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Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio 
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
Another from Ed Wysocki (8/24/10):

P 316:

Some progress was possible, even in “Snafu Manor,” as Heinlein’s group of friends and colleagues there had begun to call the Naval Air Experimental Station (their little corner of the AML)

=

AML is part of the NAES, not the other way around.

From “Wings for the Navy” by William Trimble, p 224:

General Order 198, issued by the secretary of the navy on 20 July 1943, formalized the sweeping changes already accomplished by Ziegler. This document established the Naval Air Material Center (NAMC) at Philadelphia. Individual commands within the NAMC were the Naval Aircraft Factory, the Naval Aircraft Modification Unit (NAMU), the Naval Air Experimental Station, and the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Mustin Field. . . . . The Naval Air Experimental Station, administered by a director, was to include all former NAF laboratories and was responsible for research and development, testing, and the ship installation activities of the SEU [Ship Experimental Unit].


I really appreciate this very fine-level of critique and error-detecting. I think it was Belloc who said what historian really needed was a gang of trained slaves to go over the manuscript from many different perspectives. Well, that hasn't been possible for a couple thousand years, so we are forced to rely on the goodwill and expertise of friends.


Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:02 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
BillPatterson wrote:
I really appreciate this very fine-level of critique and error-detecting. I think it was Belloc who said what historian really needed was a gang of trained slaves to go over the manuscript from many different perspectives. Well, that hasn't been possible for a couple thousand years, so we are forced to rely on the goodwill and expertise of friends.
As my old filking buddy Eric Raymond wrote of open-source software, "With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

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Tue Aug 24, 2010 7:58 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
RobertJames wrote:
Bill, I would strongly urge you to include errata for the first volume in the second volume.

I hereby bet one virtual wooden nickel that Tor refuses to include it. The reasons are multiple, mysterious and even nefarious.

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Tue Aug 24, 2010 8:50 am
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
Another catch by Ed Wysocki:

In the text, specifically pg 325 and 326, you correctly identify the bulletin as Air Scoop.

But in the caption to the picture of de Camp, Asimov and Heinlein, you call it Wind Scoops.


That is the kind of inconsistency that makes me tear my hair out! (That's what happens when you choose and write captions five or more years after writing the original text!)


Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:23 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
I missed another catch by Ed Wysocki today (8/24/10):

P 328

In August, Heinlein was transferred from the Naval Aircraft Factory Engineering Division to the NAES Material Laboratory, Plastics and Adhesives section.

=

I think you have this backwards somehow. He had been in the Plastic & Adhesives section of the Materials Lab. See the very bottom of page 316.

Also, according to the diagram in the PDF file, it would have been the Engineering [b]Department
.[/b]

Found the second one. I must have been completely out of it this a.m. (It's now been almost 2 weeks of temps over 90 and I have no a/c where I live. I'm getting more than a little frazzled.)

Well, you're right there is an inconsistency, but the transfer to Plastics & Adhesives was taken directly from the transfer paper, so that must be right (including the "division" vs. "department" language; I wonder if they were perfectly consistent in the way they used it contemporaneously?). I think it's probably 316 that's in error, as being about a year before the event.


Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:26 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
BillPatterson wrote:
Well, you're right there is an inconsistency, but the transfer to Plastics & Adhesives was taken directly from the transfer paper, so that must be right (including the "division" vs. "department" language; I wonder if they were perfectly consistent in the way they used it contemporaneously?).


WRT consistent usage, almost certainly not. The Army lab I work in has Offices, Directorates, Branches, Functions, and other subdivisions. They are not wholly consistent with each other, and names change over time. I have "official" paperwork that has various different names for the particular organization I work in.


Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:53 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
Patterson states in Learning Curve, p. 28:
Quote:
Bobby was fascinated by stage magic. On one glorious occasion, he was taken to see Thurston the Magician. (note 17) One of Thurston's tricks was threading needles with one hand, but the trick wasn't well adapted to the stage: the audience couldn't see it, so he had observers from the audience go on the stage and watch to that there was no hanky-panky. Bobby volunteered and was chose to go up onstage: he watched the trick close-up, very dutifully and very carefully."

Note 17 [p. 498]: "Howard Thurston (1869 – 1936) mounted his own show in 1902; in 1907 he took over Harry Kellar's show and increased the size and effects to a three-hour production, which toured the world several times, beginning in 1908, and toured the United States frequently until his death in 1936. His stage show required ten railway cars to transport the props, scenery, and effects. His most famous illusion was the "floating lady."


I've puzzled over this passage. Thurston definitely toured in KC when Heinlein was young – I've found references to appearances by him there five times between Jan 1914 and Dec 1917, at the Grand and the Garden theaters. But what about the trick?

I have access to several of the major conjuring journals of the period in searchable, digitized form, and can find no record of any magician doing a trick in which a needle is threaded in one hand. And I've queried other magic historians and they don't report any such trick either.

However, there was a very popular trick during that time in which a magician takes a number of ordinary sewing needles, and swallows them. He then takes a length of thread and swallows it. He then regurgitates them with the needles strung on the thread. (Harry Houdini did it from ca. 1899 through his death in 1926, and is shown doing it here HERE ). It was called variously "The Needle Trick," "Needle Swallowing," "The East Indian Needle Feat," "The Hindoo Needle Trick," and other similar names. Many magicians of the era did the trick (including, for example, Maxie The Human Sewing Machine). The trick is still in use (I've seen Teller, of Penn & Teller, do it in a solo performance.)

