Monday, 28 September 2009
Bill Richmond, decent chap, quality boxer and BLACK TERROR retired from the ring and decided to put his former skills to use by starting a prize fighting academy. A sort of novel idea at the time, Bill taught aspiring prizefighters and ordinary chaps alike the skills of the ring. How the bash peoples skulls in and you know, not get yours bashed in, I guess.
One famous student was Lord Byron, general madman and also noted poet. He even put a few lines about old Bill into one of his poems.
Now, another American black guy came to Bill, recently arrived in England and wanting to BASH SOME SKULLS. His name was Tom Molineaux.
Now, Tom was another born slave from the states. He was taught to box by his father and fought other slaves for the entertainment of plantation owners (they did not have tv back then.) He was so good and won his owner so many bets he was granted his freedom and he decided to go to the land of the free (Britain) to ply his trade as a boxer.
In England he had a few fights and brutal victories and caught the eye of Richmond, who decided to teach him. Tom wasnt the elegant skilled boxer of Richmonds type, he was more along Cribb's style (remember him? The tree destroyer) just so big and strong he won out. With Richmonds master class he became the most feared Boxer in local circles and a rightful successor to the Black Terror's reign.
Now Richmond saw the oppurtunity to change the result of his last grudge match, and with Tom keen to prove himself the "best" they sought out Cribb. Cribb was an aspiring trainer himself by this time, but still fought and was considered still the Ivan Drago of Britain. Just unbeatable. A fight was arranged and a massive buzz was caused.
Now, the smart money was on Cribb, he was bigger and stronger and treeraperier than Molineux, it wasnt thought to last more than ten rounds. But it did, Mols went toe to toe with Cribb and looked to have the edge, he couldnt match him in brutality but he had the intelligent style taught to him by Richmond along with his own brute force. 15 thousand people were in attendance and the crowd was in a rage, in the 19th round with the commentators of the time thinking Molly was about to lower the boom and end it there was a mini riot. The crowd stormed the ring, in the chaos Molineux's hand was broken or damaged by the crowd and it wasnt clear if Cribb had made it "back to the line" in 30 seconds, so the fight carried on when the crowd was dispersed.
So, the fight went on. With a broken hand the tide soon turned and Molineux couldnt close down Cribb, in the 34th round Moli knew he was beat and wanted to quit, but his second convinced him to get back in the ring and in the 35th he was bested. The great black hope was extinguished.
Richmond, not one to wallow in misery, arranged a rematch and this time, barring another crowd hand breaker, was convinced they would win.
However, Molineux was now a massive celebrity in London. Not used to such respect and new found fame he took to drink and women and so forth, lapsed on his training and lived up the good times. Come the rematch he was half the fighter he was (and a whole stone lighter), Cribb walked all over him. Without any help from the crowd the fight was over in the 11th round and Cribb broke the dudes jaw. Cribb had took this fight much more seriously and "had been in a strict training programme, which consisted of no sex, no alcohol, punching tree bark and soaking his fists in vinegar." The conker fist approach part is pretty funny.
Richmond was furious, squarely blaming Molineux for ruining their chances and dissolved his friendship and patronage of Tom. Tom, not being equipped with much life skills, fell into alcoholism and sadly died in debtors prison (they didnt just used to send you threatening letters for that, back then.) Just 4 years after the big rematch.
Richmond is one cold mofo.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
PRIZEFIGHTING was like the MMA of olden days. It wasnt exactly boxing or wrestling and it didnt exactly have rules but GOD DAMN you would see some people SERIOUSLY MESSED UP.
Its early origins (in Britain) as a big crowd sort of events were as a (hazily legal) sideshow event at travelling fairs and the like, where local champions would be challenged by anyone in the crowd game to give it a go. There wasnt a lot of money in it and it was a pride thing. The rules would change place to place and how much you could get away depended a lot on who the referees allegiance was too and who the crowd was going for (they werent going to tell the local champion he is disqualified when his fans were liable to STORM THE RING for that.)
One of its early characters was a man called Bill Richmond. Bill was a black slave (born 1829) from New York. A place called Cuckold's town, oddly enough. I can only assume it was a place where the women were just slags. Anyway, Bill was the slave of some local bigwig. He met the Duke Of Northumberland who was staying at the masters gaffe, did his best to be plucky and lovable and ended up being taken with the Duke back to England for a better life.
At the time there was a status symbol thing around the aristos for having a black servant, of the American type. Anyway young Bill ends up in Yorkshire, working for the Duke and gets the chance to be schooled and becomes an apprentice cabinet maker. Which was an actual decent job back then, not a really lame skill like it sounds.
