Most of the road was turned into Eisenhower Drive in the middle of the cemetery.)

The red Seneca sandstone wall, now deep in the interior of the cemetery, was dismantled. Sheridan Gate was no longer needed any more.

In 1971, the cemetery paid the firm of Roubin and Janerio, to dismantle Sheridan Gate. Unfortunately, the iron gates were lost after the dismantling, and are feared lost forever. Because the iron toggles and I-beams were meant to be permanent, the marble pediment was severaly damaged when the gate was dismantled.

The pieces of what remained of Sheridan Gate placed in outdoor storage near some maintenance buildings at the south end of the cemetery. Unfortunately, this was a terrible way to store them. Water penetrated the marble and sandstone pieces where they rested on the bare ground, causing extensive discoloration, cracking, and crumbling. The paint on the columns inhibited water evaporation, caused the columns to suffer even more damage. What remains of the ironwork is heavily rusted, and the columns and pediment have been spraypainted by vandals.

But exactly where was Sheridan Gate located???????????????????????????

That's a good question.

We know from descriptions that Sheridan Gate was located "along" Arlington Ridge Road. But pictures of the gate clearly show that it was not actually on the road, but set back some distance. But how far back??

And where was the gate actually located along the road? Luckily, we have some idea. We know that in 1890, the Washington, Alexandria, and Mount Vernon Railway -- a regional trolley company -- built a trolley station at what is now the Hemicycle (the ceremonial main entrance to the cemetery that was constructed in 1932). But Arlington National Cemetery is set up on several high, steep ridges. Although there are a number of roads leading from the Potomac River up the ridges, these are pretty steep grades. It was difficult for people to walk up the roads and reach the cemetery.

In 1893, Arlington officials built a concrete walkway from Arlington House down to Sheridan Gate to accommodate the trolley passengers. Known as "Custis Walk," this walkway contained hundreds of steps to make mounting the grade easier, and wound right and left to lessen the steepness of the grade.

But did Custis Walk lead directly to Sheridan Gate? Oddly, it appears not. Reports from tourist groups (like Boy Scouts and veterans groups) traveling to the cemetery include statements to the effect that people had to walk a short distance the trolley station to Sheridan Gate, and from Sheridan Gate to Custis Walk.

So was Sheridan Gate north or south of the Hemicycle? Was it near Custis Walk or not? I even checked the Historic American Buildings Survey of the Library of Congress. This is the most extensive, detailed, complex history of the Sheridan Gate around. And it includes not a single map, coordinate, or even description of the location of the gate!!!!

Well, I totally lucked out. After three months of searching, I located a 1934 map of the cemetery which actually showed the location of Sheridan Gate!

See below.

There were two other "main gates" at the cemetery at the time, too. McClellan Gate still exists, and was not dismantled. Ord & Weitzel Gate, however, was dismantled (even though it wasn't affected by the cemetery's expansion) and its columns put into storage as well. At least something of Ord & Weitzel Gate remains, although it is a shadow of its former self.

Chinese Friendship Arch and Gallery Place Building 01 - Chinatown - DC by dctim1

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

That's the famous last line from the 1974 movie Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson. The film is a fictionalized account of a real-life event: The grand theft of water rights in the improverished Owens Valley by businessmen and politicians in Los Angeles, California, in the 1920s and 1930s. These businessmen and politicians had purchased vast areas of a desert known as the San Fernando Valley. Worthless land... But when the stolen water began flowing, the San Fernando Valley land became more valuable than gold. And it made certain rich people in Los Angeles even richer.

Well, D.C. has a Chinatown, too. But unlike the ones in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, D.C.'s Chinatown is pretty small.

Nonetheless, I was there on December 30 having lunch with someone. And I took a mess of photos. Enjoy!

What is currently D.C.'s Chinatown area was home to mostly German immigrants until the 1930s. That's why the D.C. branch of the Goethe-Institut is here. H Street was, at that time, quite a busy business district. Those German immigrants had shoemaking shops, butcher shops, bakeries, glass-making shops, jewelry stores. It was the heart of D.C.'s business district for many years, until the 1870s. Indeed, Mary Surrat -- the woman who sheltered Abraham Lincoln's assassins -- had her home here at 604 H Street NW.

D.C.'s Chinatown was established in 1884. But it wasn't where it is now. The original Chinatown existed along the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 4th and 7th Streets, with the heaviest concentration of residences and businesses near where 4th Street, C Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue met. This was the site of Center Market. Back in the days before refrigeration and corporate food, people in the city shopped at privately or publicly owned markets. D.C.'s food markets were almost all privately owned, and suffered from poor hygiene. Shopping for food meant hoping you didn't come down with the hershey-squirts from the diseases your food would be infected with. The city itself decided to act by building a state-of-the-art market, complete with ice house and refrigeration. This was Center Market, and it was so immensely popular that nearly all the downtown trolley lines converged there.

Chinese and other Asian immigrants began moving into the area around Center Market in noticeable numbers as early as 1880. By 1884, the area was known as "Chinatown." As many as 15,000 people lived there. That's an astonishing number, considering that most building were only two or three stories high. People were just jammed into Chinatown.

D.C.'s original Chinatown existed as a vibrant community until 1935. Interestingly, throughout the 1800s, the federal government was so small that it could be housed in just five or six three-story office buildings. By 1900, however, it was clear that the federal government needed to grow. In 1926, Congress finally approved construction of six new massive federal office buildings. After two years of discussion, it was decided that the area south of Pennsylvania Avenue had to be totally torn down and these new office buildings constructed there. That was the beginning of Federal Triangle -- the large conglomeration of federal office buildings anywhere in the country. The first buildings constructed were the Department of Commerce, the Internal Revenue Service building, and the Labor/ICC buildings (now the headquarters of the EPA). These buildings uprooted whores, criminals, and gambling dens. But as Federal Triangle moved eastward, Chinatown had to go. Construction of the National Archives and the Apex Building (which houses the Federal Trade Commission) forced Chinatown to move.

Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station artwork by dctim1Chinatown had a very well-organized community, however, composed of business leaders, religious leaders, politicians, and well-respected citizens. They quite literally looked for a place in the city where everyone could move together -- lock, stock, and barrel. They chose the current location on H Street NW.

At its peak, the "new" Chinatown extended from G Street NW north to Massachusetts Avenue NW, and from 9th Street NW east to 5th Street NW. But this only lasted for about 50 years. The 1968 riots which came after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. caused many businesses to flee downtown D.C. Chinatown's businesses, too, fell on hard times and many of them closed. Wealthy and middle-class Asian citizens fled for the suburbs, leaving many houses and apartments unoccupied. A mainstay of the community was the OCA Bank, but when it closed Chinatown emptied even further.

Chinatown was saved when the Gallery Place Metro station (Blue and Orange lines) opened in 1976. Determined to save Chinatown as a tourist attraction, in 1986 the city authorized the construction of the Friendship Archway, a $1 million traditional Chinese gate designed by local architect Alfred H. Liu. Symoblizing not only Chinatown but D.C.'s "sister city" status with Beijing, the Friendship Arch is the largest freestanding traditionally constructed Chinese-style arch anywhere in the world.

