Thursday, April 28, 2011

Historic Navy Hangar One Begins to Molt

The USS Macon heads into Hangar One at Moffett Field in the 1930s.
Hangar One in a photo I took April 27, 2011. You can't see the changes yet, but they should be obvious pretty soon.
They have begun to take the skin off the famous Hangar One at Moffett Field.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ROTC at Stanford University

A letter to my father from Stanford's last ROTC Chairman, Department of Military Science.

I was fascinated to read that Stanford University is going to be voting soon on whether to bring ROTC back to campus.

My father, then Col. Chapman, was the last advisor from his reserve unit to Stanford's ROTC.  It was the era of the Vietnam War and, knowing students threw things at people in military uniforms back then, the contrarian in him delighted in volunteering for the job.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some Thoughts on Prince William's Wedding

I've been asking myself why the upcoming wedding of William Wales and Kate Middleton makes me feel a little squeamish.  I think I've found the reason:

November 1985,  Andrews Air Force Base, Washington D.C. 
(See photo credits at the end of post)

I have a vivid memory of the morning Diana, Princess of Wales, stepped off the plane at Andrews Air Force base in Washington D.C.  I was in the press pool at the edge of the tarmac.  

She was wearing a red suit that would be just as chic today as it was then, and she was even more beautiful in person than she looked in her photos. This lovely English rose was the future Queen of England.   Or so we thought.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How They Lived And What They Lived On

Fresh water had to be rationed on Ascension Island, until the engineers got their sea water distillation plant up and running. There was virtually no fresh water on the island.  US Air Force photo.

Researching the letters my father wrote home during World War II, I've stumbled across a report in the Air Force files about living conditions on Ascension Island, where he was stationed for the first two years of the war. It begins in an ordinary military-like way:

Friday, April 22, 2011

How Turtles Moved an Army

The Atlantic sea turtle is born in the sand, hatches at night, waddles as best it can to the sea--and, if it survives and is female, one day swims thousands of miles through the ocean to return to that very same spot to lay its eggs.

At least once in history, this mystery of animal biology, moved an army.  Click this story's headline for a look at my new blog about the WW II engineers on Ascension Island and this Tale of Turtle.
(Ignore the "Read More" below and click on the story headline to read the rest.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What To Do About America's Budget?

Getting ready to do a live interview on Capitol Hill with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)  That's congressman Steny Hoyer buttoning his coat, photo left.

Like many of you, I've wondered what can be done about our nation's deficit and debt problems.  I've also pondered what kind of future we face if congress and the president can't find a functional solution.

I don't believe America is so weak that this can't be fixed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Celbrating Easter Week With All Creatures (Great and Small)

Floral abundance in Northern California.

The President of the United States is visiting Northern California this week and frankly, I don't blame him.  If I lived in Washington D.C. and had a private jet at my disposal, this is where I would visit as Easter approaches. 

Everywhere I look, the landscape is bursting with color.  It's spring and California is really dressed up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Something Dad Forgot to Mention About World War II: He Had Wings!

My father on Ie Shima with some of the men of "C" Company, 1902 Aviation Engineer Battalion.  Behind him to the left you can see the sea, and, beyond that, Okinawa.  To the right, the American flag flies over the residue of the battle: a new military cemetery.

I've spent the last few months trying to find out more about the history of my father's unit during World War II.  Since I found the letters he wrote home to my mother during the war, I've been working on the outline of a book.

He was an engineer.  He graduated with an Army ROTC commission.  I thought he was in the Corps of Engineers.  But I was wrong. Or at least--sort of wrong.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rise of Mid-East Violence Also Hits Israel: A Guest Post From the Scene

This Jerusalem bus stop turned deadly in recent days.

Robin writes: The turmoil in the Middle East has not entirely been about the aspirations of downtrodden people to be free.  It has also unleashed, in some places, the forces of evil, some bent on settling tribal blood feuds, and some on the destruction of Israel. This combination of chaos and the apparent lack of any U.S. peace policy, has led to growing terror in Israel, the region's only democracy.  American Dr. Perry Klein--a former viewer of mine in Florida--is working in Israel and filed this guest post.

Random Violence and Random Fear
Perry Klein
Violence is escalating in Israel. Thirty-two days ago, the Fogel family--Udi, Ruth and their three children--were all stabbed to death in their home in Itamar, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our Family's Secret Civil War History

My maternal great great grandfather Alfred Abraham Wilson (1847-1929) served in the Civil War. With his hand up to his face like that, doesn't it look like he is about to say:  "Oh my gosh.  There is something I forgot to tell you!"?

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the worst war in America's history:  the Civil War, or, as it is sometimes called, the War Between The States.