Now, the story goes Bill was attending a prizefight (which was like the "going to the pub" of the 19th century) and got cajoled and insulted by the current champ and decided to throw down. Now Bill wasnt a massive guy, but he found he had a natural knack for this Boxing lark. Despite facing a much bigger opponent, he had an Ali vs Liston moment and realised if you can dance around an opponent so clumsy he cant get a punch on you, you dont need to be. Feeling the thrill we all feel beating the living crap out of a guy Bills thoughts went along the line of "FUCK CABINETS, im going to be CHAMPION OF BOXING DUDES HEADS IN" and we can all empathise with that.
Seriously, fuck Cabinets.
"Floats like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his eyes can't see." - Richmond may have said this.
So Bill embarked on his boxing career to some massive success. Styled as the "Black Terror" (no, really) he outboxed people left and right, but you have to realise there wasnt any real money in prize fighting. You fought for a small purse, the only real cash was in getting a "sponsor" if you will, a patron, who would arrange your fights for you. So in the early days of smashing dudes up Bill was risking a lot for nothing, if he damaged his hands the delicate trade he was trained in would be impossible for him and he'd be pretty much doomed to starve. Which wasnt a pleasant thing. And still isnt, I guess. Dont starve. So he must have really loved smashing dudes up.
Bill had the full Rocky story, though, he got himself a patron. A drunken, slumming aristo took a liking to him and Bill enjoyed the high life of London. Mixing in high circles and fighting for decent money. One day Bill got his shot at the title. The British champion of the time was a rough as nails Bristolian man by the name of Tom Cribb. Cribb was like 50 feet tall and made of muscle. He trained by PUNCHING the BARK off of TREES. Seriously, he fucked up TREES. So, the fight was set up and it was on.
"I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick." - Richmond could have said that, I guess
Now prizefighting is a bit different to boxing today. You had rounds still and the fight was settled either by knockouts or not being able to return to the centre "circle" to carry on. You could punch, wrestle and even kick. Obviously gloves and head guards were right out. And it got brutal. Especially when fighting TreeBane.
The fight between the black Richmond and Britain's pride was a massive deal at the time, it even got more column inches in the papers than a little naval battle that had just taken place called THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR.
But, sadly, much like Rocky in the end Rocky/Bill didnt quite have what it took. After a brutal affair, Cribb won out and Richmond retired not knowing the glory of being the best. But for a black immigrant, he was a much loved fighter who mixed in pretty high circles for a working class man and a man of his race in that time. I think thats a pretty weighty achievement, he was known as a dignified English gent and a man of good character.
But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! - Richmond probably didnt say this
He went on to start his own "boxing academy" and train up the NEXT black prize fighting champion, who would come to face Cribb himself. With EXCITING RESULTS*.
(To be continued..)
*Results may not be that exciting.
Friday, 5 June 2009
Mary Mallon, a 19th century cook went on to coin a particurley famous phrase.
And why? Because bitch be crazy, yo.
Mallon (born 1869 died 1938) was an irish immigrant who worked as a professional chef for rich families and the like, living in the USA. When a number of the families she worked for contracted typhoid authorities started to note the pattern and tracked her down, not suffering the disease herself (nor ever, according to her) they did some tests and discovered she was an asymptomatic carrier (probably picking it up in the womb.)
Typhoid is an infection usually caused by poor faeces management or by carriers working with food/drink. It was a lot more common in the past, now its nearly never seen in Europe/USA but still a problem to a degree in less developed countries. It was originally named TheShitOfDeath disease but it didnt catch on.
Now, you are a chef, you find out your bodily fluids have an infectious (and fatal) disease on them and it takes hella scrubbing just to give a decent chance that you wont have it on your hands and give it to anyone who eats your food... what do you do?
In Marys case, fuck all. She vehemently denied having the disease, even after being tested. She was quarantined under public health legislation for a number of years before a new commissioner realising this unique situation probably required a bit of tact, had her sign some paper work making her promise to never work in food prep or related industries again and be careful and stuff with her hands of death, let her go.
But Mary, being a bit of a character, finding out that her only other skills (laundry work, she is a woman, you see) didnt pay as well as cookery, decided "fuck that" changed her name and started working as a cook again.
More people were infected and eventually she was caught again and put into a quarantine that lasted the rest of her life. She was fairly unrepentant and insistent she didnt carry the disease right until she passed on. Got to appreciate that Irish stubborn streak.
Shes remembered in the phrase "typhoid mary", of course. At the time, the papers made a big deal out of her as an unforgiving dealer of death. She was like an early supervillain, passing out death with her hands under assumed names for some evil masterplan. Sadly there was no early 19th century superheroes to fight her off, captain industry or whatever never turned up to kick her ass with the power of the steam rocket.
