Olsson's Book Bits

by Greta Olsson

Napoleon's Hemorrhoids and Other Small Events that Changed History
by Phil Mason
A Herman Graf Book, Skyhorse Publishing
Hard Cover 238 Pages
Copyright 2009
ISBN 978-1-60239-764-4

When I ordered this book, I thought it was going to be a biography of Napoleon. Not so. Only a dozen or so pages were devoted to him. Phil Mason has assembled an enormous collection of incidents that may have changed history or world events. His work covers politics, history, science, luck, lack of luck, crime, "missed demeanors," and business, using clippings, books, and whatever source he could get his hands on. This bit about Napoleon appears in his introduction.

"Napoleon's attack of piles on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo is said to have prevented him from his usual practice of keeping a watchful eye on progress by riding vigorously around the battlefield. Instead on that morning he was acutely discomfited, a shadow of his usual self. He was distracted, failed to issue clear orders and delayed commencing hostilities Until 11:20 am, more than five hours after originally intended. He was eventually to be scuppered in the early evening by the last-gasp arrival of Allied reinforcements in the shape of the Prussians, which leads to the intriguing thought that the tussle might have been over well before they reached the battlefield had Napoleon been his usual driven self.

"The Duke of Wellington, who led the winning side that day, famously acknowledged that the encounter had been 'the closest run thing you ever saw in your life.' To his brother on the day after the battle, he wrote, 'It was the most desperate business I was ever in. I never took so much trouble about any battle and never was so near being beat.' So it is entirely conceivable that had Napoleon's hemorrhoids not intervened just at the wrong time, the outcome of Waterloo and the future of Europe could well have turned differently."

History was my least liked subject in high school because I find it so incredibly boring. Phil Mason wrote this book to show that history could be amazing. His work is fascinating, the majority of incidents on a par with Napoleon's problem. Here are a few more samples.

"The West African state of Benin had its entire air force destroyed in 1988 by a single errant golf shot. Metthieu Boya, a ground technician and keen golfer, was practicing on the airfield during a lunchtime break when he sliced a drive. The ball struck the windscreen Of a jet fighter that was preparing to take off, causing it to career into the country's other four jets neatly lined up by the runway. All five aircraft were write-offs."

I thought Mason misused the word "career" instead of "careen", but he did it a second time. The English sometimes have differences that we don't know about. Their zed for z threw me when I was a student in London.

"The World's worst air disaster occurred in march 1977 in the Canary Islands on a Sunday evening. First a bomb, then over-crowding in the airport, then fog. The collision, between an American 747 and a Dutch KLM jumbo, happened because of confusion about the aircrafts' whereabouts in the fog. The Dutch plane, trying to take off, careered into the American 747 that was taxiing and had unknowingly strayed onto the main runway. Five hundred and eighty-three passengers died. There were just 70 survivors - all from the American craft.

"Air Canada's flight 143 from Montreal to Edmonton in July 1983 nearly ended in catastrophe when it ran out of fuel midway through its journey. Pilots glided the Boeing 767 for more than 100 miles before making an emergency landing on a disused airstrip near Winnipeg, narrowly missing a motor racing event held there.

"Investigators discovered that the ground crew had got their metric and imperial measurements mixed up. Instead of loading the plane with 22,300 kg of fuel (or 49,060 imperial pounds) they had only loaded 22,300 pounds.

"Air Canada had just taken delivery of its first four 767's. The craft was the first in the fleet to be calibrated in metric units. Up until then, all the airline's planes were measured in imperial - and the crew carelessly forgot."

For a history book, this one is A+++++!!!

It's Bouquet - Not Bucket! by Harold Snoad
Book Guild Publishing, Sussex, England
Published 2009
Hard cover; 196 pages
ISBN: 978-1-84624-351-6

If you know the English TV series Keeping Up Appearances you'll recognize one of the key lines in the play - Hyacinth Bucket's command to pronounce her last name as the more elegant "Bouquet".

Harold Snoad is entertaining and informative in how the series was done, but he holds a grudge against Roy Clark, the supposed author of the play. He damns Clark continuously for not answering requests to rewrite certain scenes, and for being stupid in not getting that some scenes just didn't work, and leaving him to not only produce and direct this work, but write it as well. I'm sure that these two men will never work together again after this book, and yet they created a masterpiece. The two are clever beyond belief.

I can't recommend Snoad's evil attempt to warn others in the industry to beware of Roy Clark's work. But when he gets off that over-done schtick, I loved hearing about the various problems and actor's tricks and doings in making this series.

By all means get the TV series disk sets. You'll thank me to your dying day!!!

On Sat. Dec. 18, 2010, Santa came to the Scottsdale Gun Club with his machine and submachine guns to have his picture taken with various members. We were lent appropriate equipment. I love my bullets necklace.

I work with small pie or dessert plates, and can get 19 hits out of 25 at 10' and 15'. Joe, a N.Y. Police lieutenant told me to get 23 out of 25 at 20'. He said that in a shoot-out, 1 or 2 misses could cost me my life. Boy do I envy his expertise.

At the range I shoot 25 bullets. He told me 100 at a time will build my strength. That's what he does - but once a month. I go once to three times times a week.

Joe carries a small Glock in his pocket as a back-up. He claims that a 22 cal. rimfire is worthless. At 20' (the usual distance in a gun fight), if your target is wearing a heavy coat, the bullet won't penetrate to his body. He advised, "Don't waste your money on a '22' for defense."

Return to Port Of Call Home Page
Return to April/May 2011 Table of Contents