In our history, it is not so very long ago.

My father's great grandfather served in the Civil War and was 75 years old when my father was born.  Thus, when my father was born in 1919, he was closer in time to the Civil War than I am now to World War II.

Our family has a curious history in this terrible conflict.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

SFO's New Terminal Two: A Real Wow

San Francisco Airport's new Terminal Two has hand crocheted netting hanging from the rafters: evocative of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.

My neighbor is an executive at San Francisco International Airport, and asked me if I would like to go to the opening of the new terminal, Terminal Two.  Its a 383 million dollar improvement to the airport.

Who would turn town a chance like that?  Not I.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Meet Mr. Trasher--I Mean Thrasher

With a nose like Jimmy Durante's he's hard to miss in your garden. Photo courtesy of Las Pilitas Nursery--link at the end of this article.

I noticed him first in the bird bath several months ago. He was hard to miss. He has a nose like a steam shovel. I called my sister who knows a lot about birds and we decided he was a Thrasher, either Le Conte or California.

Since his habitat is the chaparral, we figured he was just passing through.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Go Ahead: Take the Rest of the Year Off!

Just for the record, the budget our legislative and executive branch are fighting over right now, was due last October. October 1, 2010.

During the budget fights I covered in the Reagan administration, the fears and threats of shutdowns actually took place when the budget was due. Imagine that. Such a long time ago.

Today, in 2011,  if Congress passes another continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down we will be past the half way mark of the year with no budget, and just six months to go until the next one is due.

Under the circumstances, I think a government shut down is an excellent idea. Why don't they take the rest of the year off?

Last fall, September 2010, the White House was held by a Democrat, and the Senate and the House had firm Democratic majorities. If this group of stalwarts wanted to pass one of those bloated, pork laden, debt-inducing, middle-of-the-night bills that have been the norm in recent years, all they had to do was do it.

They could even have gone one better and passed a thrifty budget. Whooppee for that idea.

Ah, but there was an election in November. No one wanted to go into that dragging around the weight of having made a decision. Someone might hold it against one.

So all of the weasels--and I must say there are a large number of them in both parties--slunk out of Washington, having passed a continuing resolution and, like Scarlett O'Hara, said they would "think about it tomorrow."

Tomorrow came after the election, when the Democrats still had the majority until the new Congress arrived in January. And, once again, they decided to "think about it tomorrow." Christmas was coming and they wanted to fly off to Bermuda or Borneo or the U.A.E. to give those zillion dollar speeches that include private jet travel and executive suites for their families (and/or mistresses) and golf rounds with the local emir. (Don't think I'm exaggerating. You can look it up.)

Another continuing resolution.

And now, the tomorrow that they were going to think about several yesterdays ago, has arrived again.

If they can't get an agreement this time, I hope they refuse to pass a continuing resolution and just shut the thing down.

Give everybody the rest of the budget year off. Don't worry: the "essential" government workers will still be funded from some mystery account, so the G-men will still hunt perps and those old folks won't go without their checks.

Sure, we'll miss our National Parks and I know a lot of people will be sorry to know those IRS auditors will be "on leave." But, we can all save gasoline by having a barbecue in the backyard this summer instead of going to Yellowstone. Put that stack of tax receipts back in the drawer with a sigh of relief. Who understands the tax code anyway?

So, no budget?  Give our federal workers the rest of the year off. Force austerity through stupidity if you can't find it any other way.

And Congress should be on the furlough list too: at present, they are a luxury we can ill afford.

Volunteers could do a better job.  Girl Scouts anyone?

P.S.The next budget is due October 1, 2011.

Add to 
Google Reader or Homepage
Subscribe to Robin Chapman News

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Ballard Catalogue Charges a Lot of Money for These Doo Dads!

Mom would probably have beaned me for this ...

I don't know if you get the Ballard Designs Catalogue, but they are always selling architectural thingees one is supposed to put up on one's walls for decor purposes. Maybe that is where I got the idea--I honestly don't know.

But the ones I, er, extracted from those old chairs we found in the attic that "Mom planned to re-do" were a much better price. Of course I won't be able to sell the chairs now at a garage sale, not with those pieces missing and all.

Source of decorative "carved" panel, surrounded, you may notice, by a great deal of other junque in the garage.

I recovered the "decorative elements" from the chairs yesterday, and got the panels up this morning. Now those blank spaces on the walls above the closets, painted that lovely Behr paint color, "French Castle," don't look quite so Behr.

They look a little Chinese I think, like a Ming tomb. Or not.

And then, there is that little piece of Mom's imagination, floating up there near the ceiling of that room. I'm not sure what she would think about that.