In 1993, Abe Pollin decided to build the MCI Center. Pollin owned the Washington Bullets basketball team, and he tore out three whole city blocks to built his team a brand-new arena in the heart of downtown D.C. (He abandoned the Capital Center, which he'd constructed in 1973. It was torn down in 2003 to make way for a shopping mall.) Competition for the new arena was heavy, but D.C. won the bidding because Pollin knew that mass transit was the key to success for his poorly-performing basketball squad. Construction began in 1995, and the arena opened in 1997. Pollin moved his team downtown, and renamed them the Wizards. In 2006, it was renamed the Verizon Center after Verizon purchased the near-bankrupt MCI communications company.

The Verizon Center was not, however, what kept Chinatown alive.

Roughly a third of the area cleared by Pollin -- including a decrepit old building directly above the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station -- needed to be rebuilt as well.

In 1999, wealthy regional real estate investors proposed tearing out that decrepit building and constructing a vast new 13-story mixed-use shopping and housing complex over the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station. The goal would be to create a seamless connection with the Verizon Center, and create a vibrant, hip, totally new urban space which D.C. had never seen before. Included in the plan was a vast pedestrian area inside the heart of this complex. Financing proved impossible, as almost no one had faith in the City of Washington. The city had been losing retail business for 40 years! The investors worked with the City Council, which passed a tax increment financing (TIF) plan. This plan -- the first of its kind in D.C. history -- taxed any business which would reside in the complex, using future tax revenues to pay for today's construction. The City Council also closed an alley, closely coordinated with local and federal agencies, oversaw negotiations with utilities, and coordinated extensively with Metro to ensure that construction went forward.

It worked beautifully.

Gallery Place (the building) opened in the fall of 2004. It not only revitalized Chinatown, but revitalized the entire East End. Extensive construction began throughout the area as consumers, tourists, and young people flooded the area. Huge swaths of Chinatown were renovated and turned into restaurants, trendy bars, and up-scale shops.

Chinatown proper consists of just the corner of 7th and H Streets NW, and extens for no more than a block in each direction.

But it is alive, and no one ever thought it would be.
The Digital Entertainment Group -- a motion picture industry association that tracks DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download sales -- reported this week that Americans spent $3.96 billion to buy or rent movies and TV shows in the second quarter of 2012. This is a horrifying 0.3 percent more than in 2011. This is on top of the 1.1 percent increase in the first quarter. All told, consumers spent $8.4 billion in the first six months of 2012 on these items. Most films generate more revenue from sales, rentals, and digital downloads than they do at the box office. Hollywood is in deep shit over DVD sales. Home video sales collapsed a full 42 percent between 2007 (the all-time high) and 2011, and and further sales decreases are anticipated. In the first six months of 2012, sales of DVDs and Blu-rays declined 7 percent. (For comparison, DVD sales dropped 20 percent in 2010.) DVD rentals collapsed by 27 percent. In 2011, sales of Blu-rays topped $2 billion for the first time, a growth rate of 19 percent from the year before. Blu-ray sales rose another 13.3 percent in the first half of 2012. That's largely because Blu-ray player penetration is continuing. Blu-ray players are are now in 42 million American homes, or in about 26 percent of all homes. A full 91 percent of all homes have a DVD player. Most interestingly, digital delivery of movies surpassed movie rentals for the first time in early 2012. Consumers spent $1.2 billion on Netflix subscriptions, ITunes downloads, streaming video, and other digital downloads -- a whopping 81 percent increase!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Who can answer my question?

With today's medical skill and knowledge, would Robert F. Kennedy have survived the assassination attempt on his life in 1968? If so, would he have been a vegetable or not? Or would he still have died?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I remember running through the wet grass
and falling a step behind
both of us never tiring
desperately wanting


The Washington Post today has a big article about Michael Phelps' loss in the latest swimming race at the Olympics. The article is about how burned out Phelps is, and how Phelps is trying to still give his all, and how Phelps isn't mentally ready for these Games, and how Phelps...

Uh, didn't Ryan Lochte win the gold?

Unreported, really, is that Phelps is nothing but a partyboy interested in screwing, smoking pot, and spending money. He's been that way for the past eight years, and only his immense physical talents have kept him in the game. In Athens, he spent his time bonking as many women as he could. And doesn't anyone remember the drug use?

Much of the reason, I think, why Phelps is being hyped so much is because the media and many, many companies have invested heavily in him. Without the media pushing Phelps on the consumer, those companies can't sell sports drinks, Speedos, cars, "eternal" indoor swimming pools, and shoes. And without sales, these companies don't buy ad space in newspapers or ad time on TV shows.

But that's all coming to an end. There was, briefly, an attempt earlier this spring to "push" Ryan Lochte on the public. (Remember the "Ryan's abs" article in the NY Times?) But without corporate sponsorship, Lochte wasn't nearly as important...

Now the media is finding out Phelps is a bust.

So much of NBC's coverage is pre-packaged. When things don't turn out the way NBC wants, NBC is stuck with the pre-packaged junk. Their reporters, too, are essentially pre-scripted. "We'll have a live feed with Phelps set up for 11 AM on Saturday, and since it'll take hours to set up our equipment it really won't matter who wins the race. We have to do Phelps at 11 AM."

Instead of spontaneous coverage of great sports, we get over-scripted junk that appeals only to jingoistic patriotism. We get "coverage" dictated by the pre-packaged and sponsored, not things that really matter.

Amtrak this week proposed the covering over of most of its tracks and train sheds north of Union Station in Washington, D.C., and building a massive five-block mixed-use development on top of it.

The $7 billion development -- which would dwarf anything ever proposed in the United States (including the $1 billion CityCenterDC, now being built in D.C.) -- would cover the five blocks north and north-east of Union Station, and be two blocks wide. Six office builds, four residential buildings (either apartments, condos, or a mix) and two hotels would be constructed on top of the covered-over train tracks.

A new three-story passenger concourse, partially above and partially below ground, would be constructed adjacent to Union Station's north side. Covered in glass (to permit natural lighting), the new passenger concourse would double the number of trains that could service the station at any given time.

Union Station is the second-busiest Amtrak station in the United States, with 100,000 passengers passing through it each day. The building was constructed in 1907. Tracks 1 through 22 are terminal tracks; they dead-end at the station, and were designed to serve trains operating from D.C. to all points north and west. Tracks 23 to 28 are through-tracks. They are reached by taking stairs or escalators to a lower level (equal with the food court). These tracks pass under the east court of the station to the two-tube First Street Tunnel.

The First Street Tunnel passes under Capitol Hill -- largely following 1st Street NE/SE. The tracks come above-ground at D Street SE and New Jersey Avenue SE, were it joins the CSX cargo-train tracks to travel northeast along Virginia Avenue SE/SW until it reaches L'Enfant Plaza. The tracks then travel southwest along the former Maryland Avenue SW. The tracks then move south-southwest to travel over the Long Bridge (which runs alongside the 14th Street Bridge) to cross into Virginia.

Between 1907 and 1958, the Great Hall at Union Station served as the primary waiting area for passengers. There were none of the shops, restaurants, or displays there, just vast numbers of hard wooden backed benches. Amenities such as cafeterias and newsstand kiosks were relegated to the east and west halls. Since the parking garage would not be constructed until 1976, there was no upper shopping level on the concourse area. What is now the food court and the movie theater below the Great Hall were repair shops and storage areas for train engines.

