September 26, 2016

Stick Man Dream Shake

September 24, 2016

Go home Vegas, you're drunk

Well, Las Vegas has weighed in on the Warriors' upcoming season, and it looks like they are supposed to win...let's see here...whoa:  66.5 games this year.

This is great except for one thing - the Warriors are going to stink this year.  Not by NBA standards, of course...they will win lots of games and go to playoffs, and there will be dunks and threes and highlight reels and t-shirts and a new arena.

But the greatest team that ever played is over, done, finished.  Here is the exact moment when that team peaked:

Curry, it hardly needs to be said, was not making that shot in June, when it might have helped defeat a determined and resilient Cavaliers squad.  A lot of things weren't happening in June.

Problem #1:  Heart Trouble
Draymond Green is falling apart.  The heart and soul of the lovable underdog champions of 2015, Green was always a walking morality play, an inferno of internal contention between a simple man with a winner's will and an adolescent loon.  By the end of the '15-'16 season the id had won the battle, burned the huts, killed the women and children, and taken over the kingdom:
I look forward to Draymond's upcoming tour of North Korea, but not to the next twelve months with the Warriors.  Once this stuff gets started in the NBA, there's no end to it.  The genie's not going back in the bottle. Green, whose game relies on focused intensity, has peaked.  It's a long way down.

Also not getting better will be Steph Curry.  Asked about Curry's status late last season, coach Steve Kerr said simply, "he's fried."  As the Warriors entered the playoffs Jerry West had to take Curry aside and talk to him about his focus.  Curry is 28.

Problem #2:  Soft Serve
The '15-'16 Warriors probably were the best team in history at a particular kind of basketball:  NBA regular season basketball.  It is a game that is played like a marathon, at about 90-95% intensity, with relatively close officiating most of the time.  The goal is to entertain, keep the players from hurting themselves, and put on a good show.

The problem is that you don't win the NBA Championship in the regular season.  This ain't Premier League...there are these things called Playoffs.  This is a different game.  Intensity goes to 99.9%, and late in a close Game 7 to eleventy one percent or more.  Referees who during the regular season scrupulously call foul line violations and hand checks now look on nonchalantly as defensive players throw caltrops on the court and beat opposing shooters with truncheons.  Here is what Jerry West had to say about that in February:
Once you get into the playoffs, it’s a completely different game. I would be concerned with our team because, No. 1, we need to be healthy. And the strength of our team is our backcourt. No question about that from an offensive perspective. Those guys are going to get challenged every night in the playoffs. Teams are going to try to take Curry and Thompson out of the game in terms of doubling them all over the place. That’s when it’s important that the other players on the team respond in a positive manner.

It's now in the historical record that the Warriors did not excel at playoff basketball in 2016.  Yes, Steph Curry was hurt, and played hurt, and sometimes played well hurt.  But the Warriors had trouble even with Portland, were taken to near-death by the Thunder, and were ultimately bested by a less-skilled team with a greater desire to win, and a greater willingness to explore the limits of defensive mayhem.

#2 Son states that "the Warriors only lost because the referees wouldn't call a foul, and no one cared except California."  Yes.  Welcome to the Association, sir.

The Warriors have addressed this problem by trading Andrew Bogut, the only player on last year's team who is not a big fat sissy.  This was an error, and they will surely pay, unless JaVale McGee is the second coming of Maurice Lucas.  Mmmm...Maurice Lucas...

Problem #3: 3 + 1 makes 3.5
So yes, the Warriors have added an All-Star and former MVP to their roster.  This gives them four of the former and two of the the latter, and makes them the favorite in every game they will play between now and the Fourth of July 2017.

It says here it will not go well.  Who's gonna pass?  Who's gonna rebound?  Who's gonna guard someone?  Who's gonna take the ball out of bounds?  Here are last year's field goal attempts per game from this year's top four Warriors starters:
  • Steph Curry:  20
  • Kevin Durant:  19
  • Klay Thompson:  17
  • Draymond "I Have Sacrificed Enough" Green:  10
The Warriors top four shooters averaged 57 shots per night last year, 65% of the team total.  This group averaged 66, or 75%.  Someone's gotta take fewer, smarter, shots.  No one's going to volunteer to do so.  The coaches will have to deliver the bad news.

It will not. Go. Well.

So ends the run of the team that, from the middle of the '14-'15 season to the middle of last season was a good as any that ever played the game.  They had it all:  youth, skills, energy, a relentless work ethic, cagey veterans, and a burning desire to prove themselves.  And let's not forget that great bench, mostly gone now...Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush...  

Ok, they still have a bench

Perhaps I'll be wrong.  Maybe this new team will be even better than Dynasty 1.0.  Maybe they'll get along fine.  Maybe they'll find a way to perform better in the playoffs.  

But it won't be my team...that Golden Team that played together every night, that took the NBA by storm and imposed its will, winning in a way no team had ever won before.  That chapter has ended, and we are the poorer for it.  

That's the downside of's temporary, it goes.  As Bulgakov reminds us, the bank notes that fall from the ceiling will, sooner than we would like, turn to scrap paper.  Well, I can't complain - with the Warriors and '85-'86 Celtics I've seen it twice now.  I'm not asking for a refund.  

But dang...Bogut.  Durant, you've got BIG SHOES TO FILL.  Show up in shape, pal.

