William Buehler Seabrook discussion|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in
William Buehler Seabrook discussion's LiveJournal:
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|Thursday, April 4th, 2013|
Question of identity
Is the woman in this picture Constance Kuhr or Marjorie Worthington? Or neither? Anyone know?
|Saturday, September 1st, 2012|
|Sunday, September 25th, 2011|
|Sunday, August 21st, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: "No More Lion Steaks to Build Up Nogo's Courage"
This installment in Your Weekly Seabrook is from 25 June 1944:
No More Lion Steaks
to Build up Nogo's
It is not unusual to believe that consuming parts from animals (or people) will give an individual some of the powers of the consumed. Such beliefs often lead to hunting rare animals, leading them towards extinction. In this article, Seabrook describes an early conflict between traditional beliefs and modern conservation.
Google seems to have fixed its reader software. In any event, I'm now able to navigate the articles, and hope you are, too.
|Wednesday, August 17th, 2011|
Seabrookians may find of interest the fact that two Kansas City, Missouri playwrights have worked the Hex Hitler Party into a new play, Hexing Hitler
Judging solely from their website, they have taken egregious liberties with historical facts. (For example, there were far more than five people at the real party, and Constance Kuhr, who plays an important role in the play, was not
one of them!) Given the many mistakes in the comments of the actors, I doubt they have a very production that is very faithful to life. However, here is a largely favorable review
If anyone sees the thing for themselves, I'd be interested to hear about it.
|Wednesday, August 10th, 2011|
|Sunday, August 7th, 2011|
|Sunday, July 31st, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: "Mystery of the Roaming Troy Town Maze"
"Your Weekly Seabrook" was foiled last week by LJ's latest outage, which I presume to be related to the DDOS attacks
of yestermonth. This installment of Your Weekly Seabrook is from 30 April 1944:
Unfortunately, Google News' reader doesn't work at all for me anymore. However, I've read it before, and the article describes the odd ubiquity of the Troy Town
design in America and Europe, along with one individual's argument for the source for this design. Seabrook also invokes the labyrinth of Minos
This is also the second reference I've seen to Seabrook being in Corpus Christi, Texas. The other place was in Paul Pipkin's novel, Reckoning
, which I regret seems only to exist in draft.
|Sunday, July 17th, 2011|
|Monday, July 11th, 2011|
Willie, looking more mephistophelean than usual. This was printed alongside the "Girl Cry-Goat Cry" excerpt from The Magic Island
in Americans Abroad: An Anthology
, edited by Peter Neagoe (The Hague: Servire Press, 1932, pg. 403).
|Sunday, July 10th, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: "Weird Wedding of 'Double Pistol,' Chinese Heroine"
This week's installment of Your Weekly Seabrook is from 16 April 1944:
Weird Wedding of "Double Pistol," Chinese Heroine
Woman Refused Mar-
riage Until She Slew 100
Japs, Then Became a Gen-
eral's Bride, and Burned
Her Victim's Skulls Just
to Add Zest to the
Unfortunately, Google's reader is causing me more trouble than usual, and I haven't been able to read the whole article. I hope viewing this is easier for you.
The topic, as the subtitle says, is the marriage of one of China's female guerrillas during World War II. Although in the West World War II is usually said to have begun with Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, the East was unsettled long before. The Second Sino-Japanese War
began 7 July 1937, and would not end until the fall of the Japanese Empire in 1945. At the time of the Japanese invasion, China had embroiled in the Chinese Civil War
for a decade, but Communists and Nationalists joined forces to fight the Japanese menace. Women played important combat roles in both the Civil War and in the Sino-Japanese War. One woman's memoir of those days, written in 1947, has recently been released in English: Bold Plum: With the Guerrillas in China's War Against Japan
. This is the background against which this strange nuptial took place.
|Sunday, July 3rd, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: "Cannibals are the Nicest People"
This installment of "Your Weekly Seabrook" is oddly appropriate for Fourth of July weekend, though it originally dates from 9 April 1944:
Cannibals are the Nicest People
If You're That Way With Them,
Says Author-Explorer William
Seabrook; And So, On The South
Sea Islands, Our Troops Make
Friends--The Japs Make Dinners
One of the themes that runs through The American Weekly
is readers' fascination with U.S. soldiers' exposure to foreign cultures. The World War was exactly that, a war involving the entire face of the earth. It caused irrevocable changes to virtually all the earth's societies, and among other things involved American G.I.'s coming into contact with remote South Sea islanders. William Seabrook compared his own experiences two decades before in Africa to those of the troops, and came away with sage advice: If you're nice to them, they'll be nice to you.
This article of course deals with the experiences Seabrook described in Jungle Ways
among allegedly cannibalistic tribes in Africa. Seabrook's moral relativism in this article and in his book have always reminded me of that foundational work of anthropological thought, Montaigne's "On the Cannibals,"
which I'm sure many of you would find interesting reading.
|Sunday, June 26th, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: “Has a Ghost Joined the Spars?”