As domestic train travel collapsed in the 1950s due to the expanding passenger air travel and the construction of the Interstate Highway System (which made automobile travel fast and easy for the first time in U.S. history), the Great Hall and east and west halls were closed in 1958. Passenger railways only used the concourse for passengers. The heavy reduction in passenger rail traffic continued. In 1971, after the last passenger railroads in the U.S. declared bankrutpcy, Congress created a governmentally-owned corporation, Amtrak, to take over passenger rail operations in the heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor and other areas which were economically viable.

In 1967, with the American Bicentennial quickly approaching, Congress decided to use Union Station as a National Visitors Center. Work on the center began in 1974. A massive hole was cut in the center of the Great Hall, and winding stairs led down into the renovated basement. Two movie theaters showed films about the history of Washington, D.C., and there were numerous displays about the city and the country. Because the parking garage was not completed by the time the National Visitors Center opened on July 4, 1976, attendance was low. Additionally, the visitor's center was clearly a white elephant: Visitors simply didn't want to go out of their way to see slide-shows about the city's monuments when they could simply go outside and see them for themselves. The underground visitor's center became known as "the Pit", and the whole thing closed in 1978.

In 1977, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that Union Station was in serious danger of collapse. Portions of the ceiling tiles in the Great Hall had come loose and fallen to the floor. The vast carpet laid down in the Great Hall was covered in cigarette burns, and mushrooms were growing on it.

With Union Station in imminent danger, a coalition of civic preservationists, transportation experts, railroad enthusiasts, and developers began pushing to have the station privatized. D.C.'s Metro system had opened just a few years earlier, and it was quickly becoming apparent that Metro and the revived fortunes of Amtrak made the station an important intermodal transportation hub within the city. In 1981, Congress passed the Union Station Redevelopment Act. This law authorized the Secretary of Transportation to establish a non-profit corporation, the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), to take ownership of the station, oversee its restoration and redevelopment, and operate it as a transportation hub and retail center. (The corporation is governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration, the District of Columbia, and the Federal City Council -- a powerful, shadowy private civic development group in D.C.) Both public money and private investment contributed almost $200 million to the restoration of Union Station.

Union Station reopened with great fanfare in 1987. Ongoing maintenance and improvements are funded by parking garage revenues and retail leases.

In 2000, the John Akridge Companies asked for the air rights over the 14 acre area above the Union Station rail yards. The General Services Administration (GSA) agreed that sale of the air rights would bring in many millions of dollars to help keep Union Station in good repair. In 2002, Congress passed legislation allowing these air rights to be sold. Later that year, the Akridge Companies bought these air rights for $10 million.

In July 2009, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management held a hearing titled "The Congressional Vision for a 21st Century Union Station: New Intermodal Uses and a New Union Station Livable Community." House members strongly urged the USRC to come up with a master plan for Union Station. The plan was to cover the station's use through 2050, but the House subcommittee asked the USRC to also consider how mixed-use housing might also be included in the station's future.

In June 2010, the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation released the Revised Master Plan for Union Station, Washington, D.C. The master plan was not intended to compete with or link up with whatever the Akridge Companies was planning. But it nonetheless laid out some $140 million in major improvements:
  • Renovate, expand, and reconfigure the passenger concourse for more space, better security, and upgraded visuals.
  • Expand access to the Metrorail station on the lower level.
  • Improve automobile access to the parking garage, and provide more links from the garage to the station.
  • Double the amount of space for the Lower Level Concourse (on the through tracks).
  • Expand and reconfigure the Metrorail entrance, fare gates, and vending area on 1st Street NE.
  • Add a second Metrorail entrance below the H Street Overpass, and complete the in-station overhead walkway to link to it (thus eliminating the bottleneck created by the single exit from the platform to the mezzanine and exit).
  • Construct an Intercity Bus Terminal in the parking garage, and provide direct connection to the Metrorail station below.
  • Create a means of connecting the H Street Overpass to the Metrorail station below-ground.
  • Expand the sidewalks along 1st Street NE, and add better lighting, enhanced security, better cleanilness, and improves streetscaping.
  • Reactivate the existing pedestrian bridge from Union Station to the Postal Museum.
  • Structurally reinforce and repair the H Street Overpass to accommodate the DC Streetcar and heavy commuter buses exiting from the parking garage.
  • Expand and make much safer all pedestrian and bicycle paths and access points on Columbus Circle, 1st Street NE, F Street NE, and Massachusetts Avenue NE.
Now, that's all well and fine. But what about this $7 billion project?

First, six new underground tracks and passenger platforms would be added in the center of the rail yard to accommodate high-speed rail. These would not be open-air platforms (like the current ones), but encased in a 50-foot-wide, 100-foot-high glass structure.

Second, three million square feet of new office and residential space would be built above the rail yards at a cost of $1.5 billion. Included would be a number of parks and pedestrian malls, and the reconnection of G, I, and K Streets.

Phase One of the project would involve building the new high-speed rail tracks, platforms, and concourse, and covering over the rail yard. It would take four years and cost $200 million to $300 million. Interestingly, former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams had nothing but praise for the plan. Williams is now chief executive office of the Federal City Council. This private group, which is composed of some of the biggest real estate developers in the area, holds a lot of sway on Capitol Hill. If they get behind it, it might well happen!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

And the world drags me down...

Okay, I'll say it: I'm losing a lot of respect for book editors as well as historians. Most history writing is immensely slipshod. On top of that, most book editors seem utterly incapable of employing fact-checkers.

Hugh S. Johnson was a dirt-poor attorney's son from Kansas. His family homesteaded in the Oklahoma Territory in 1881 during the "Great Rush" (when the Cherokee Strip was opened up for white settlement). He tried to run away from home at the age of 15 and join the state militia (thinking that the state militia would be fighting in the Spanish-American War). Caught by his father at the train station, his dad promised to try to get him into West Point. Amazingly, his father got him an alternate slot. (His father, who was named postmaster of the new town of Alva, Okla., and helped build Northwestern Oklahoma State University, seems to have gotten it as a political favor.) Johnson found out that the guy who was first in line for admittance was six months too old to get in; Johnson blackmailed him into not showing up.

Hugh S. Johnson graduated in the middle of his class, and was considered a lazy student. He served in the Philippines, and then was brought back to the U.S. and served as Executive Officer in charge of Yosemite National Park. (In the early 20th century, the U.S. Army ran almost all the national parks in the United States.) After a year, he served as Superintendent of Sequoia National Park. By this time, he'd met the acquaintance of General Enoch H. Crowder. American military policy at the time was to let the armed forces shrink to almost nothing between wars, leaving only a massive officer corps and almost no troops. It was very difficult to progress in the Army because of this, and you really needed a mentor to help you get places. Johnson convinced Crowder that he wanted to go to law school and become an attorney (like his father). Getting a law degree would allow Johnson to join the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG), and move up career-wise. Crowder agreed, and won permission for Johnson to attend the University of California at Berkeley. Johnson doubled-up on courses, and completed his Bachelor of Laws in just two years! (Back then, you didn't need a J.D. to become a lawyer, just a B.L.) He entered Boalt Hall law school (at UC-Berkeley), and obtained his J.D. in one year (instead of three).

Johnson next to appointed to the JAG office attached to General John "Black Jack" Pershing as Pershing violated Mexican sovereignty in pursuit of Pancho Villa in 1916. Impressed with the way Johnson handled deserters and other legal problems in Mexico, Crowder brought Johnson to Washington, D.C., and the JAG headquarters.

