Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 34, 2016

Previous Week   August 22, 2016 - August 28, 2016   Next Week

British troops set fire to the White House on August 24, 1814

British troops set fire to the White House on August 24, 1814

British troops set fire to the White House: On this day in 1814, during the War of 1812 between the United States and England, British troops enter Washington, D.C. and burn the White House in retaliation for the American attack on the city of York in Ontario, Canada, in June 1812.

When the British arrived at the White House, they found that President James Madison and his first lady Dolley had already fled to safety in Maryland. Soldiers reportedly sat down to eat a meal made of leftover food from the White House scullery using White House dishes and silver before ransacking the presidential mansion and setting it ablaze.

According to the White House Historical Society and Dolley’s personal letters, President James Madison had left the White House on August 22 to meet with his generals on the battlefield, just as British troops threatened to enter the capitol. Before leaving, he asked his wife Dolley if she had the “courage or firmness” to wait for his intended return the next day. He asked her to gather important state papers and be prepared to abandon the White House at any moment.

The next day, Dolley and a few servants scanned the horizon with spyglasses waiting for either Madison or the British army to show up. As British troops gathered in the distance, Dolley decided to abandon the couple’s personal belongings and instead saved a full-length portrait of former president George Washington from desecration. Dolley wrote to her sister on the night of August 23 of the difficulty involved in saving the painting. Since the portrait was screwed to the wall, she ordered the frame to be broken and the canvas pulled out and rolled up. Two unidentified “gentlemen from New York” hustled it away for safe-keeping. (Unbeknownst to Dolley the portrait was actually a copy of Gilbert Stuart’s original). The task complete, Dolley wrote “and now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take.” Dolley left the White House and found her husband at their predetermined meeting place in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Although President Madison and his wife were able to return to Washington only three days later when British troops had moved on, they never again lived in the White House. Madison served the rest of his term residing at the city’s Octagon House. It was not until 1817 that newly elected president James Monroe moved back into the reconstructed building. History Channel / Wikipedia / Encyclopedia Britannica / The National Museum of American History.org / The Library of Congress.gov / PBS video

“Sea Dreams”

The Old Salt’s Corner

“Sea Dreams” (Part V)

- But round the North, a light,

A belt, it seem'd, of luminous vapor, lay,

And ever in it a low musical note

Swell'd up and died; and, as it swell'd, a ridge

Of breaker issued from the belt, and still

Grew with the growing note, and when the note

Had reach'd a thunderous fullness, on those cliffs

Broke, mixt with awful light (the same as that

Living within the belt) whereby she saw

That all those lines of cliffs were cliffs no more,

But huge cathedral fronts of every age,

Grave, florid, stern, as far as eye could see.

One after one: and then the great ridge drew,

Lessening to the lessening music, back,

And past into the belt and swell'd again

Slowly to music: ever when it broke

The statues, king or saint, or founder fell;

Then from the gaps and chasms of ruin left

Came men and women in dark clusters round,

Some crying, “Set them up! they shall not fall!”

And others “Let them lie, for they have fall'n.”

And still they strove and wrangled: and she grieved

In her strange dream, she knew not why, to find

Their wildest wailings never out of tune

With that sweet note; and ever as their shrieks

Ran highest up the gamut, that great wave

Returning, while none mark'd it, on the crowd

Broke, mixt with awful light, and show'd their eyes

Glaring, and passionate looks, and swept away

The men of flesh and blood, and men of stone,

To the waste deeps together.

“Then I fixt

My wistful eyes on two fair images,

Both crown'd with stars and high among the stars, -

The Virgin Mother standing with her child

High up on one of those dark minster-fronts -

Till she began to totter, and the child

Clung to the mother, and sent out a cry

Which mixt with little Margaret's, and I woke,

And my dream awed me:--well--but what are dreams?

Yours came but from the breaking of a glass,

And mine but from the crying of a child.”

“Child? No!” said he, “but this tide's roar, and his,

Our Boanerges with his threats of doom,

And loud-lung'd Antibabylonianisms

(Altho' I grant but little music there)

Went both to make your dream: but if there were

A music harmonizing our wild cries,

Sphere-music such as that you dream'd about,

Why, that would make our passions far too like

The discords dear to the musician.

No -

One shriek of hate would jar all the hymns of heaven:

True Devils with no ear, they howl in tune

With nothing but the Devil!”

“ “True” indeed!

One of our town, but later by an hour

Here than ourselves, spoke with me on the shore;

While you were running down the sands, and made

The dimpled flounce of the sea-furbelow flap,

Good man, to please the child.

