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A recent article in Psychology Today listed seven characteristics that researchers say are most likely to prevent either short-term or long-term romantic relationships. The usual suspects were there, such as “unattractiveness” and “abusive behavior.”
What interested me about the list—and I should quickly add that I am long past developing any new romantic relationships, short-term or long-term—was the characteristic that researchers said was the top dealbreaker. That was “lack of ambition.” People who display a lack of ambition are “indecisive” and “purposeless.”
To me, ambition means that you want to go some place where you are not; to be something other than what you are; or to accomplish something you have yet to accomplish. It is the ability to start on a journey. As I think about it, I can begin to understand why not having that ability—that is, not having any ambition—might make you uninteresting and undesirable to a potential partner.
So, I wish for you an ambitious Fourth of July weekend. Please stay safe and healthy.
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Battle of Midway (part 2): The tables turn quickly
This is the second part of a two-part summary of the Battle of Midway, which occurred 80 years ago this month. Part 1 can be found here.
By midmorning on June 4, 1942, the Japanese naval command must have felt pretty satisfied. Their plan to entrap and ambush American naval aircraft carriers near the island of Midway in the middle of the Pacific Ocean seemed to be working. The attacks from American aircraft had been fended off without much damage to their own ships.
What the Japanese did not realize is that an American fleet of attack airplanes was hovering high above the Japanese carriers, awaiting an opportunity to strike. While the American air and torpedo attacks had appeared to be a failure, they had occupied the Japanese aircraft carriers and kept them off-balance. The commanders on these carriers were unable to prepare and launch counterstrikes. The American attacks had also disrupted the positioning and sequence of additional Japanese aircraft attacks.
Squadrons of American dive bombers spent the morning searching for Japanese carriers. By chance the commander of one of these squadrons happened to see the wake of the Japanese destroyer Arashi, which was steaming at full speed to rejoin the Japanese carriers. That commander, Wade McClusky, decided to follow the destroyer, a decision that Admiral Chester Nimitz later said “decided the fate of our carrier task force.”
As it happened and with good luck shifting to the American side, three American bomber squadrons arrived above the carriers almost simultaneously. They were perfectly positioned to mount simultaneous attacks. Most of the air defenses for the Japanese carriers were off chasing another American squadron.
At about 10:22 in the morning, an American air dive bombing squadron attacked the Kaga and another attacked the Akagi. Within minutes, the Japanese carriers were engulfed in flames. The Japanese carrier Akagi took only one direct hit, but it was a fatal blow because the bomb struck the edge of the midship deck elevator and penetrated to the upper hangar deck. There it exploded, setting off multiple explosions and fires because of the armed and fueled aircraft that were nearby. Japanese naval fire crews were not especially well-trained or in place to deal with such damage. A third American squadron attacked Sōryū, scoring at least three hits and causing extensive damage.
All of this happened within the space of about 10 minutes. The Japanese eventually mounted a counterattack, and so did the Americans. There was a great deal of fighting left to be done that day, with many casualties being taken on both sides. But those few minutes determined the ultimate fate of the battle.
At the end of the day, the United States had lost one of its aircraft carriers, the Yorktown, and a destroyer, the Hammann. About 300 Americans had been killed in all the actions.
The Japanese navy fared far worse. They lost four of their fleet carriers, one heavy cruiser, and suffered significant damage to a second heavy cruiser. Some 248 aircraft were lost. More than 3,000 sailors and aviators were killed.
The results of the Battle of Midway were clear and decisive. There was no doubt that it was an American victory and a significant one at that. It was an important first step in halting the Japanese hegemony in the Pacific Ocean. But it was only a first step. There was much more fighting and many more casualties on both sides before the war would finally end three years later.
Illustration: USS Hammann
Inside the making of a dictionary
When I turned 18 in 1966, just a week or so before I headed off to the University of Tennessee as a freshman journalism major, my sister gave me a copy of the New Webster Seventh Collegiate Dictionary. It was an incredibly wonderful gift that I used frequently during and after my college days. Today, a half-century later, it sits on my shelf, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloging that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.
Samuel Johnson (right) recognized this inability to tame the language in the preface to his great dictionary (1755) when he wrote: “We laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.”
The Guardian of London newspaper has a “long read” look at the history of dictionaries in English and the efforts of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to keep up with the language in this digital age.
And speaking of Samuel Johnson . . . .
Samuel Johnson was an unlikely candidate to be a leading figure in the development of English, and yet he is rated as second only to Shakespeare in his contributions.
After nine years of work, Johnson produced the Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. It was not the first attempt at compiling, defining, and standardizing the spelling of the words in the English language, but it was to date the most elegant. The dictionary had 43,000 definitions and 114,000 quotations from all of English literature.
Johnson’s reputation was secured when he met a young Scottish lawyer, James Boswell, who became devoted to him. Boswell had a remarkable memory, and after Johnson died in 1784, Boswell wrote a two-volume biography of him that is still considered one of the greatest biographies in the English language.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Group giveaways for July
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
It helps me a great deal if you use these links to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books. Many thanks.
