Monday 30 July 2012

Richard J. Riordan

In less than a month, I will be returning to Los Angeles. In honor (?) of that, I’m going to do some posts about Dicks with connections to the City of Angels.

First up is Richard J. Riordan, whose name I know because it graces the Central Library, the flagship of the Los Angeles Public Library system. After googling the guy, it turns out he’s still alive (age 82) and was mayor of LA from 1993 to 2001. I kind of feel like a loser for not knowing who the guy was, but I’m not a native Angelino, so I’ll use that as an excuse.

Richard Riordan is a Republican (apparently, he was the first Republican mayor of LA in thirty years). Previously he was a lawyer and an investor, and he became rich. In 1981 he founded The Riordan Foundation, which promotes literacy for children (originally just reading but since expanded to include both reading and computer literacy) and leadership skills in young adults. I’m assuming Richard’s efforts to promote reading are a large reason why his name is now emblazoned on the Central Library.

I’m not going to delve much into Riordan’s time as mayor of LA. Like all mayors, he made some missteps and had some successes. He was mayor when the Metro Red Line subway was built; even though the project went massively over budget, he still promoted it and kept it alive. I’m glad about that; I’ve been on the Red Line, and it’s pretty nice. It takes you to Hollywood, and I would recommend that all tourists use the Red Line (get off at Hollywood and Vine) to visit Hollywood. The area is a massive, cheesy tourist trap with expensive parking; if you take the Red Line, you’re saving yourself some money and hassle.

From 2003 to 2005, Richard was the California Secretary of Education (appointed by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Richard has since supported various candidates in Los Angeles elections, but I imagine his days of hard-core politics are over.

And now, the main point of this post: pictures of the Richard J. Riordan Central Library. It may not be the New York Public Library, but it’s a nice library all the same.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Dicks and their Castles Part Three: Castles of Wales

*Otherwise known as shameless posting of vacation photographs.

These castles are in north Wales and were actually built by Edward I (reigned 1272-1307), who conquered Wales. These castles were built to overawe the Welsh and remind them that they were now subject to the rule of the English. But on a more positive note, these castles are some mighty fancy buildings.

Flint Castle – the undoing of Richard II

Flint Castle is close to the border of Wales and Cheshire (England). In August 1399, Richard II was on his way home from Ireland, rushing back to England (from Wales) in an effort to head off Henry Bolingbroke, who was fomenting rebellion and threatening to take Richard’s throne. Richard had a bastion of support in Cheshire and was trying to reach the county and gather troops. Alas, Richard failed to reach Cheshire and was overtaken by Henry at Flint Castle. The king was taken into custody and deposed in September; Henry Bolingbroke succeeded him as Henry IV. Flint Castle was thus the last place Richard II stayed where he was truly king – after that, he was merely along for the ride.

Flint Castle is in a fairly ruinous state today. A lot of the walls and towers have fallen down, but you can still get some sense of what a great place it was. Please note: it was really rainy when I visited, so you might see some raindrops marring the photos. Sadly, this is the price one must pay for visiting Wales.

The area on the top left (surrounded by a railing) was the chapel, where Richard heard mass just before Henry arrived.

Conway Castle – right before the undoing of Richard II

Moving back in time a short bit, to earlier in August 1399, Richard II stayed at Conway Castle. This was before he moved on to Flint and his world came crashing down around him. Interestingly, Richard II was one of only three medieval kings to ever use the royal apartments at Conway. The other two were Edward I and Edward II, Richard’s great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather respectively.

Conway has weathered the ages better than Flint. Many of the towers are still standing and tourists can even climb most of them and take in rather breath-taking views.

Bonus: Caernarfon Castle

I don’t believe Richard II ever stayed here, but Caernarfon is probably the most famous and best-preserved of all the Edward-I-built Welsh castles. The future king Edward II was born here and Prince Charles was invested here with his title Prince of Wales. Technically, Richard II “owned” this castle when he was Prince of Wales (1376-1377); since Richard never had a son of his own, I believe he retained ownership of these castles throughout his reign. Anyway, there’s a tenuous connection between Caernarfon and Richard II, which is good enough for me! 

Thursday 19 July 2012

A Cartoon from The New Yorker

This is one of the finest cartoons ever. It combines so many things that I love (homosexuality, infertile royals, people named Richard) into one neat, hilarious package. If only there were a certain Australian marsupial lurking in the background, it would be perfect.

 I don't know when this was featured. Anyone know?

Thursday 12 July 2012

Richard Engel

Born in New York City in 1973, Richard has a BA from Stanford University. He was hired by NBC in May 2003; before that he lived in Egypt (to learn Arabic) and Israel, doing freelance journalism. Engel has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Libyan civil war and the revolution in Egypt. Richard has won several awards, including an Edward R. Murrow Award and a Peabody.

Given that Richard is a still-living, foreign-wars news correspondent, there isn’t a ton of info on him circulating around the internet. He’s not quite at Tom Brokaw’s level yet. Speaking of Brokaw, though, I’d be psyched if Engel succeeded Brian Williams as Nightly News anchor – I would love to get my daily news from a Dick. However, I’m thinking Engel is more into foreign affairs.

On a personal note, according to an article about Richard from the Stanford Alumni Magazine, the correspondent’s personal life has suffered because of his devotion to his work. He and his wife, another Stanford alum, divorced in 2005, and he has lost contact with many of his friends. I suppose he can console  himself with his awards and keep a lookout for new ladies, who are attracted to his “baby-faced and clean-shaven” look.*

NBC Universal Excutives
The "baby face" of news

Monday 2 July 2012

Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794)

Independence Day (for the USA) is coming, so as a sop to patriotism, I’ve got a 1776-filled post at the ready. This will not relate to Thomas Jefferson because 1) he was not named Richard and 2) I seriously dislike him. Just as I have an irrational love for some historical personages, I have an irrational dislike for others – TJ is in the latter category.

Richard Henry Lee was a representative from Virginia in the Second Continental Congress (also at the first, but we aren’t concerned with that). On 7 June 1776, Richard put forward a resolution calling for independence from Great Britain. The resolution read (in part):

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. *

·         See Wikipedia -

Later in June a committee was created to draft a document explaining why America wanted independence. Finally, on 2 July, Lee’s resolution was voted on, and independence was approved. The Declaration of Independence was approved two days later, on 4 July. Thus America’s Independence Day could easily have been the Second of July (although it doesn’t have the same ring).

Richard Henry Lee is certainly not the most famous of the Founding Fathers. Aside from suggesting independence, he was a senator in the 1790s, even serving as president pro tempore. My guess is that Lee is most famous now for being a character in the musical 1776. In this fine production, Lee sings a song entitled “The Lees of Old Virginia.” Although this song is technically about how Lee will convince the Virginia House of Burgesses to let him suggest independence, it’s memorable for its ridiculous overuse of adverbs. We get it, Richard – your last name is Lee, and you love adverbs because they also end in lee (-ly). The song is both annoying and amusing.   

Finally, Richard Henry is the great-uncle of Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general.