Showing Up Really Is Half the Battle

04-02416 Francois Coli and French Air Service ...

Francois Coli, with Charles Nungesser (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

“Nungesser and Coli have succeeded,” declared La Presse, going so far as to detail their sea landing in New York Harbor and the “cheers that rose up from the ships that surrounded them.” Those heady first reports proved false. Charles Nungesser, a daredevil aristocrat and top French flying ace, and François Coli, a one-eyed mariner and former infantryman, had not arrived in New York. Their hulking single-engine biplane, L’Oiseau Blanc, or The White Bird, was never recovered.

via Resuming the Search for a Pioneering Plane Off a Remote Island –

The Times had a thing today about how some beret-wearing cheese sucker is sure he’s figured out what happened to the famous French aviators Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli.

Wuh… Who?

Excuse me, but I had never heard of them. (Which isn’t saying much, I know.)

The Times article seems to agree with me in spirit. No matter how famous Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli were, it seems they’re well forgotten now. I mean, check out the list of best guesses as to what happened to them: “The Frenchmen were thought to have gone down in the English Channel, or perhaps over the Atlantic, or somewhere between Newfoundland and Maine.” Some nuts think the United States Coast Guard shot the plane down.

In other words, no one has made any headway in solving what Times referred to as “one of aviation’s great mysteries.” No one, it seems, has even been trying very hard.

I don’t know how many people near the Channel said they heard an airplane, but supposedly nine witnesses in Newfoundland and four on the ought-to-be-part-of-Canada French island of St. Pierre said they did on the night the men disappeared. That’s 13 people (13!) who said they heard an airplane. If that many people said they had heard Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli strangle their cleaning lady, the two guys would have died in Sing Sing.

This was in 1927, mind you. There weren’t exactly airplanes flying all over the place.

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in...

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Mr. Nungesser, whom The Times calls “a daredevil aristocrat,” and Mr. Coli, “a one-eyed mariner,” were vying for the Orteig Prize, which promised $25,000 to anyone who could complete a nonstop flight between Paris to New York.

Unfortunately, they “vanished ‘like midnight ghosts,’ wrote Charles Lindbergh,” according to The Times, probably not without a self-satisfied smirk. Thirteen days after the Frenchmen disappeared, Mr. Lindbergh would claim the Orteig for himself and set off an ill-fated and ungainly arc of celebrity.

Anyway, according to The Times, our present-day aviation sleuth is Bernard Decré, who explains his interest in the mystery by saying, “We just want to recognize that they accomplished a fantastic crossing.”

Yes. He really said that.

I wonder if Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli, who were planning a water landing in New York anyway, would have agreed.


What You Missed in Today’s Times

And so it was sad but not entirely surprising when word came on Sunday of the passing of Pattycake, the Bronx Zoo gorilla who had long reigned as one of the city’s more acclaimed tourist attractions. Jim Breheny, the zoo’s director, said she had been discovered around 8 a.m. by a worker in the zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest. Apparently, she went peacefully, in her sleep. Even at 40, her looks were still pretty much intact.

via A Child Star With a Knack for Publicity –

Tracking down Mr. Chappelle has become a comedy nerd pastime that requires close attention to social media and a willingness to drop everything and go. I heard about the shows here on Twitter the day before, bought one of the last tickets online and jumped on a plane. The show, the second of the night for him, was clearly not intended as a polished set. Comparing notes with audience members who had seen him before, I thought that it was more off the cuff, improvisational.

via Dave Chappelle and His Jokes Return, Tweaked –

“Why do you want to spread this creeping cancer, these woolly tanks, around the state of Montana?” he asked. “Trying to bring back the buffalo in big herds across Montana is like bringing back dinosaurs. And who wants dinosaurs in Montana? I certainly don’t.”

via Efforts to Restore Bison on the Montana Range Meet Resistance –


What You Missed in Today’s Times

The police did not open them to check. No, thank you. They put the bricks, undisturbed, back in the box, and they left. Officers in New York City confront all manner of hazardous material and paraphernalia every day, but this was something else. Fruitcake.  Homemade fruitcake.

via Thief Steals 2 Packages – One Contained Glasses, the Other Didn’t –

Drones have become the subject of urgent policy debates… But they are also a part of the popular culture — toys sold by Amazon; central plot points in “Homeland” and a dozen other television shows and movies; the subject of endless macabre humor, notably by The Onion; and even the subject of poetry.