In April 1917, the United States entered World War I. Congress immediately began debating whether or not to institute the draft. To implement national conscription was a monumental task, made all the harder by the lack of almost all Army personnel below the grade of Major. You had Captains typing, Colonels making coffee and serving chow, and Brigadier Generals cleaning toilets. Maybe 1,000 corporals existed in the entire Army! But Congress was bitterly divided over the need for a draft. Republicans felt it was socialistic intrusion on the national life, while Democrats felt it was essential to the war effort and the only fair thing to do. (Republicans favored conscripting only the poor, uneducated, and unemployed. In other words: Keeping Republican children at home, and sending all others to die.) With Congress deadlocked, there was nothing the Army could do to prepare for the draft. They had no funds, and no legal authority to even prepare... Or did they?

This ain't the Tudors, baby............ Part III

Just before his death on April 9, 1137, William Xth, Duke of Aquitaine, asked Louis to be the guardian for his 15-year-old daughter and heir, Eleanor of Aquitaine. (Told you this linked in to the movie I saw!!!) He even asked that Eleanor be married to Louis' own son, Louis VII (who was 17 years old at the time). The couple were married on July 25. Louis VI died of dysentery on August 1.

However, there was a catch: Eleanor's lands would remain her own until Eleanor's oldest son became both King of France and Duke of Aquitaine. It was not to be: Eleanor and Louis VII helped to lead the Second Crusade in 1146. It was a difficult time for them: They were told that King Conrad III of Germany had won a magnificent battle. Instead, Conrad's forces had been almost totally wiped out on October 25, 1147, at the Second Battle of Dorylaeum. They learned of the disaster only when the remnants of the German army, including a dazed and sick King Conrad, straggled past the French encampment. Louis decided to cross the Phrygian mountains to reach Antioch. As they ascended the mountain pass, they were horrified by the thousands of unburied German corpses they saw. Disaster struck again as they reached the pass. Eleanor marched in front of the column, while Louis spoke with the unarmed pilgrims in the rear. The two parts of the column became separated during the day. Eleanor's vanguard went over the pass rather than stopping. It may have saved her life: The Turks were waiting in the mountains above the pass, and attacked the baggage train when it reached the pass. Louis, clad in pilgrim's robes, barely escaped with his life.

Antioch was governed by Eleanor's uncle, Raymond. Eleanor wanted Louis to attack Aleppo and then Edessa -- the goals of the Second Crusade. But Louis wanted to travel to Jerusalem first. They fought, and Louis had her imprisoned at Antioch. Louis went to Jerusalem, but members of his army was picked off here and there along the way and along the way back. By the time he returned to Antioch, he'd lost a third of his forces. Louis then decided to attack the Emirate of Damascus, a Crusader ally, and plunder it for war materials. Eleanor opposed him, and she was imprisoned a second time. The attack failed, and Louis decided to retreat to Jerusalem.

Louis decided he'd had enough, and he and Eleanor sailed for home on different ships. They were attacked by a squadron of ships sent out by Manuel I Comnenus, the Byzantine Emperor, who wanted them as hostages. They managed to escape, but only by seeking shelter in a powerful storm. The French ships were blown to the four winds, and Eleanor's ship was forced to land in Tripoli!! Clear across the Mediterranean! It took her sailors two months to repair her ship, and in mid-July she made it to the Kingdom of Sicily. King Roger II welcomed her, even though he'd been an enemy of King Conrad, had pulled out of the Crusade, and had even attacked and plundered Greece while Greek armies were off fighting the Muslims. There, she learned that the Turks had captured Antioch and Raymond had been captured in battle and beheaded. Louis, meanwhile, had managed to limp along to Calabria, the "boot" of Italy. They were, at last, reunited. Both had been presumed dead, because neither had been heard from for two months!

Louis and Eleanor so loathed one another by now that they decided not to return to France but rather to see the Pope in Rome. They asked Pope Eugenius III for an annullment. He refused. They returned to France.

Two years later, things had only worsened. Many of the French nobility now opposed Eleanor, and she herself was still pressing for a divorce. In March 1152, the Archbishop of Sens, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, the Archbishop of Rouen, and the Archbishop of Reims agreed to annul the marriage by claiming that Eleanor and Louis were too closely related by blood to be properly marriage (they were fourth cousins).

In 1154, Louis VII married Constance of Castile, and they had two daughters -- Marguerite and Alais. Remember Alais? She'd be Henry II's mistress in the movie. Constance died in childbirth in 1160. Louis VII married Adela of Champagne five weeks later, and they had a son: Philip, born August 21, 1165. Remember Philip? He was the 22-year-old French king in the movie.

Trying to return to Acquitaine, Eleanor was almost kidnapped twice -- by the Count of Blois and by the Count of Nantes. Kidnapping and marriage under duress was a time-honored French custom, and immediate marriage was probably the only way to stop constant attempts on her life. In May 1152 AD, just two months after her divorce from Louis VII, Eleanor asked Henry, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, to marry her. They had a miniscule church wedding. (Amusingly, Eleanor and Henry were only third cousins!)

How did this come about? One of Eleanor's lovers had allegedly been Henry's own father, Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou. He'd advised his son to have nothing to do with her... Henry had also once asked permission to marry Marie, Eleanor's oldest daughter. But because of the close blood relationship, this was denied. It's not clear how Eleanor or Henry met, nor if they even had done so prior to their marriage! But marry they did.

On October 25, 1154, Henry became King of England. Eleanor was crowned Queen of England two months later. They had eight children: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. Their oldest son, William, died of a seizure at the age of two. Henry tried to rule the Aquitaine, but the various nobles resisted him. Henry tried to claim leadership of Toulouse, but it too resisted and he lost it.

In 1155 AD, Henry II made Thomas à Becket Lord Chancellor of England. Becket quickly reasserted Henry's right to tax churches, monasteries, and other religious institutions. Henry was so pleased that he sent his son, Henry, to live with Beckett. In 1162, Henry made Becket Archbishop of Canterbury, probably on the assumption that Becket would continue to support the state over the church. But Becket radically transformed his outlook. Relations between the two men rapidly deteriorated. In November 1170, Henry (living in Normandy at the time) was rumored to have shouted "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" Four nobleman took it as an order to kill Becket. On December 29, 1170, they arrived at Canterbury and lopped the top of his skull off. Anger at Henry II was widespread. On February 21, 1173, Becket was canonized as a saint by Pope Alexander III. Desperate to stop the public from revolting against him, Henry did public penance at Becket's tomb on July 12, 1174.

In November 1160, Henry II allowed his five-year-old son, Henry, to be engaged to Margaret, the two-year-old daughter of Louis VII. Henry II and Louis VII had long argued over who owned the Vexin district, which Louis VII acquired from Henry II's father. To settle the dispute, Margaret's dowry contained the Vexin.

Henry II met Rosamund Clifford (daughter of a minor English nobleman) in 1163. They became lovers. Although Henry had had many mistresses over the course of his marriage to Eleanor, thie intensity of this relationship was different. It became public in 1166, and Eleanor and Henry's marriage strongly deteriorated.

In October 1167, Eleanor moved out of Henry's household in England and moved to the French city of Argentan. Henry accompanied her and the family spent Christmas there. She left for Poitiers immediately after Christmas (with Henry and his army personally escorting her). Henry left a military official as her guardian, but he died soon thereafter in a military skirmish and Eleanor ruled Aquitaine in her own right.

