Tuesday 30 April 2013

Richard Bong

With a name like Dick Bong, I just couldn’t resist. Sadly, his life was tragically cut short by an accident, which … sort of makes me feel bad about laughing at his name. But not bad enough, apparently.

Richard Ira Bong was born on 24 September 1920, the eldest of nine children. His parents had emigrated from Sweden to Wisconsin, where they had a farm. According to the delightfully hokey biography on the website of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center: “Dick Bong's upbringing epitomized the values and expectations of that era - loyalty to his family and a deep sense of patriotism. Like all farm children, he had chores to perform and was expected to drive farm machinery at an early age. He hunted and fished in the surrounding woods and streams, played on his school athletic teams and sang in his church choir; as his 4H project he planted the extensive evergreen windbreak on the family farm, still in the family. At that time he modeled the ideal all-American boy.”

In 1938, Richard started attending Superior State Teachers College, where he began to take flying lessons. In 1941 he joined the Army Air Corps (what later became the Air Force) Aviation Cadet Program. One of his flight instructors was Barry Goldwater! Yes, the same Barry Goldwater that Lyndon Johnson implied would get you blown up by atomic bombs should he have been elected president.

The Air Corp commissioned Richard as a second lieutenant (he ended his career as a major). Richard flew P-38 Lightning planes. He was supposed to go to England, but Richard was grounded (on account of flying his plane down the streets of San Francisco) when his squadron left for Europe. Consequently, Richard was transferred to another squadron in the Pacific theatre, the “Flying Knights” based in Darwin, Australia (which was indeed named after THE Charles Darwin, although the name has evolved).

Between December 1942 and December 1944, Richard shot down 40 enemy planes, which is a record for the US. Richard is considered an Ace of Aces, which is a designation given to the most active military ace in a time of war. Richard received a Congressional Medal of Honor in December 1944 and was sent back to the states in January 1945.

Back in the USA, Richard married Marge Vattendahl, whom he had met back in Wisconsin while home on leave in November/December 1943. Richard did some public relations work, such as shilling war bonds, before returning to flying. Richard became a test pilot for P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters at a testing facility in Burbank, California. Sadly, something went wrong during one of his test flights, his plane blew up over North Hollywood, and Richard Bong was killed on 6 August 1945. At the time, Richard was so beloved and famous that his death shared the headlines with the bombing of Hiroshima, which had also occurred on 6 August.

Richard was buried in his hometown of Poplar, Wisconsin.

File:Los Angeles Times front page 6 August 1945.jpg

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bong

Tuesday 23 April 2013

William Shakespeare and Dicks

A repeat because I can't seriously be expected to create a new post every year for Shakespeare's birthday!

Today, April 23, is William Shakespeare’s birthday! It’s also St George’s Day, making this pretty much the closest thing Great Britain has to a Fourth of July/Australia Day/Canada Say. After all, what’s more British than Shakespeare (aside from bad food and stiff upper lips)?
            Now William Shakespeare was obviously not named Richard, but he was certainly no stranger to dicking around with history. I understand he was using poetic license. You have to telescope history when you have a filthy pile of groundlings hurling debris and vitriol at your actors. You put people on stage for more than five acts and you’ve got a hostile work environment. But one must take Shakespeare’s history with a pile of salt.
            So, today, in honor of the bard’s birth (and death), I will briefly examine how he treats two eminent English Dicks, Richard II and Richard III, in his plays.
            To quickly sum-up, the two receive almost exactly opposite treatments. Shakespeare has Richard II end his life in a far nobler manner than the real king did, while Richard III (who was undoubtedly a bit of a dick since he was a late medieval nobleman) was warped into a hunchbacked monster with a soul worse than the Grinch’s. In Richard II, Richard II is a tragic hero of sorts, brought down by his own pride. He has an epiphany at the end of his life, realizing he has not been a good king, and willingly passes the crown to his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke (soon to be Henry IV). Richard even displays some top-notch political thinking at the end, expounding on the notion of the king as man versus king as institution. Richard realizes he has given up his role in the institution of kingship, but as an anointed sovereign, he still retains some attributes of kingship. A king, once anointed, can never have the unction removed. So Richard, sadder but wiser, passes on the crown, goes to prison, and is murdered.
            The basic outlines of Shakespeare’s tale are true. Richard II was deposed by Henry IV and he was sent off to a castle, imprisoned, and later murdered. But Richard probably did not cheerfully pass the crown on to a cousin he almost certainly hated and had exiled from England for ten years just one year before. Shakespeare can be forgiven this because Henry IV and his supporters put word out that Richard had given up the crown cheerfully, which was a big fat lie designed to make themselves look better. After all, it wasn’t so bad to kick a king off his throne if he agreed to it, right? I mean, he asked for it (like a woman wearing a short skirt, no doubt). But Richard II should be pleased. Instead of looking like a bad king who resisted his inevitable downfall, he comes off looking like the wise old man on the mountain (or even another Jesus in some renditions). Oh sure, he has suffered, but now he’s reached a higher plane of enlightenment. Being king would just bring him down anyway.
            Richard III, title character of Richard III and bit player in the three parts of the Henry VI saga, has more cause to complain. While Richard II comes off as a tragic hero whose death makes you pity him, Richard III is more twisted than a serial rapist-murderer in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. If Henry Tudor and Richard’s lack of a horse hadn’t managed to do him in, the people of England would probably have had to call Batman.
            Any assessment of Richard III in Shakespeare should probably start with the basics. Richard III, the actual dude, was too young to do shit in the era of the Henry VI plays. Richard was all of eight years old when his brother Edward IV became king, meaning he was not much of a warrior when Henry VI was still king. Beyond the obvious, Richard III probably didn’t orchestrate all those deaths, years ahead of time, for the sole purpose of gaining the throne. That would have taken years of planning and a lot of luck (such as your brother the king deciding to execute your middle brother for treason). In essence, Shakespeare’s Richard III is an evil genius who manages to kill five people who are blocking his path to the throne in a plot that takes over ten years. That’s some spectacular planning and some amazing patience. He also manages to do all this while having “I’m so ugly you should know not to trust me” stamped all over his crooked, scheming body. And he manages to marry a hot girl, despite having just killed her other husband, by making her think he’s going to kill himself. Really, Shakespeare, women in the middle ages weren’t that stupid. But the issue with Richard’s wife is my biggest beef with Shakespeare and other anti-Richard III fiction writers (and yes, they exist, although I believe the pro-Richard writers are outnumbering them). While I don’t necessarily believe that Anne Neville, Richard’s wife, was in love with him (or he with her) when they married, I don’t think she was all that attached to her first husband. Her first husband, Edward of Lancaster, was the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, the biggest enemies of Anne’s father Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Warwick himself had actually called Edward of Lancaster a bastard and his mother Margaret the medieval equivalent of “big, fat bitch.” So growing up, Anne probably heard some not-so-nice things about Edward and his mother, meaning she was probably more than a little shocked when he father switched sides and had her marry the “bastard” son of his enemy. We have no idea what their marriage was like, but it only lasted a few months before Edward died (probably not killed by Richard III but slain in battle). And while Anne might have felt sad to be a widow, I doubt she was mourning for the lost love of her life, unless she was an extremely sentimental teenage girl. And while she was a teenage girl, I doubt Anne Neville, daughter of the most powerful earl in England and obvious political pawn in the politics of marriage, was overly weepy when her husband passed. I also doubt she was a big enough idiot to marry a creepy hunchbacked murderer who was dumb enough to woo her next to a coffin.  
            But I digress with Anne Neville. Suffice it to say, Shakespeare treats his two Dicks differently. Apparently he took the unused dickishness from Richard II and dumped it on Richard III. But despite their historical inaccuracies, both are really enjoyable characters (albeit for different reasons). Shakespeare was not a historian but he was a master.