Alas, one's days of worrying about that are hovering up there much higher than the chair panel. They've entered one of those worm holes in the Universe and have vanished forever.

Big pink checks and a chair panel. Okay, but I'm having an awful lot of fun.

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to Robin Chapman News

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Seven More "Mom" Chairs Emerge From the Attic: Aha! More Architectural Antiques

One of a pair. As if one were not enough.

I've been eyeing two chairs my sister found in the attic a month ago--two of seven she brought down this time during an exploratory climb during her visit. My mother bought lots of chairs at garage sales during her lifetime, with the idea that she would "re-do" them at some point. We've found more than a couple of dozen so far. Some of them--some of the earliest she bought--are really lovely. Anyway, she never got around to the re-do part.

Some of the later ones were more than a little iffy. It is possible, at a certain point, not wearing her glasses may have impacted her taste.

I've re-covered several of the best of them, and they look great--a real tribute to her artistic perception. But two of the ones that came down recently were especially peculiar. (See photo above) I don't think different fabric would have helped.

I've been eyeing them for the two carved pieces on the back. Machine carved, I think, and then glued in place--but that part of the chair is at least a little bit interesting. And from a distance ... Well, today I took out my little hammer.

The chairs were just pegged together so the work went quickly. Pretty soon, I had those "architectural" pieces safely removed.

They could use a little polish, but that part is easy.

I have these two spots over the closets in one of my bedrooms and the more I've stared at them, the more they look like they need a little something up there. And I'm thinking of putting up those two carved pieces.

I've done it before with the backs of two chairs from Mom's collection. The chairs had no seats, so we couldn't even give them away at the garage sale. They've made for interesting decor in the country kitchen.

So as far as the bedroom goes--you'll have to stay tuned. I'm in the middle of polishing my architectural antiques. I hope my sister doesn't mind about the chairs.

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to Robin Chapman News

Friday, April 1, 2011

Balenciaga: The Sculptor of Couture

Balenciaga silk evening dress, 1967. Photo courtesy De Young Museum.

I've just returned from a visit to San Francisco's De Young Museum and an exhibit there called "Balenciaga and Spain." It features the designs of Cristóbal Balenciaga, a couturier other designers called "Fashion's Picasso" thanks in part to his Spanish origins as well as his modernistic style. He had a Paris atelier beginning in 1937, when he moved to France from Spain, and remained in business there until he retired in 1968.

During those three decades, his exquisite and idiosyncratic clothes appeared on all the best-dressed women of the era: Gloria Guinness, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Ava Gardner, and Doris Duke among many others.

Scarlet silk evening coat by Balenciaga, 1950.

The exhibit traces the roots of Balenciaga's design influences to the clothing of his native Spain--the bullfighter's sequined bolero, the priest's cassock, the fisherman's simple blouse, the balloon sleeves of Goya paintings, the veils of Moorish women.

My friend and I marveled at the cut of the gowns and the tiny seams he made throughout each dress so the fabric would hang just so. He designed the clothes and then cut the costume to the customer. What a delight it must have been for these women to step into one of his dresses for an evening of--well, it would have to be an evening of caviar and champagne, one would certainly hope.

I have been under the impression for some time that the famous red and black dress Eva Marie Saint wears in North by Northwest was a Balenciaga. Something about the cut of the dress and the red roses on the black field remind me of a Spanish shawl.

Eva Marie Saint posing in her famous North by Northwest dress.

Saint says she and Hitchcock bought the famous dress when they saw it on a model at Bergdorf's in New York, and Bergdorf Goodman was a rare purveyor in America of Balenciaga designs. In any case, I can't prove it, and after several hours of researching this on the Internet I still don't know. But that dress was very Balenciaga-esque.

Saint wearing the dress in the hotel scene in the film.

I had always read that the insides of these couturier dresses were as beautiful as the outside--fitted and boned and sewn so perfectly a lady wouldn't have to wear much underneath to cinch her in or prop her up. And indeed, they displayed one dress with the zipper open, just to prove the point. (Just think of the money one would save on lingerie.)

Embroidered ivory silk evening dress with bronze silk sash, 1950.

A version of this exhibit has been shown in Spain and in New York, so it is possible it might come to a museum near you. It speaks of an era just after World War II, when women were happy to be dressing up again after the deprivations and rationing of the wartime years. Both women and fashion were in the midst of liberation and change in the 1950s and 1960s. But both were still allowed to be beautiful.

The black velvet sheath with the silver sequins down the side was owned by Kitty Carlisle Hart--star of A Night At the Opera, and, later, widow of playwright Moss Hart.

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to Robin Chapman News