Henry II fatefully invaded Ireland in 1171. Irish kings had very limited authority, and there were tons of them reigning over extremely tiny plots of land. King Dermot of Leinster had been driven off his land, and he's the one who asked Henry to invade so that he could get his lands back. Unfortunately, this led to more than 850 years of British colonialism in Ireland -- which has not ended to this day.

In 1172, the 17-year-old Henry and 14-year-old Margaret were finally married, conveying the Vexin to Henry the Younger.

The following year, Henry the Younger revolted at Eleanor's urging. He fled to the court of Louis VII in Paris. His brothers, Richard (age 15) and Geoffrey (age 14) were living with Eleanor in Acquitaine, and Henry the Younger convinced them to join him in revolt. Eleanor also encouraged her French nobles to rise up against Henry II. Henry II was almost toppled as King of England. Henry II was supported by a few French nobles who had holdings in England (and feared losing them), and because William the Lion, Duke of Saxony (and husband of his third daughter, Matilda) had been surprised and captured by a tiny band of loyalists while on his way to attack Henry II. Henry II reconciled with Henry the Younger and his other sons. In April 1173, Eleanor left Poitiers. She was arrested and sent to Henry (who was staying at Rouen). Henry II kept her whereabouts secret for a full year. In July 1174, Henry and Eleanor sailed to England. Eleanor was placed under house arrest, and moved from castle to castle for the next 16 years.

Rosamund left Henry II in 1176, and entered a monastery.

Henry II now began giving his youngest son, John, various lands throughout England. In 1177, John was made the Lord of Ireland.

Louis VII died in October 1179. In November, Henry the Younger represented Henry II at Philip's coronation. (This is in total contradiction to the movie, where Henry II seems not to know that Philip is now King of France.)

That same year, Henry II made Richard Duke of Aquitaine. (Again, this contradicts the movie, which shows Eleanor still in possession of the Aquitaine.) Two years laer, Geoffrey married and became Duke of Brittany.

Henry the Younger revolted again in the summer of 1183. This time, Richard supported his father. But Geoffrey and Philip II supported Henry with troops. Henry II beseiged Limoges, and Henry the Younger was forced to flee. Henry the Younger contracted dysentery and died on June 11. His father wanted to reconcile, but Henry the Younger died before they could meet.

Philip II now claimed that parts of Normandy belonged to his wife, Margaret. Henry II replied that they had once belonged to Eleanor, and had reverted to her possession after Henry the Younger's death. To prevent Eleanor from disputing this interpretation, Henry brought Eleanor to Normandy in August 1183, where she stayed for six months. Although Eleanor returned to England in eaerly 1184, she now had increased freedom of movement. She and Henry Over the next few years Eleanor often traveled with her husband and was sometimes associated with him in the government of the realm, but still had a custodian so that she was not free.

With Henry the Younger dead, Henry II demanded that Richard be crowned as King of England. This would mean giving up the Aquitaine to John, however, and Richard refused. Henry ordered John and Geoffrey to retake the Aquitaine by force. A stalemate ensued, and in 1184 the family reconciled. Henry II brought Eleanor out of prison in 1185 got her to use her influence on Richard to get him to agree to give up the Aquitaine. In all probability, Henry II also threatened to make Geoffrey King of England instead. Richard finally agreed to give up his mother's duchy.

John tried to conquer more of Ireland in 1185 and failed. Then Geoffrey died in a jousting tournament in August 1186. Philip II demanded that he be given custody of Brittany with Geoffrey's death. He also demanded that Richard, who was besieging Toulouse, stop, and that Henry II finally turn over the Vexin. Henry refused. Philip invaded Normandy, and Henry sent a huge army to France to defend his claims. The Pope intervened and brokered a truce.

Soon thereafter, Jerusalem fell to the Muslims. Richard wanted to lead a crusade to retake the Holy Land. Philip II announced that he was ready to help immediately (even though he was not). Henry II, however, held off until he had raised taxes and more soldiers. Richard saw this as Henry trying to back out of the crusade. Philip II then announced he would give up all territorial claims to Henry's lands, but if and only if Henry would marry his half-sister off to Richard and announce that Richard was his heir. Henry II refused to do so, and Richard formally paid homage to Philip II.

Philip and Richard launched a surprise attack on Henry as soon as the peace conference broke up. Instead of fleeing for Normandy and then England, Henry II fled to his castle at Chinon. He was dying of a perforated ulcer. Richard agreed to all of Philip's terms: Making England a vassal state of France, allowing Alais to marry Richard, making Richard his heir, paying Philip compensation for war aims, and turning over the Vexin. John joined Richard as soon as he heard that Henry II had submitted.

Henry II died on July 6, 1189. Richard immediately ordered his mother freed.

Richard went on the Third Crusade, but never married Alais. Ruled as regent in England while Richard laid claim to his inherited lands in France. She ruled England again as regent while Richard led the Third Crusade. When Richard returned from the crusade, he was kidnapped by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, just before Christmas 1192. John and Philip II offered 80,000 marks if Richard would be held until September 1194, but the Duke turned them down. Eleanor personally went to Germany and negotiated his ransom and release. During Richard's imprisonment and Eleanor's absence, John tried to usurp the throne of England. When Richard returned, he forgave John and named him his heir. Eventually, Eleanor returned to the Aquitaine, which she ruled on Richard's behalf.

Philip II, however, seized Normandy. Now freed, Richard counter-attacked and managed to win several battles against Philip. But on March 25, 1199, Richard was shot in the shoulder by an arrow. A doctor botched its removal, he got gangrene, and died on April 6.

Eleanor lived until 1204. King John now signed a peace treaty with Philip II in which he agreed to have one of his neices marry Philip's son, Louis. Eleanor left Poitiers to go to Castile and determine which neice should marry Louis. She was kidnapped by Hugh IX of Lusignan, but won her freedom by agreeing to give Lusignan its freedom. Eleanor duly traveled to Castile, chose the girl, and brought her back to France. She suffered several long illnesses, and finally decided to become a nun in 1203. She died in her sleep.

During King John's reign, Philip II captured all of the English possessions in France except Gascony. He consolidated France into a single nation, and became forever after known as "Philip Augustus."

King John also turned England into a vassal state of the papacy. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died in 1205, King John wanted his own man in the position. But the deacons of Canterbury elected their own person. Pope Innocent III tried to install Stephen Langton, his own candidate, but John refused him. Innocent excommunicated John, which had little effect. But by 1213 AD Philip II of France was threatening to invade. To avoid war, John agreed to Langton's installation and to pay 666 pounds a year to the papacy. In turn, Innocent told Philip to back down.

Within two years, John's inept rule and failures to retake his ancestral lands in France had caused a rebellion among the barons in England. King John was forced to sign a document outlining the rights of free men and curtailing the rights and excesses of the crown. This document, the Magna Carta, was signed at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. It has become a founding document of British and American democracy. A second rebellion broke out in 1216, and Prince Louis of France -- who had a claim to the English throne since his marriage to John's neice -- successfully invaded. John was able to fight Louis to a standstill, but no more than that. John caught dysentery, and died October 18, 1216. After his death, British nobles were able to defeat Prince Louis (but not eject him from England), and he gave up his claims to the British throne in 1217.