She brought strange news.

Why were you silent when I spoke to-night?

I had set my heart on your forgiving him

Before you knew.

We MUST forgive the dead.”

“Dead! who is dead?”

“The man your eye pursued.

A little after you had parted with him,

He suddenly dropt dead of heart-disease.”

“Dead? he? of heart-disease? what heart had he

To die of? dead!”

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Part V of VI)

Full Poem

“I’m Just Sayin”

“I’m Just Sayin”

“If it's good, they'll stop making it.”

~ Herblock's Law

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“We must always take sides.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

~ Elie Wiesel

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“It takes nothing to join the crowd.

It takes everything to stand alone”

~ Hans F Hansen

When Are the Dogs Days of Summer?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: When Are the Dogs Days of Summer?

The official “dog days” of summer begin on July 3 and end on August 11. So how did this time frame earn its canine nickname? It turns out the phrase has nothing to do with the poor pooches who are forever seeking shade in the July heat, and everything to do with the nighttime sky.

Sirius, the Dog Star, is the brightest star in the sky. The ancient Greeks noticed that in the summer months, Sirius rose and set with the Sun, and they theorized that it was the bright, glowing Dog Star that was adding extra heat to the Earth in July and August.

Mental FlossNational GeographicWikipedia

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Fifth estate”

Where Did That Saying Come From?

Fifth estate:”  Meaning: The fifth power in the land.

Origin: What we generally mean by the word 'estate' these days is a large body of land, often one surrounding a grand house. The best-known estate in my neck of the woods is the 35,000 acre Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire, designed by Capability Brown, and it is a classic of its kind. The Duke of Devonshire, whose family seat is Chatsworth, owns at least four other major properties, but when we talk of the third, fourth, fifth etc. estates, we aren't referring to land but to an earlier 14th century meaning of the word, that is, 'power in the land'. The OED defines that meaning of 'estate' as: “An order or class regarded as part of the body politic, and as such participating in the government.”

In Works, 1380, the theologian John Wyclif declared that three estates were 'ordained by God'. Given those credentials and Wyclif's religious views, it's not surprising that he heads the list with the Clergy, followed by the Barons and Knights and lastly the Commons. In time, after the concept of the three estates of power became accepted, the wording was generally given as 1. Lords Spiritual; 2. Lords Temporal; 3. Commons.

All was clear until 1559, when another religious John, the Bishop of London John Aylmer, muddied the waters. He stated that the 'three estates' were those required by parliament to enforce legislation, viz. the Crown, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

In the parliament hous you shal find these 3 estats. The King or Quene, which representeth the Monarche. The noble men, which be the Aristocratie. And the Burgesses and Knights the Democratie.

So, by the 16th century, although there might have been some dispute about what they were, there were three estates.

Likewise, just as various people were called 'the fifth Beatle', there are various nominees for the title of 'fifth estate'. What people really mean by the expressions 'fourth estate' and 'fifth estate' is 'a power in the land that has emerged to rival the existing acknowledged powers'. What that might be depends on time and place. In 1932, The Times reported that "radio has been called the fifth estate.". By 1955 they were saying that "[Trades] Unions are now the fifth estate of the realm.". Now it is a foot race between WikiLeaks, social media, WWW etc. Once we have settled on a clear winner we will presumably move on to the 'sixth estate'.


NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy America's Navy - A Global Force For Good

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

Light off: To literally light the fire in a boiler. Incorrectly, but nearly universally, applied to turning anything on.

Like a Big Dog: Doing something in a big way; Something larger than life that is happening; Being aggressive, mean with a loud growl.

Limp Dick: A sailor who can't do the simplest job. “Schmuckatelli is a Limp Dick.” Can also be used to describe someone or something that stopped functioning. “So what happened on your watch?” “Well, one alfa main feed booster pump went limp dick so we put one bravo online.”

Just for MARINES - U.S. Marines Marines - The Few. The Proud.

Just for you MARINE

Major: A Captain in command of a ship's Marine detachment, so titled because a ship may have only one Captain, the commanding officer.

Mama-san: Term of endearment for an elder Japanese woman, often a maid, cook, or tailor / seamstress performing services for Marines; from the Japanese honorific “san”.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

HSM-41 - Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron: “Seahawks”
FRS (Fleet Replacement Squadron) Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California / Coronado, California

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

Man Bitten By Nine-Foot Python While On Toilet

Man Bitten By Nine-Foot Python While On Toilet

Attaporn Boonmakchuay suffered a three-inch (eight cm) wound after being bit on the penis by the snake which had crawled up through the plumbing.