Dan C.: I like the painting of the aircraft carrier.
Speaking of which, you said, “was the majority of America’s aircraft carriers.” In fact, it missed all of the aircraft carriers. By chance (or by having broken the Japanese codes and knew of the impending attack), all three of the Pacific Fleet’s carriers were at sea on missions and survived the attack, and they would go on to determine the outcome of the war. The one ship the Japanese thought was an aircraft carrier was a ship converted into a mock carrier for target practice, with a concrete flat top for the planes to practice dropping bombs on.
You stated, “in the seven months since Pearl Harbor the Americans had broken Japanese codes” while I believe they were broken before December 7th. This is a breakdown of the after-action reports on the attack on Pearl Harbor.
On November 27th, after delivery of the State Department note of the 26th, but before receipt of the intercepted communications showing the reaction of the Japanese Government, the “war warning” was sent by the Chief of Naval Operations to CinCPac and CincAF. It read:
“This dispatch is to be considered a war warning x negotiations with Japan looking toward stabilization of conditions in the Pacific have ceased and an aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days x The number and equipment of Japanese troops and the organization of naval task forces indicate an amphibious expedition against either the Philippines (printed in ink, “Thai”) or Kra Peninsula or possibly Borneo x Execute an appropriate defensive deployment preparatory to carrying out the tasks assigned in WPL 46 x Inform district and Army authorities x A similar warning is being sent by War Department x Spenavo inform British x Continental districts Guam Samoa directed take appropriate measures against sabotage”
Another source reports Roosevelt was warned on Dec. 4th.
Evidence has emerged showing that President Franklin D.Roosevelt was warned three days before the attack that the Japanese empire was eyeing up Hawaii with a view to “open conflict.”
Another interesting newsletter, thank you.
Bill Gathergood’s article on Shakespearean authorship drew the following responses:
Theresa C.: Thank you so much for the article “The authorship of Shakespeare’s plays: a response”. I have had many discussions/arguments with my friends and colleagues over the years about this, and I’m sad to say that most of them fell into the nay category. It seems so hard for modern scholars to believe that one man could have been so eloquent and so prolific. I think we should simply celebrate that he was a genius wordsmith, all the more remarkable for his humble beginnings. There is a great book called “The Millionaire and The Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio” by Andrea Mays – I think your friend might enjoy it.
Thank you as always for another fascinating newsletter!
Elizabeth F.: Great issue. I want to especially thank Bill Gathergood for his research and insight. I remember a similar Shakespeare study seminar and the arguments participants put forth. I have always believed that Shakespeare was real and he wrote these plays. The idea that the “bridge” play was begun by someone else and finished by Shakespeare grounds the crossing perfectly.
As far as Elizabeth I writing these plays, it made an interesting movie and a cobwebby impossibility was born! The wit and rhyme of Shakespeare give us way more than iambic pentameter. I tried to get a group of friends, each of whom missed, I am sure, our many theaters including the Guthrie here in Minneapolis, to do a Zoom get together and read Shakespeare. I envisioned us sitting at home and reading as one would for a tryout or first run through. While many liked the idea or said they did, only one was interested in actually doing it. It still seems, with or without a pandemic, that it would be a whole lot of fun.
I love your newsletter and the people and ideas you pull in.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: A hat with a bright bow
Best quote of the week:
The tax which will be paid for the purpose of education is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests, and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. president, architect, and author (1743-1826)
If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the BibleProject.com. The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: The father of modern education, the thrill of the night sky, more on Shakespeare, and giveaways galore: newsletter, June 24, 2022
Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): resurrecting the father of true crime writing
William Roughead, the Scottish barrister who attended and reported on every major British murder trial for nearly six decades and wrote about each of them in detailed and yet interesting accounts, is returning from obscurity. Roughead died in 1952 but not before he built a huge following for his work both in America and Great Britain.
His name and work, unfortunately, have fallen into obscurity. First Inning Press is bringing him back to life.
Murder Most Criminous: The Cases of William Roughead, Father of Modern True Crime Literature (Volume 1) has just been published. It is the first of several anticipated volumes of Roughead’s work. The editors, Jim Stovall and Ed Caudill, have worked not only to reproduce this great writer’s work but also to give it new life for modern audiences.
The first volume of this series includes four of Roughead’s cases, all from a time before he was able to attend their trials. They include
- Mackcoull and the Begbie Mystery
- The Secret of Ireland’s Eye: A Detective Story
- The Ghost of Sergeant Davies
- The Parson of Spott
Each case has unique features that Roughead interprets with his unique and fascinating writing style. The links above will take you to a JPROF page that contain
We have done a lot of work with editing these cases and trying to make them presentable to modern readers.
We have introduced some typographical innovations that include footnotes, more readable paragraphing, and subheads—all of which we believe will aid the reader. The essential Roughead is still there, and we believe the reader will be captured by his exquisite phrasing and point of view.
During March and April, the first volume of this series is being offered to readers at a special ebook price of $1.99. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook platforms. Paperback and hardback editions of this work are also available.
Volume 2 in this series, which will include the Oscar Slater case, is due out later this spring.
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