This ain't the Tudors, baby............ Part II

France, like Britain, was a host of warring minor kingdoms, duchies, baronetcies, and city-states. The Aquitaine was probably the largest of these, and occupied what is today southwest France. But it was controlled by the Visigoths, a Germanic tribe which had swept out of Germany in the early 300s and migrated all over Europe. They'd sacked Rome in 410 AD, and now were settling permanently in northern Spain. But all this was about to change.

The Franks were a small Germanic tribe that lived along the middle and lower Rhine River. They were very tall, and incredibly well-built and powerful people. Their children didn't wear clothes, and they were hunters, fishers, and warriors almost from birth. And they were hungry for land. They had already conquered most of the land southwest of the Rhine down to about Metz and Tertry. In 486 AD, their king, Clovis, swept southwest and southeast. He captured the entire upper Rhine and the upper Danube, and everything south down to the Loire River. He annexed the Aquitaine in 507 AD.

Under Frankish law, all sons inherited part of the kingdom. Clovis had four sons, so four Frankish kingdoms emerged, one each in centered on Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and Rheims. The Frankish kings had trouble ruling beyond these areas, however. So they allowed their conquered lands to be vassal states -- owing allegiance to the Franks, paying tribute to the Franks, but basically running their own affairs. The Franks didn't even care if the vassal states attacked one another, so long as they never got powerful enough to either conquer the Frankish kingdoms or powerful enough to break away.

The "bastard out of Belgium," Charles Martel, essentially reunited the Frankish kingdoms into a single unit between 713 AD and 718 AD. Martel was the bastard son of the Duke of Austrasia (the original Frankish kingdom). After uniting the Franks, he then fought off not only the Arabs but also a number of foreign enemies between 718 AD and 732 AD. Martel never crowned himself king, but ruled as one anyway for most of his life. Martel's son, Pepin II, would crown himself king though. And Pepin's son, the great military conqueror Charlemagne, rapid expanded the Frankish kingdom into Germany, Italy, and Spain.

The Frankish kingdom broke into eastern and western halves after the death of Charlemagne's son, Louis the Pious, in 840 AD. The Vikings also began raiding France heavily around 800 AD, and their longboats often traveled far upriver (even as far as Paris) -- wreaking havoc and sowing panic. To help fend them off, both Charlemagne and Louis settled large numbers of people around the mouth of the Seine and created the Duchy of Normandy to help protect Paris from these raids. When Louis died in 840 AD, the kingdom was again split up into three sections. His son Lothair took over what was called "Middle Francia" and proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor. His son Charles the Bald took over what was called "Western Francia" (or just "France"), and his son Louis the German took over what was called "Eastern Francia."

In 870 AD, Charles the Bald created the title "Duke of Anjou." The duchy was located in the area around the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley. The vassal state of Brittany was to the west and Normandy on the north, and both menaced Anjou repeatedly.

The problem was that the Frankish kingdoms had long held to a law of "elected monarchy." Despite the hereditary monarchy established by Charles Martel and extending to Louis the Pious, the election of nobility had never been abandoned at the local and regional level. By 987, the line of kings descending from Charles Martel through Charlemagne and their descendants had died out. The last of the line, Louis V, was just 19 when he inherited the throne. He died a year after his reign began, after suffering a severe head injury while hunting boar. He left no children.

Hugh Capet was elected king, establishing the Capetian dynasty (which lasted, directly or through its subsidiary branches -- the Orleans and the Bourbons -- until the French Revolution). The Capet family was high nobility, directly descended from Charlemagne. But although powerful and rich, none of them had ever been kings. He was the latest of the "Dukes of France," the family which ruled the Île de France (the area immediately around Paris). Born in 939, Capet's father died when Hugh was just 17. The Duke of Blois and the Duke of Anjou both seized part of Hugh's family lands before he could come of age. Hugh Capet immediately aligned himself with his cousins in East Francia, Kings Otto II and Otto III, for protection. He also sought out the powerful Roman Catholic archbishop, Adalberon of Reims, and supported him against the weak King Lothair of West Francia. Capet came to dominate Lothair, and was king in all but name by 986 when Lothair died and Louis V came to the throne. Louis was a vacillating and weak king as well, and his father had tried Adalberon for treason and lost. Louis V was trying him again for treason when he died, and Capet quickly absolved the bishop of any crime. Within two months of Louis' death, Hugh Capet was crowned King of France.

Capet has his son, Robert, crowned co-king with him at an early age -- thus ensuring that Robert would inherit the kingdom from him. Robert did the same with his son, and over time this established the hereditary monarchy in France. Robert II realized that in order to improve his power he had to have land. So whenever the hereditary leader of any vassal state or duchy died out without issue, Robert attempted to seize the land by right of kingship. In this way, he dramatically enlarged the "Kingdom of France" by gaining control of the Duchy of Burgundy in 1016 AD.

Robert's son, Henry, revolted against his father. Robert II was beaten on the field of battle, and died of a fever after having fled to Melun. Henry I was forced to give his brother the Duchy of Burgundy, losing the duchy his father had worked so hard to gain. In 1047 AD, he helped Duke William of Normandy (yes, William the Conqueror) to put down a revolt that probably saved William from being tossed out on his ear. This made William very powerful, and Henry I tried to invade Normandy in 1054 and again in 1057 -- and lost both times. Henry I in 1060 at Vitry-en-Brie after taking the wrong medication. Henry's son, Philip I, was just seven years old when he became co-king, and his father died within a year. Philip became king at age 14, and died in 1108 AD at the ripe old age of 56 -- having ruled for a whopping 42 years.

Philip I's son, Louis VI, was never co-king. But he inherited the throne at the age of 27 in 1008 AD. He fought with Robert, Duke of Normandy. Remember him? He should have been King of England, but was away at the Crusades when his father died. Henry I of England usurped the throne, and Robert tried to take it back. One reason why Robert failed was because Louis VI invaded Normandy. Unsuccessfully, it turned out, but there you go.

This ain't the Tudors, baby............ Part I

I watched The Lion in Winter for like the fifth or sixth time today. It's a 1968 film based on a 1966 play. It is set at the castle of Chinon in France in the year 1183, at Christmas. Henry II is King of England, and he's residing in France in order to keep his restive French lands under control. He has three sons -- Richard, Geoffrey, and John -- but only 17-year-old John lives with him. He invites Richard and Geoffrey to come stay with him for the holiday. His wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is under house arrest in England for supporting their eldest son, Henry the Young, in a revolt. Henry died of dysentery 10 years ago shortly after the revolt failed. Eleanor is let out of prison twice a year (Christmas and Easter), and is on her way to Chinon. Henry is also playing host to Philip II of France, a 24-year-old who only recently became king. Eleanor's first husband, Louis VI of France, had their marriage annulled, and Philip was Louis' only son (from Louis' third marriage). Complicating things is that Henry has a mistress, Alais (pronounced "Alice"), who is Philip's half-sister. Philip gave his permission for Alais to marry John, and gave her a huge dowry as part of the deal. But John was so young at the time, they had to wait seven years for him to come of age. In the meantime, Henry's spent her dowry and taken her as his own mistress. Now Philip wants Alais married off, or the money back. Henry is in love with Alais (he thinks), and isn't sure how to resolve all this.

The film occurs over three or four days at Chinon. Eleanor is scheming to get her son Richard on the throne; Geoffrey is scheming to destroy his two brothers so that he can take over the kingdom as a "fuck you" to his unloving parents; John is a weasel who knows he can only be king if his father makes him king; and Henry is trying to find a way to annul his marriage to Eleanor and marry Alias.