The excruciating ordeal lasted half an hour before he managed to prise open the snake's jaws and escape.

Mr Boonmakchuay described how he fought the snake as his wife sought help but, even after a neighbour came to his aid with a knife and rope, he only managed to free himself only when the python momentarily lost its strength.

He said: “All of a sudden, while I was holding it, it began to lose some strength so I used my hand to prise open its mouth. Then the snake released its grip by itself.”

Large snakes are common even in urban areas of Thailand, particularly during the onset of the rainy season when they leave flooded areas for drier ground. SKY News (05/26/2016) video

© CEASAR CHOPPY by cartoonist Marty Gavin - archives Ceasar Choppy's Navy! “© CEASAR CHOPPY” by Marty Gavin


“Hound Dog” - Elvis Presley

“Hound Dog” - Elvis Presley
Album: Elvis' 30 #1 Hits
Released 1956 video

This was originally recorded in a blues style by Big Mama Thornton in 1953. Her version was a #1 R&B hit and by far her biggest success. Like many blues musicians, she never made much money, but was a big influence on many singers who did. In 1968, Janis Joplin recorded a song Thornton wrote called “Ball and Chain”, which appeared on several Joplin compilation albums after she died in 1970.

Elvis' version of this song is based on how he heard it performed by a Texas group called Freddie Bell and The Bell Boys video, who released the song on the Teen label in 1955. In April 1956, Elvis was booked for two weeks at The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. One night, Elvis and his band explored the Vegas strip and landed at the Sahara, where Freddie Bell and The Bell Boys were performing in the lounge. When they performed their comedic version of “Hound Dog”, Elvis was impressed and decided to do his own in a similar vein.

Elvis used the same lyrics, which differed from the Big Mama Thornton original. In this approach to the song, Elvis is acting disappointed with his lover and repeating the lyrics, “Well, they said you was high-classed, but that was just a lie” six times. In Thornton's original, she sings the line twice as “You told me you was high class, but I can see through that.”

This was one of the first big hits for the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who were teenagers when they wrote it. Based on the success of this song, Leiber and Stoller were hired to write many more songs for Elvis, as well as the score for his movie Jailhouse Rock.

In a 2001 talk with Rock's Backpages, Leiber and Stoller explained that they thought of themselves as black, and were always surprised when they passed by a mirror. They went on to explain what it was like writing and recording this song with Big Mama Thornton. Says Leiber: “We'd actually written 'Hound Dog' 90% on the way over in the car. I was beating out a rhythm we called the 'buck dance' on the roof of the car. We got to Johnny Otis's house and Mike went right to the piano... didn't even bother to sit down. He had a cigarette in his mouth that was burning his left eye, and he started to play the song. We took the song back to Big Mama and she snatched the paper out of my hand and said, 'Is this my big hit?' And I said, 'I hope so.' Next thing I know, she starts crooning 'Hound Dog' like Frank Sinatra would sing 'In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning.' And I'm looking at her, and I'm a little intimidated by the razor scars on her face, and she's about 280-320 pounds, and I said, 'It don't go that way.' And she looked at me like looks could kill and said - and this was when I found out I was white - 'White boy, don't you be tellin' me how to sing the blues.' We finally got through it. Johnny brought Mike back in the room and asked him to sit down at the piano, which was not easy because Johnny had this female piano player who was built like Arnold Schwarzenegger. They finally exchanged seats and did the song the way it was supposed to sound. And that was one of those where we said, 'That's a hit.' And I thought immediately: We both said it, it's gonna put a hex on it!”

The Big Mama Thornton original version was the first song that Leiber and Stoller produced. Mike Stoller told Mojo magazine April 2009 what happened: “Johnny Otis was supposed to run the session. We had rehearsed and he'd played drums. When we got in the studio (it was) his regular drummer. It wasn't happening. I said, 'Johnny, you've got to play the drums, do what you did in rehearsal.' So he said, 'Who's going to run the session.' I said, 'We will.'”

This was released as a single with “Don't Be Cruelvideo. It is the only single to have both sides reach #1 in the US. The single was #1 in the US for 11 weeks, a record that was not broken until 1992 by “End of the Roadvideo by Boyz II Men.