This week's installment of "Your Weekly Seabrook" is from 2 April 1944:
Has a Ghost Joined the Spars?
To the Astonished Fisherman,
Theodosia Burr's Spectral
Warning was Unintelligible,
But Before Dawn on the Spot
She Indicated an Allied Ship
was Torpedoed by an Axis Submarine
by WILLIAM SEABROOK
When I was in high school, what I learned about World War II at home in the States was something like this: "There was Pearl Harbor, and then Hemingway tooled around off Cuba looking for Nazi submarines
. Then we won the war."
The truth is, America was largely protected by natural barriers during the war. That's why we only lost about 100,000 people a year. (Contrast that with the only 58,209 Americans lost over two decades during Vietnam.) But I learned listening to my grandfather's stories about the Aleutian Campaign
, in which he fought, and in which the U.S. drove the Japanese out of the Alaskan islands they had already occupied. Later I learned about the Japanese air attacks on the West coast and bombardments of cities and the German sabotage rings. Nevertheless, it's true that the American Theater
was rather quiet during the war.
But the early years of the war caught America disastrously off-guard. The Germans launched Operation Drumbeat and called this the "Second Happy Time"
, when they could use their U-boats to strike and kill off American shores with impunity. The U.S. was so embarrassingly unprepared that the military relied on civilians -- Hemingway included -- to report enemy craft in American waters.
This is the background against which we should view this article by William Seabrook. As he explains, Theodosia Burr Alston
was the daughter of Aaron Burr
, the controversial Revolutionary War general, Vice President, and Founding Father who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a famous duel
and was at one point tried for treason over what came to be known as the Burr Conspiracy
, when it is alleged that he tried to wrest himself an empire in the American west.
What exactly happened to Theodosia remains unclear. She disappeared on a sea voyage and most historians agree with Seabrook that she was ultimately murdered by pirates. Did she become a White Lady
, warning of enemies off America's shores?
|Tuesday, June 21st, 2011|
|Sunday, June 19th, 2011|
|Sunday, June 12th, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: "Paradise, U.S.A. -- With Restrictions"
The Weekly American
, February 27, 1944:
Paradise, U.S.A. -- With Restrictions
A One-Family Eden with Steak and
Orchids Every Day and No Ration
Points or Cash Needed, But, Says
Explorer William Seabrook,
"King Gene" Hamilton Keeps
It Exclusive With His Toma-
hawk and Mysterious Bones
This article is about the Hamilton family of the Everglades who, if Seabrook is correct, were a law unto themselves in mid-century Florida.
It's difficult (at least sitting in southern California) to do much fact checking on this article. The Hamiltons were indeed an important family in the area at the time. King Gene was not so much above the law as was
the law. From what I've been able to learn, he was a Deputy Sheriff in the 1930s, and probably was in the 1940s as well.
King Gene was born in Chatham Bend, Florida, in 1882. The Hamilton family seems to have been as prolific as Seabrook describes. When he died in 1967, King Gene was survived by 27 grandchildren. He seems to have had about seventeen siblings and six children. Quite a clan!
Hamilton's father was Richard Hamilton, who died in June 1943, less than a year before this article was printed, allegedly at 110 years. Richard Hamilton was born a slave, and was apparently descended from either Choctaw or Chickasaw in Georgia, probably in addition to African-Americans. It was his mother who first came to Florida from Georgia, in slavery.
I'm honestly not able to trace much of what Seabrook says here. It's not surprising that this family would merge with the Seminole
, whose very name comes from the Spanish for "run away," and who were known for accepting fugitives -- whether Native Americans or Africans -- into their ranks.
An interesting thing about this article is that it shows Seabrook's extreme interest in the nature of authority sacred kingship. It's not hard to see the parallels between King Gene and Faustin Wirkus, the White King of La Gonave, whom Seabrook described in The Magic Island
. You can read about him here
Personally, I'd love to know more about King Gene Hamilton and the Hamilton family. If you know anything, please post. And if you happen to be in Key West or Everglades City or even Miami, you're in the right place to do research!
|Sunday, June 5th, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: "Murder by Morpheus"
This week's installment of "Your Weekly Seabrook" is from 12 February 1944:
MURDER BY MORPHEUS
A Gentle, Loving Daughter
When Awake, Pretty Jo Ann
Became a Blind-Raging Killer,
WILLIAM SEABROOK Explains,
When Her Mind -- AND
CONSCIENCE -- Slept
In this article, Seabrook explores homicidal sonamublism,
or sleepwalking killing, focusing on the then-recent acquittal of Jo Ann Kiger, who killed her father and brother. The topic remains an important one -- in 1996 The New York Times ran an article on the subject, citing some of the same cases Seabrook does
, and every so often someone is acquitted of some serious crime on the grounds of sleepwalking. Just this January a Scottish man was cleared of rape using this defense.
Seabrook cites several cases in addition to the Kiger case. Often they're not as cut-and-dried as they might seem; for example, Alfred Morrison killed his wife in 1899 and was exonerated, but the court heard he was a bigamist, and it is unclear (to me, at any rate, and in admittedly hasty reading) from the contemporary newspaper accounts whether he was asleep or "startled" awake.