The film stars Peter O'Toole as Henry II, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anthony Hopkins (in his film debut) as Richard, John Castle as Geoffrey, Nigel Terry as John, Timothy Dalton (in his film debut) as Philip II, and Jane Merrow (in her film debut) as Alais.

The film is heavy on dialogue, and light on action. People argue, scheme, fight, shout, kiss, and spend the night flitting from bedchamber to bedchamber as they try to make deals and betray one another. The film is notorious for including a scene in which Richard admits to having had a homosexual love affair with Philip. Their love is not condemned by anyone in the play or the film. (Remember, this is 1968. This is a year before Stonewall.)

If you're like me, you're sitting there thinking, "WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?????"

Yeah, I agree. So here is the backstory.

The island of Britain was a host of tiny, warring kingdomlets until the Romans conquered all of it (except for Scotland) in 43 AD. That ended in 410 AD. Shortly thereafter, the Angles and the Saxons (both from northwestern Germany) and the Jutes (from southern Denmark) basically began emigrating wholesale to England. They settled most of England and lower Scotland, but not Cornwall, Wales, or northern Scotland, and established what has come to be known as "medieval England." The Vikings repeatedly invaded England beginning around 800 AD.

Normandy is the coastal area of France just south of the British isle. In 1066 AD, William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and conquered it. William was related both the long-dead Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelred the Unready, as well as to Aethelred's successors, Cnut and Harthnacnut (both Danish Vikings). In reality, he was merely asserting his right to the English throne, although there were other claimants. The Normans conquered all of England, most of Wales, and most of southern Scotland.

Taking the title King William I of England, William wiped out the Anglo-Saxon nobility, distributed most English noblemen's lands to his Norman supporters, imposed French as the language of the state and court, imposed French customs and style as those of the court and government, and imposed French law. William died in 1087 AD. His son, William II, ruled for 13 years. A terrific soldier, he was a ruthless leader. He was also probably homosexual, and never married. Rumors about his public lusting for young men and nights of homosexual orgies abounded. He died in 1100 AD, shot by an arrow while hunting in the forest. More than likely he was assassinated by a nobleman who supported his younger brother, Henry.

Henry I was William the Conqueror's fourth son. His eldest brother, Robert, was coming back from the First Crusade, and Henry I essentially usurped the throne of England from him. Robert, naturally, was pissed. Henry and Robert fought a series of wars to keep both England and Normandy under Henry's control. Henry I captured Robert in 1106 AD, and kept him imprisoned for the next 20 years. Robert died in captivity at the age of 80.

Henry I died in 1135 AD. Henry's only surviving son, William, drowned in 1120 when the ship he was traveling in sank in minutes after hitting a rock in the English Channel just off the cost of England. This left Henry's daughter, Mathilda. She'd married Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1114 AD. (The Holy Roman Empire was a confederation of Central European duchies, city-states, tiny realms, and baronies centered in what later became Germany. Its ruler was elected by the constituent states, but had to have the Pope's consent to rule. This caused innumerable problems...) Her husband died in 1125 AD, but by now she'd gained the title "Empress." She married Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, in 1128 AD.

Henry I had signed a will giving his kingdom to Empress Mathilda. But there was another claimant to the throne, Stephen. Stephen was Henry I's nephew (through Henry's sister, Adela, who had married Stephen II, Count of Blois). Stephen had married a girl (also named Mathilda) who had inherited vast estates in the county of Kent. This made Stephen one of the richest men in England. The law of England gave the throne to the next eldest male (Stephen), but Henry I's will gave it to Empress Mathilda. Stephen I ruled England beginning in 1135 AD. But Empress Mathilda invaded in 1039 AD. Her husband invaded Normandy, and seized most of it. Stephen was badly defeated in 1141 AD and captured. But Mathilda's brother was captured the same year, and the two sides exchanged prisoners. Stalemate emerged for the next decade, with Mathilda essentially ruling Cornwall and the southwestern counties and Stephen ruling England. Vast parts of Britain were ruined by war, and the Midlands and southern Scotland essentially on their own.

In 1153 AD, Mathilda's son Henry (now 20 years old) led a large forced into the Midlands. He was supported by the northern barons, who were sick of war. Stephen's oldest son, Eustace, died that year -- removing the heir to the English throne. Various church leaders and barons pressed both sides to come to an agreement. Stephen agreed to make Henry his advisor; Stephen's youngest son, William agreed to renounce his claim to the throne; and Henry agreed to pay homage to Stephen.

When Stephen died a year later, Henry became Henry II of England.

A little history because today is July 28, 2012.

After all, what's a little repression in America, eh?  Calling out the tanks, shooting people in cold blood on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, beating up the elderly...

Bet you didn't read about this in high school!  But you get it now.

* * * * * * *

With American writhing in the grip of the Great Depression, many people neared the end of their rope. For World War I veterans, there seemed no hope left. Many were horribly crippled by the war, or left with their lungs half-full of fluid from gas. For a vast number of 34-to-40 year old men (who had been 18 to 22 during the Great War), the only hope that remained was their war pension.

In 1924, Congress had enacted the Adjusted Compensation Act, a veterans' bill which provided those who had served in World War I with a "bonus" of $500 for their service (that's almost $8,000 today). The problem was that the "bonus" wouldn't be paid until 1945, when most of the men were in their 50s. Why not get it now, when they needed it the most?

In Portland, Oregon, war veterans gathered around a former sergeant and cannery supervisor named Walter W. Waters. Waters, who had a wife and two girls, had not worked in 18 months, and his family was near starvation. Waters and the vets decided they would go to Washington to plead their case. They took only some clothes, their old uniforms, and what little food they had. They decided to ride the rails and live on handouts. They had a motto: "No panhandling, no drinking, no radicalism." Only legitimate WWI vets could join the group. When Smedley Butler, then a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, heard about the movement, he strongly encouraged them to seek redress of their grievances and payment of their bonus.

On May 21, the penniless veterans reached East St. Louis. They tried to hitch rides on railcars owned by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. But the B&O sent security guards into the rail yard to prevent them from boarding. The vets started uncoupling cars from engines, and soaping up the rails so the trains couldn't get traction. The helpless B&O begged the governor for help, and soon the Illinois National Guard was sent to the city to kick the veterans out. The "Battle of the B&O" was short: The National Guard rounded the men up and shipped them over the border into Missouri in trucks.

The vets' antics made national headlines, and soon the whole country was aware of a pathetic group of beaten-down middle-aged men known as the "Bonus Expeditionary Force," or the "Bonus Army."

Within days, other veterans were on hopping on freight cars, headed for Washington as well. When Waters arrived in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day, he had a thousand men with him. Within a week, there were 10,000.

Suddenly, Congress (which was debating a bill to pay the bonus early) found itself confronted with a different kind of lobbyist.

Friday, July 27, 2012

An image from the rear of the large, robed angel at the grave of 1st Lieutenant Thomas Hudson McKee in Section 1 of at Arlington National Cemetery. McKee was an aide during the Civil War to Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Kelley. McKee's wife had the massive monument built to purposefully hide Kelley's grave, which is just behind McKee's. McKee's young daughter preceded him in death. He prevailed on his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt to get her buried at the plot, even though she was not eligible for burial at Arlington.