Regarding the #1 chart positions of the single, Joel Whitburn, who writes the definitive books on the subject, told the Forgotten Hits newsletter: “As far as the two-sided Presley hit 'Hound Dog" / "Don't Be Cruel,' I've always tabulated that single 45 as two #1 hits. 'Hound Dog' was the first title to chart and the first one to be listed as the lead #1 song. Billboard's 'Best Sellers in Stores' chart listed the the #1 song on 8/18/56 as 'Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel.' It was also shown that way when it first topped the 'Most Played in Juke Boxes' chart on 9/1/56. There is absolutely no doubt that the initial sales and 'buzz' about this record was for 'Hound Dog.' It was a smash #1 hit right out of the box. As airplay began to favor 'Don't Be Cruel,' the two titles were flip-flopped at #1, with 'Don't Be Cruel' actually showing more weeks as the #1 lead song. Again, I have always tabulated these two titles as two #1 songs. There is no way you can consider this 4-times platinum record as one #1 hit. And, neither does RIAA who awards gold and platinum selling records. They show 'Hound Dog' / 'Don't Be Cruel' as both receiving platinum designations.”

In 1958, the “Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel” single became just the third record to sell more than 3 million copies, following Bing Crosby's “White Christmasvideo and Gene Autry's “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeervideo.

After writing this song with Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller got married and went on a trip to Europe. He was returning on the Italian ocean liner Andrea Doria in 1956 when it was rammed by another ship in fog off Nantucket Sound and eventually sank. Stoller and his new wife abandoned ship in a lifeboat and were rescued. About 50 of the 1,500 people on board died. When Stoller arrived at the dock at New York, Leiber was there to welcome him with the news that they had their first major hit with “Hound Dog”, by a newcomer called Elvis Presley.

In a Rock's Backpages interview, Stoller recounts, “He assumed I was soaked, if I was alive. But he said, 'We got a smash hit on 'Hound Dog'.' And I said, 'Big Mama's record?' And he said, 'No. Some white guy named Elvis Presley.' And I heard the record and I was disappointed. It just sounded terribly nervous, too fast, too white. But you know, after it sold seven or eight million records it started to sound better. I should also say that the other things we did with Elvis I liked very much.”

Presley's guitarist Scotty Moore played on a P-90-equipped Gibson L-5 plugged into a Ray Butts amp. There are two guitar solos in the song, and at the beginning of the second one, Moore made some sounds that guitarists have been unable to replicate since. Moore claimed that he didn't even know how he did it, making it one of the great guitar mysteries in rock.

Elvis and his his band recorded this song and “Don't Be Cruel” on July 2, 1956. It was a grueling session, with Elvis working himself and the band through an increasingly focused 31 takes. The sessions took place at RCA's studios in New York.

Elvis performed this song twice on national TV before he recorded it. The first performance was on “The Milton Berle Showvideo, June 5, 1956, which is where Elvis learned that hamming the song up as much as possible would get a huge reaction. The next performance was on the much more staid “The Steve Allen Showvideo on July 1, the day before they recorded the song. For this appearance, Elvis sang to a Basset Hound. He was not allowed to dance on the show, since Allen ran a family friendly program and Elvis' pelvis was not considered family friendly.

On the UK show Songbook Leiber and Stoller were asked what they thought of the Elvis version when they first heard it. Stoller said: "I thought it was nervous and too fast and they changed the words, some of them, because obviously the original lyric was a woman's song. I don't think they improved upon Jerry's lyrics." Leiber: “Oh, I thought it ruined the song. It was a song that had to do with obliterated romance. In effect, she was saying, 'Get out of my house.' And 'you ain't caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine' is inane. It doesn't mean anything to me.”

Stoller: “I agree with you and I always did. Except that after Elvis's record sold about 7 or 8 million the first release, I began to see some merit in it. (laughing)”

Asked what some of the original lyrics were, Leiber said: “You ain't nothin' but a hound dog, quit snoopin' 'round my door. You ain't nothin' but a hound dog, quit snoopin' 'round my door. You can wag your tail, I ain't gonna feed you no more. You told me you was high class, but I can see through that.”

Elvis Presley official site / Rolling Stone magazine (3 Elvis Presley - 100 Greatest Artists) / Rock & Roll Hall of Fame / Billboard / All Music / Song Facts / Wikipedia

Image: “Elvis' 30 #1 Hits (album)” by Elvis Presley



● Charles Lindbergh, in May 1927 was the first pilot to fly solo, nonstop, across the Atlantic Ocean.

● A popular film and television series about the staff of a hospital during the Korean War, M*A*S*H is abbreviation for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

● Three similar common words can be defined as plural, destination, and also: Two, To, Too.

Joke of the Day

Joke of the Day

Why do dogs always race to the door when the doorbell rings?

“It’s hardly ever for them.”.

Pun of the Day

A donkey inspector has to assess the asses.