Yes, it’s Saturday, August 27, and all normal people will be relaxing. In Texas, it’s a state holiday: Lyndon Baines Johnson day, which is “optional” for state employees (I’m not sure what it means). Regardless of what you think about LBJ, you really should read Robert Caro’s four volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson. (Caro, now 80, is planning one more volume.) Along with William Manchester’s three-volume biography of Winston Churchill (he died during the writing of the third volume, but the first two are fully his), this is the greatest political biography in existence. You may think LBJ’s life was boring, but Caro, who won a Pulitzer Prize for one of the books, and really should get it for all four, brings it to life with consummate reportorial and literary skills. I just recommended it to a friend, who was dubious, but now is deeply immersed in the Caro books and thankful that he found them.
On this day in 1859, Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and the construction of the world’s first commercially successful oil well was built to collect it. Here it is, and no, that’s not Abe Lincoln standing in front of it.
Notables born on this day include C. S. Forester (1899), Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908; that’s why it’s LBJ Day in Texas), Lester Young (1909), and Barbara Bach (1947, and still married to Ringo Starr). Those who died on this day include Gracie Allen (1964; if Stephen Barnard gets another pair of eagles, he should name them George and Gracie), Margaret Bourke-White (1971), Louis Mountbatten, who presided over both the partition of India and the English leaving it, and who was assassinated by the IRA in 1979, and Haile Selassie (1975).
Here’s one of Margaret Bourke-White’s most famous photos, “The Louisville Flood“, taken during the Great Depression:
Cyrus: I’m tormented by a moderate hunger.Hili: I’m not. Yet.
Cyrus: Dręczy mnie umiarkowany głód.
Hili: Mnie jeszcze nie.
And in southern Poland, Leon is sniffing out larvae. The monologue is explained by Malgorzata:
My dictionary says that “woodworm” is another name of bark beetle, Ips typographus [JAC: in the U.S. many wood-boring beetle larvae are given the name “woodworm”.] There are always woodworms in wooden structures in Poland. We have plenty in our house. You have to fight with them (we do) and when buying old wooden things you always check for woodworms.
Leon: There is a woodworm somewhere here!