In reality she was just an ignorant stubborn woman who probably really believed she didnt carry the disease and just couldnt fathom or trust the science that proved she did. So its kind of sad that she had to remain in quarantine her whole life, never really comprehending or believing why.
She wasnt the first or only asymptomatic carrier around, but she was the most crazy and thats why she gets the cool phrase named for her.
(She is known to have infected 53 people with the disease, 3 of which died)
Monday, 25 May 2009
Churchill, badass, slightly crazy, drunken wit. Hell of a speech giver. Front runner for best modern War Leader and greatest English PM awards.
In his first run as English PM he saved Britain, the free world and made some horribly tough decisions. He made his deal with the devil, allying with the Soviets, had to make the awful decision to scupper the French fleet to stop the Germans capturing them (an insane and bold decision that paid off) but the most common one brought up, often mentioned in tv shows and the odd book, is the Coventry dilemma.
For those not in "the know", the coventry dillema goes that after we broke the Enigma code (the secret german code that helped us win the war, you know, watch the movie) one of the earliest messages was the news of an imminent bombing raid of Coventry (11/4/1940.) Giving Churchill a problem, arranging a large scale evacuation would save many lives... but it would tip his hand, showing the Germans who would notice the lack of people and industry and whose agents would surely hear of it.. that the code was broken, perhaps losing the one advantage we had.
So Churchill took the dark path and did nothing, Coventry took heavy losses, civilians died. But we kept the code cracking a secret and ultimately that let us win the war and save the world, etc.
Good story, often trotted out in tv shows to illustrate the very textbook definition of making the hard choice, the immoral choice that in the end turns out to be right. The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few and beautifully illustrates what a good, dark leader Winsto was.
All good apart from the fact it isnt true. We did crack the code before the Coventry raid, true, but only generally. We didnt for instance know KORN stood for Coventry at the time, we did infact get some intelligence a heavy bombing raid was coming... but nobody had any idea where and the best guess of the time was that it would be London (somewhere impossible to shut down or large scale evacuate more than was already done during the war) and nothing could have been done to save Coventry, really.
It is even reported Churchill cancelled a trip out of London, not wanting to be "hiding" out in the country when it was bombed and awaited it on the night, scanning the sky for the bombers arriving before news arrived Coventry was attacked.
The origin of this myth isnt clear, but like most conventional wisdom it gets repeated around so much its hard to know who is getting it from where. It certainly got a boost when it was brought up again in "Bodyguard of Lies" by Anthony Cave Brown, published in 1976, who said "It was a tragic decision for Churchil to have to make".
So, cool story, but didnt happen. Look up the French scuppering or pick up a good Churchill bio in general if you want to hear some hardcore stories that did happen. Churchill has enough of a badass drunken, train riding, war winning life that adding stories isnt neccesary.
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'
- Churchill Badassery
Monday, 18 May 2009
Do you know why they used to drink out of glass bottomed tankards in the olden days?
Come on, of course you do, why did they used to do that?
Because of the shilling right, the shilling in the bottom of the glass, that the naval recruiters used to drop in the tankards to trick people into joining the navy/army, right? Because, once you take a shilling you are in, right? So glass tankards, so you dont accidentally get a pint with a slipped in shilling, right?
NO, THAT IS WRONG, WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT, THAT IS SILLY, YOU ARE SILLY TO THINK THAT!
There is some weirdly prevailent myth that this used to happen. The old shilling in the pint trick, you were forced to join the army. This is such a myth that they now make REPLICAS of GENUINE GLASS BOTTOMED TANKARDS that stop this PRACTICE that never actually HAPPENED.
Seriously, check it out (complete with fake historic story.)
No, they didnt press gang people into joining the navy. As a matter of fact, in the time period this story originates (Around napoleonic wars era usually) it was much like now. Even in ye olde days you had a 4 day cooling off period after recruiting (for the very reason of making sure people didnt sign up drunk and regret it, or to impress the ladies and whatever other reasons you join up that arent good and sound like hating the French) and recruiters were actually subject to very strict rules and fines if they were found to mislead or just kidnap people from bars.
Thats not to say coercing wasnt taking place (as it does now) but like now, false pretenses was more the strategy than some obtuse slight of hand trick and like now it was punished if found out by the higher ups.
The origin of this myth is harder to pinpoint. Certainly there was points in British history when people were forced into the navy/military, but it wasnt by trickery but law and it might have root in the press ganging of American colonists, who were forced into the Navy when captured (since any colonist caught was still considered British before treaties were signed between America/UK) but wherever its from... it is stupid.
Stupid like your mother.