So my assumption was that Heinlein saw Thurston doing the needle trick, and either misremembered it, or somehow that detail was changed in the retelling. Since the note doesn't source the text, we don't know if the original source was a contemporaneous diary or letter from Heinlein, or something decades later, maybe even second or third hand. So I'm reluctant to call this an "error", at least on Bill P's part.

But after further research, I'm more confused than ever. My searches don't show any record of Thurston having done the Needle Trick. Jim Steinmeyer, an illusion designer (Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Ricky Jay) and magic historian (see his website: http://www.jimsteinmeyer.com ), is in final prep for an upcoming biography of Thurston, and he says that he has no reference to Thurston doing the Needle trick, ever:
Quote:
"I don't have any reference at all to this sort of thing. I can't imagine what it would be. Houdini did the needles in special shows, but it would be hard to mistake his presentation as threading them with one hand (!)

This does not rule out the possibility that Thurston did something, for a short time, as a sort of gag in the show. But I can't imagine what it would have been, nor have I ever found any reference to it. And I think it's safe to say that I've now seen more Thurston programs and reviews than most people. It doesn't "sound" like Thurston, but that's not always the best judgment. . . . It's a good idea for a trick, isn't it? Threading a needle with one hand would be a miracle. But who would be doing it on a stage?

The book is called, "The Last Greatest Magician in the World." Published in January by Penguin. I would have loved the needle reference, if I could have made something of it, as I've used Houdini and the Thurston – Houdini rivalry, prominently."


Steinmeyer does endorse the idea of a child of Heinlein's age being invited on stage: "Thurston's show was well crafted, but he definitely used children throughout and valued their part in the show." Many magicians of the vaudeville era would invite people on stage to inspect apparatus, or to otherwise witness tricks. This way, a small effect (too small to be well seen by those in the cheap seats) could still play well to a large audience – the spectators in the seats would experience the trick vicariously through those on stage. These audience members would often be called a "committee", and the best committee member would have been one who was authoritative (the audience wouldn't perceive them as easy to fool), but who would react well to the magic (magicians today will often pick assistants after having observed who in the audience gives a strong reaction to a trick).

So right now I'm inclined to think that there is an error of some sort in the passage, but I can't figure out just what it is. It is possible that the passage is accurate – that Heinlein saw Thurston do a trick which is otherwise unrecorded in the (extensive) conjuring literature and popular press of the time. More likely is that he saw Thurston do a different trick, perhaps the Needle Trick (which would also be otherwise unrecorded), and confused the details in the retelling. Or more likely still is that Heinlein saw Thurston do his show, and also saw a different magician in a different show who did the Needle Trick, and confused the two. Many other magicians came through Kansas City in the years around WWI, doing vaudeville shows at the theaters (Houdini was there in 1915 at the Orpheum). Other smaller venues (churches, schools, etc) would host shows, and it's possible that Heinlein saw such a show.

This is so minor an "error" that it shouldn't reflect poorly on the book (and it probably doesn’t deserve a post of this length, or the time I've spent chasing it down). Only my own interest in magic made it stand out to me. Unlike some of the other issues which have been brought up in this thread, it can likely never be resolved, either.


Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:56 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
BillMullins wrote:
WRT consistent usage, almost certainly not. The Army lab I work in has Offices, Directorates, Branches, Functions, and other subdivisions. They are not wholly consistent with each other, and names change over time. I have "official" paperwork that has various different names for the particular organization I work in.

Add in the tumult of war, with organizational changes happening continually and personnel assigned and transferred in wholesale lots, and a close examination might find that there were cases where an organization unit had more than one official designation, or (possibly) none at all.

I do recall trying to straighten out the generalities of NAES, Mustin Field, etc. when I did the final edit on ARC. I think I was successful for my limited scope but I wouldn't bet on it. :)

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Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:38 am
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
JamesGifford wrote:
RobertJames wrote:
Bill, I would strongly urge you to include errata for the first volume in the second volume.

I hereby bet one virtual wooden nickel that Tor refuses to include it. The reasons are multiple, mysterious and even nefarious.


No bet.

But I might risk one wooden virtual nickel that he could get them to allow a one or two sentence reference saying such a list was prepared and can by downloaded in .pdf form at http://www.whpattersonjr.com.

That's probably the most efficient way to go at it. Of course, the poor man will still have to distill this thread into such a document --but such are the wages of sin. . . (or something like that).

If he includes a release in the document blessing it be spread far and wide, so long as unedited by unconsecrated hands, it should attain a life as long as googles.

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Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:00 pm
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
BillMullins wrote:
<snip>So my assumption was that Heinlein saw Thurston doing the needle trick, and either misremembered it, or somehow that detail was changed in the retelling. Since the note doesn't source the text, we don't know if the original source was a contemporaneous diary or letter from Heinlein, or something decades later, maybe even second or third hand. So I'm reluctant to call this an "error", at least on Bill P's part.

But after further research, I'm more confused than ever. My searches don't show any record of Thurston having done the Needle Trick. Jim Steinmeyer, <snip>

I regret to say that I cannot shed any light on this conundrum. All my references to Thurston were in letters and taped interviews with Ginny, recounting things RAH had told her. In two letters she mentions him being brought on stage; she explained what it was he was to witness in a taped interview, saying RAH told her directly.

I really don't see the possibility of confusing this threading a needle with one hand with the Needle Trick you mention (which I think I have seen on film at least twice). The possibilities as I see them are: Ginny's memory is at fault, RAH's memory was at fault and RAH conflated two different incidents together and was remembering Thurston doing someone else's trick, or nobody's memory is at fault, and it was just something so minor it didn't get recorded. I think this is worth amending the note -- but as you say I see no way of resolving it unless more/different/better information can be gotten somehow.


Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:42 pm
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