The most famous case is that of Robert Ledru, a French inspector who discovered he'd committed a murder himself while sleepwalking in the late nineteenth century. Little is available on the web, but an earlier American Weekly article also detailed the case.
In 1966 Frederick Oughton published a book about the case entitled, The Two Lives of Robert Ledru: an Interpretative Biography of a Man Possessed
Seabrook and the other American
article both cite the bizarre 1920 German Expressionist silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
, yet another important, forgotten piece of cultural history. If you haven't seen it, I recommend you do (though I can't pretend to understand it myself!).
Some idea of the interest Seabrook's articles generated can be seen by the fact that they were advertised ahead of time. Here's an ad for "Murder by Morpheus" that ran in the Reading Eagle.
|Friday, June 3rd, 2011|
How does this stuff get published?
The articles I've been posting for "Your Weekly Seabrook" have come from the American Weekly
, the Hearst papers' Sunday supplement insert. I've been asked what the journalistic standard were for this, admittedly very odd, paper. Part of this can be learned from Morrill Goddard, who edited The American
. He wrote a book entitled What Interests People and Why
, isolating 16 areas of interest which, coincidentally, form the basis of many of The American
's articles. His list can be read here, in an old post
Perhaps the best person to turn to on this, however, is Seabrook himself. Seabrook discussed the formulae for writing Hearst features in his autobiography (and in my opinion best book):
Meanwhile I'd kept my freelance desk in the Hearst Syndicate at Columbus Circle, went up around ten o'clock in the empty subway for our five mornings a week, and wrote whatever I pleased so long as it met Mr. Koenigsberg's and Jack Lait's approval. However, it had to fit always in the one frame, follow always the one formula -- it was always Hearst feature page syndicate writing. This formula had three sharply defined categories which I've already mentioned:
Science or pseudo-science.
Crime and horror.
Society high-jinks, comedies, scandals.
Each category had its flexible yet hidebound recipe. The science page must always be presented as an amazing new discovery and must always be based on something authentic. It must never be out-and-out fake. You may have made the 'amazing new discovery' yourself in a ten-year-old medical journal, or the Bible concordance, or for that matter in an old edition of Chambers's Encyclopedia, but there had to be authority for it somewhere. Or Jack Lait might get to wondering why the cat's whiskers grew horizontally instead of perpendicularly, or why bats slept hanging upside-down -- in which case you must go to the Museum of Natural History and dig up all you could on cats or bats or whatever it chanced to be.
The crime-and-horror story must be presented in all its red, juicy thrills, but always with suitable moral reflections -- Madame Tussaud flavored with Mary Baker Eddy -- the Marquis de Sade mixed with John Haynes Holmes.
The Society formula was simplest of all. You put 'em on a pedestal and then slyly thumbed your nose at 'em. If they included somebody who had snubbed Mr. Hearst, you threw a few mud pies.
All the stuff -- believe it or not -- had to be well written, for the farmed-out sterotyped pages sometimes ran into a circulation of ten million. It was well-written tripe . . .
We should also obviously take away from this Seabrook's own opinion of some of the stories we're reading in "Your Weekly Seabrook." They're probably not what he'd like to be remembered by, but I hope you find them interesting nonetheless.
|Sunday, May 29th, 2011|
Your Weekly Seabrook: Africa's Fantastic Rain Queen
This week's offering in Your Weekly Seabrook is from 6 February 1944:
THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT AFRICA'S FANTASTIC RAIN QUEEN
Primitive as is her King-
dom, the Rain Queen's
Subjects Are the Hap-
piest in the World.
By WILLIAM SEABROOK
This article was occasioned by the publication (by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the Institute of African Languages and Cultures) of The Realm of a Rain Queen: A Study of the Pattern of Lovedu Society
. The book was written by Dr. Eileen Jensen Krige and her husband, J. D. Krige. Mr. Krige happened to be nephew of Field-Marshall Jan Smuts
, then Prime Minister of South Africa, who wrote the foreward.
The book is about the Rain Queens
or Mujaji of the Balobedu
, a semi-independent group within the Limpopo Province
of South Africa. The Rain Queens have a rich history
, though not a long one. The book (and therefore Seabrook's article) was written during the reign of Khetoane Modjadji III
(1869-1959). Despite the many claims to the contrary, the Rain Queens do not appear to have been white or Arabic or anything other than African; however, one of the earliest queens appears to have been the inspiration of H. Rider Haggard's
novel, She: A History of Adventure
. (It's particularly interesting to contrast the photograph accompanying Seabrook's article with his text.) The last of the Rain Queens, Makobo Modjadji VI
(1978-2005), died of AIDS-complicated meningitis.
And of course this article allows Seabrook to talk about his old companion Wamba, a major figure in his life whom he met on the Ivory Coast and described in his book Jungle Ways
|Thursday, May 26th, 2011|