via Visions of Drones in U.S. Skies Touch Bipartisan Nerve –

Divorce filings shot up here and in other big cities across China this past week after rumors spread that one way to avoid the new 20 percent tax on profits from housing sales was to separate from a spouse, at least on paper.

via Some Chinese Seek a Divorce to Avoid Real Estate Tax –

Of the 16 men who went down with the Monitor on Dec. 31, 1862, researchers have narrowed the identities of the two sailors to six possibilities. While there are no conclusive DNA matches with their descendants, forensic researchers are convinced that they will eventually find these men’s stories in their bones.

via After Over a Century at Sea, 2 Sailors Are Laid to Rest –


What You Missed in Today’s Times

“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer called niesa36 said on the Dagbladet newspaper Web site. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher.”

via In Norway, TV Program on Firewood Elicits Passions –

But then about two years ago troubling questions began to be whispered. He acted odd. He was thinner. He walked stooped over. He was absent. Was he sick? Or dying? And then the spicy talk about suspicious men trooping in and out of the rectory.Finally, last month’s revelation. The priest was locked up, charged with dealing crystal methamphetamine.

via Msgr. Kevin Wallin’s Swift Fall, to Drug Suspect –

“It got me a smart audience of comedy nerds that you want. It kept letting me fail at a diversity of things and try again. I don’t know another theater that would do that.”

via Upright Citizens Brigade Grows by Not Paying Performers –


What You Missed in Today’s Times

Lent toured his wife throughout Europe, where some newspapers and books described her appearance unsparingly: “gorillalike” or “revolting in the extreme.”

via Julia Pastrana, Who Died in 1860, to Be Buried in Mexico –

“Watching violence makes kids feel they can use violence to solve a problem. It brings increased feelings of hostility. It increases desensitization.”

via The ‘Die Hard’ Quandary –

And John McCain could channel his spooky fury into a fragrance for the grudge holder who has never suffered a slight that he didn’t avenge. Its name would be Payback, and it would smell of sour grapes and scorched earth.

via A Spritz of Power –


On Willpower


What is especially interesting, and a bit more unusual, is the way an internal parasite not only feeds on its host, but also frequently alters its behavior, in a way that favors the continued survival and reproduction of the parasite.

via Who’s in Charge Inside Your Head? –

…genes matter quite a lot. …they affect a person’s views of the world almost as much as his circumstances do, and far more than many social scientists have been willing, until recently, to admit.

via The genetics of politics: Body politic | The Economist.


The Sunday Drama


Isabella’s tumultuous life has embodied some of America’s bitterest culture wars — a choice, as Ms. Miller said in a courtroom plea, shortly before their desperate flight, “between two diametrically opposed worldviews on parentage and family.”

via A Civil Union Ends in an Abduction and Questions –


A Dumb Idea I Had

…no university should ever be as beholden to its football program as Penn State was. At other big-time sports schools, there are all kinds of daily hypocrisies that people avert their eyes from in the name of college football or men’s basketball. Sadly, we accept these hypocrisies as the price to be paid for the money college sports generates and the entertainment it provides. But at Penn State, football was of such overweening importance — and Paterno was such a godlike figure — that a sexual predator was allowed to roam free…

via Throw the Book at Penn State –

How about throwing the book at the N.C.A.A.?

Penn State Brandywine "Penn State Cares"

(Photo credit: Jim, the Photographer)

You might have heard (click through the link above) that the N.C.A.A. just dropped a raft of punishments on the athletic program of Caltech, an apparently august engineering university with decidedly less-than august sports teams. This is the opposite of what it is likely to do to Penn State, even though at Caltech the rules violations seem to pale next to lurid stories of a pervert’s being given free rein in the football team locker room.

Indeed, the N.C.A.A. seemed to do next to nothing after appalling breaches at Ohio State, the disturbingly repetitive career of John Calipari and the baldly corrupt recruiting of Cam Newton. Not that any of that matters.

But how about a punishment for the N.C.A.A.? How about a “death penalty” for the N.C.A.A.? Blot out that dumb blue N.C.A.A. logo. Stop wearing clothes that have it, or cover it with a small piece of black electrical tape. Don’t take pictures of it. Don’t stand next to it. Stop saying the abbreviation.

The Sunday Debate

Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism.

via Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved? –

It means that effortful adherence to religious or philosophical dictums often requiring meditation, prayer or moral education, though clearly valuable and capable of producing results, is not the only way to go.

via The Science of Compassion –