McKee was only a 1st Lieutenant. Yet, his monument is largely than almost any other in the cemetery. Oversized monuments to minor figures, built on the ability to pay, were the primary reason why the cemetery moved to uniform headstones in the 20th century. Only certain exceptions are allowed these days, usually for rank or heroism.

It's almost impossible to overestimate the view from Arlington House (the Robert E. Lee Memorial). The base of the Washington Monument is just 32 feet above sea level. Arlington House is a whopping 133 feet. Arlington National Cemetery itself is sort of an north-south running ovalish blob. The main entrance to the cemetery is in the east. The eastern third of the cemetery is flat land with only minor undulations. A series of very steep hills, some eastward-jutting ridgeline spurs, and some east-west running deep valleys constitute the western half of the cemetery. Once you are up out of the Potomac River valley, it's flat land again.

Because of the large number of old, tall trees and the way the roadways in Arlington are constantly switching back, you don't really realize how high you've climbed.

That is, until you come out of the trees at Arlington House -- and realize you are hundreds of feet in the air.

Arlington House was the home of Robert E. Lee. The land was his wife's, and she was a linear descendant of Martha Custis Washington (whose family owned vast tracts of land on the southern shore of the Potomac River). Desecreation of the Lee home was a major consideration after the Civil War, since many U.S. Army officers wanted to punish Lee for his treason. Several graves were put on the grounds of Arlington House to prevent it from being reoccupied by the Lee family.

As you stand on the south end of Arlington House's front lawn, you can see most of downtown D.C. There are four graves on the front lawn. The southernmost one, depicted here, is the tombstone over General Philip Sheridan.

Arlington House suffered signifcant damage during the August 23, 2011, earthquake. It's gone mostly unreported. You can see some of the structural damage (circled) above. The second floor and back hall are closed, and all the furniture and furnishings in the "living museum" have been removed for their protection. There is no word on whether the structure can be repaired.

It's a myth that Confederate soldiers were initially barred from Arlington. In fact, Gen. Montgomery Meigs purposefully included them (burying them in the Lees' rose garden) to prevent the land from being given back over to the Lees.

On March 4, 1906, Secretary of War William Howard Taft granted the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy to raise a monument to Confederate dead at Arlington. World-renowned sculptor Moses Ezekiel designed it. The cornerstone was laid on November 12, 1912, and President Woodrow Wilson dedicated it on June 4, 1914. On top of the 32-foot-high memorial is a female figure representing The South, crowned with olive leaves and extending laurels toward the South in honor of the dead. Her right hand holds a pruning hook resting on a plow, echoing the Biblical passage "And they shall beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruning hooks." A four-sided plinth represents the four years of war. A frieze of 14 shields depicts the coat of arms of the 13 Confederate states as well as Maryland (which tried to secede but was prevented from doing so by Union armies).

Below the plinth is a frieze of life-sized figures. Minerva, Goddess of War and Wisdom, supports yet another allegorical female figure "The South," who is resting upon a shield embossed with "The Constitution." On either side of Minerva stands the Spirits of War, blowing trumpets to summon the men of the South to her aid. Beyond them are figures depicting each branch of the Confederate armed forces: Soldier, sailor, sapper, and miner.

On the back of this plinth are six life-size vignettes: A black slave follows his master to war; an officer kisses his infant child (who is held in the arms of a weeping mammy); a blacksmith leaves his bellows and his sorrowful wife; a young woman puts on the belt and sword of her dead beau; and a young officer stands looking in defiance.

Confederate soldiers buried in the national cemeteries at Arlington and at the Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C., were reinterred in concentric circles around the monument. There are 482 graves here in Section 16. The headstones are pointed to prevent "Yankees from sittin' on 'em."

It's sick, twisted, vile monument. Simpering "black folk" worship their white slave-masters. Disgusting.

It's long been thought by historians that the national wounds of the Civil War were largely healed by the common goal of defeating the Spanish. In 1901, the National Society of Colonial Dames won approval for a Spanish-American War Monument. President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated the memorial on May 21, 1902. The 50-foot-high granite column is Corinthian in design, surmounted by a polished granite sphere. A bronze eagle is mounted on the sphere. Polished black granite spheres 18 inches in diameter adorn each corner, and bronze stars (44, for each state at the time) line the sides of the base. Four cannons are mounted on the east side of the small circular plaza on which the memorial stands. The two outer guns are captured Spanish bronze guns, and the two inner guns are U.S. Navy guns.  It's in Section 22.

Montgomery C. Meigs was born in 1816. An engineer, Meigs built the stone aqueduct that provided Washington, D.C., with drinking water and the construction of the U.S. Capitol dome. He was made Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army in 1861. Although a Southerner, Meigs was committed to union, and during the war came to actively hate all Southern traitors. He purposefully buried 2,100 Union and Confederate dead in Robert E. Lee's rose garden to desecrate the grounds, and by the end of the Civil War had more than 3,000 dead buried throughout the Lee estage. After the war, he built the massive red brick Pension Building (now the National Building Museum). He later designed the roof truss system for the Arts and Industries Building.

Meigs designed a large, four-foot-high tomb for himself, intended to be place in Section 1 of Arlington National Cemetery. But in the waning weeks of the Civil War, Meigs' son, Montgomery C. Meigs II, was killed by Robert E. Lee's Army of Virginia. Mad with grief, Meigs designed a tomb for his son to sit next to his own. The tomb itself is just two feet high, but the lid is a deeply cut bas-relief bronze sculpture of Meig's dead son, lying in the mud along a Virginia road. Various bits of Confederate gear lie cast off in the mud, and the body has been trampled by the hooves of Confederate horses (their hoofprints visible in the mud).

Rows and rows, in the sun.

Very, very few people venture beyond three sites at Arlington: Arlington House, the John F. Kennedy grave site, and Memorial Amphitheater/Tomb of the Unknowns. Almost no one visits graves or sections of the cemetery beyond these.

This is in the easternmost Section 17 of the cemetery, near the boundary wall.

Only a small portion of the Lee rose garden had been occupied by the Civil War Unknown Dead Memorial in 1866. With the need to commemorate the war growing, General John A. Logan ordered that an amphitheater be constructed at Arlington House in 1968. The Old Amphitheater (as it is now known) was completed and dedicated on the very first Memorial Day -- May 30,1868. The speaker was General James A. Garfield, later President of the United States.

An oval 120 feet wide by 60 feet deep set in a slight depression in the earth, the Old Amphitheater is about 300 feet southwest of Arlington House. At the top of the oval is the main dais, on which is a 3-foot-high marble podium known as "the Rostrum." It is Neoclassical in design and features the inscription "E Pluribus Unum" on the front. A colonnade of wooden, white-painted columns in Ionic style surrounds the amphitheater. A lattice roof covers the dais and colonnade. Wisteria vines climb the columns and are woven throughout the latticwork, creating deep shade. Capable of seating 1,500 people (tightly), the Old Amphitheater was replaced in 1921 by the all-marble Memorial Amphitheater.

This view is from Lee Drive, looking east-southeast over Section 2. The lawn directly east of Arlington House is incredibly steep (close to 45 degrees). The slope southeast, south, and southwest is only about 20 degrees, and much of the area between Sheridan Drive and Lee Drive is occupied with graves. Since many of these are older graves, many are large and differentially shaped.

The top of the Pentagon is just visible over the tops of the trees.  What look like columns beyond that are not towers or columns are all, but rather the cranes constructing the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the western grounds of the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus.

This is why I like '80s gay porn.