Monday 15 April 2013

And the winner is ...

In a hard-fought battle between Richard III and Dick Grayson, only one Dick can reign supreme. Who was the victor?

It was a tie! Seriously, Richard III and Dick Grayson got the same number of votes, and I couldn't bring myself to break the tie. I love them both too much.

I hereby declare Richard III king of historical Richards.

I hereby declare Dick Grayson a god among fictional Richards.

I will note that Dick Grayson's butt really seemed to give him an edge. Several people commented on its beauty. For some, it was the reason they voted for Dick Grayson. For others, they voted for Richard III despite his "not as cute" butt.

If only I had a butt-shot of Richard III. For comparative purposes only, of course. That would be quite the competition.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Monday 8 April 2013

Dick Madness Final Round

The time has come. We are now at the final round. All four contenders put up a good fight, but the final match-up is...

That's right. It's a repeat of last year: Dick Grayson vs. Richard III.

Be sure to spread the word about this match-up. It's my dream to have epic participation. And I think our contenders are going to need it. Richard III won last year by a close margin (my cousin really drummed up the Dick Grayson support, which caused some of my family members to pull a Lord Stanley and betray Richard III). Since I might be the one person who inhabits the crossroads of all things Dick, people might not know that both of these Richards have legions of fans.

Dick Grayson has tons of fans on the internet. See comic book threads and Tumblr if you don't believe me.

Richard III has an entire society (the aptly named Richard III Society) devoted to clearing his name. These people can be hard core.  Trust me.

So round up your friends and tell them to vote. Dick and Dick are going to need all the help they can get!

And now, our final match-up in pictures!

Many people think of Dick Grayson as this:

Ah, Burt Ward. Let it never be said you can't act. 

Or this:

That's definitely the kind of joke my mom would make. Love you, Mom!

However, he grew up to be this:

And this:

The internet loves this pic. Trust me.

Richard III possibly looked like this:

Or this:

My personal favorite. Looking damn fine, Richard. Damn fine.
And ended up like this:

Like Rodney Dangerfield, his body got no respect.

But you can buy him on Ebay looking like this:

His head on someone else's body, I swear.
So there you go! Voting ends on Sunday at noon Pacific Time.

-Send me a comment, reblog, or message

-E-mail me at dicksihavestudied@gmail.com

Monday 1 April 2013

Dick Madness Round Five

Here we are, finally at the semi-finals. It's down to our final four Dicks.

In last week's epic battle, Richard III emerged the victor. However, Richard II put up a fight this year. I believe Ben Whishaw, who portrayed Richard in 2012's BBC version of Shakespeare's Richard II, really helped Richard's chances. Anne of Bohemia should also receive some credit because she's just plain awesome and, as one voter pointed out, Anne and Richard are a cute couple. To quote "Because Richard II/Anne of Bohemia is my historical OTP." I can get behind that!

As a consolation prize, I claimed the Tumblr URL "fuckyeahrichardii." It doesn't have any posts yet, but it will!

The Match-Ups

We have Dicks on one side and Richards on the other.

Dick van Dyke vs. Dick Grayson: entertainer against Robin the Boy Wonder

Richard III vs. Richard Loving: King of England vs. making interracial marriage legal

E-mail your votes to dicksihavestudied@gmail.com.