Look at this, already distracted

Router fun: their homebrew router came in 2nd

Mikrotik's $69 hEX wired router was an unexpected delight. I won't lie to you, I wasn't enthusiastic about it. I've heard lots of people sing Mikrotik's praises, but this was a tiny, cheap, MIPS-powered, white plastic palm-sized box. It's so physically light you might have trouble making a friend say "ow" if you throw it at them hard. I don't think I've ever seen a less physically impressive network device.

But it's also, far and away, the best bang-for-the-buck out of everything tested here.


September 20, 2016


Former President George H.W. Bush said Monday that he will vote for Hillary Clinton...


Albee exits

That’s what happens in plays, yes? The shit hits the fan.


The perfect realization of Frank Miller's vision


Jury's still out on hot fudge, though

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."

Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.

Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?

Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Dr. Melik: Incredible.


September 10, 2016

The choice of disgruntled employees everywhere

[W]hen the USB Kill stick is plugged in, it rapidly charges its capacitors from the USB power supply, and then discharges -- all in the matter of seconds.

On unprotected equipment, the device's makers say it will "instantly and permanently disable unprotected hardware".


September 04, 2016

I endorse this product

The BBC Blandings series, which re-entered production in May, does virtually everything wrong:
  • The Blandings plots always and everywhere adhere to the ancient Greek form of New Comedy in which a loving couple is sundered by the meddling of an elder, and reunited via complex business involving another elder.  This does not happen in the BBC series (at least not in the first three episodes).
  • The plots of the novels are incredibly complicated, but the tv shows are quite simple.
  • The novels often have large casts, so much so that I have taken to charting them as I read to keep track of who's who.  This BBC series relies on a recurring cast of just four main characters:  Lord Emsworth, his sister Lady Constance Keeble, his worthless son Freddie Threepwood, and butler Sebastian Beech.
  • Lord Emsworth is barely functional in the novels, but in the BBC series is marginally functional.  Timothy Spall, OBE manages to retain Emsworth's disattention and cluelessness, but also conveys a man who somehow retains enough executive function to be the central character in each episode.  This is a considerable artistic achievement, but not unprecedented - the character reminds me a bit of Buddy Ebsen's Jed Clampett.
  • Beech the butler is drawn somewhat lightly in the novels but in the series has a fine characterization from Mark Williams in the first series.
  • The Wodehouse novels have their delirious moments of course, but they are usually the culmination of a carefully wrought dramatic process.  The series, by contrast, gets to the punchline fast and goes over the top almost before our butts have hit the seats.
  • Wodehouse's running gags are often somewhat obscure, frequently alluding to his habitual reading of Shakespeare and scripture.  Each episode of Blandings starts with a car crash. 
They've turned Blandings into a surrealist sitcom, but it works for me.  I think Wodehouse probably would have liked it, too, if he could get over them using gags and dialogue he didn't write.

You can decide if the product is right for you by watching this test footage:


If this is from 2013, Hakeem is about 50 here.  He starts shooting around 5:40, doesn't miss much.  Even allowing for cosmetic edits, some of these are ridiculous, and 7:49 is just absurd.

September 03, 2016

Enough to make it all right

We didn't exactly believe your story, Miss O'Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right. 
- Sam Spade

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI calculator, that's about 3,000 2016 dollars.

September 01, 2016


After "The Saga of Wu Zetian," a TV drama about China's only female emperor, attracted great viewership figures, it was abruptly pulled from broadcast in January 2015 for "technical reasons."

Nicknamed "The Saga of Wu's Breasts" due to the generous amounts of cleavage shown by the actresses' Tang dynasty period costumes, the show returned a few days later, with a lot less skin.


August 29, 2016

Still slipping the surly bonds of earth


If you grew up in Anchorage, Alaska in a certain time and stayed up late, this was the last thing they showed before they went off the air:

August 28, 2016

This also

Comes to mind

You go, Vice Chancellor!

Sigmar Gabriel, who is Angela Merkel's second-in-command, said his only mistake was not using both hands.


August 26, 2016

Van Gelder departs

When I was young, I asked someone who Knew Something About Jazz what I should listen to.  "I don't know," he said, "...anything by Blue Note Records?" Which was pretty good advice, as a listen to the first disc on this collection will confirm.

But he might also have advised, with considerable overlap, "anything recorded by Rudy Van Gelder," who passed away this week.  His recordings are generally just incredibly clean and immediate.  Here are three, there are lots of others:

August 24, 2016

Holy crap, we're going to Proxima

[O]ne of these "nanocrafts" could reach Alpha or Proxima Centauri in about 20 years. And because radio communications travel at the speed of light, it would only take an additional four years or so for the data from the mission to reach Earth.


Time to roll up a character...

 I don’t know what possessed Beamdog to make Siege of Dragonspear an expansion to the original [Baldur's Gate], nor do I know what devil’s pact coerced them into making it thirty-odd hours long. It’s insanity.

But hopefully this isn’t Beamdog’s last bit of Baldur’s Gate content, because they’ve done an incredible job. As someone who first received Baldur’s Gate for Christmas way back in 1998 on six—six!—CD-ROMs, Siege of Dragonspear feels like a long-lost (and polished-up) chapter of the original, like it belonged from the start. That’s quite a feat, given the seventeen year spread in between.


August 22, 2016

Speaking of THE BEAST

No doubt fuelled by a subconscious suggestion from the Laird, I suggested that the family sit down to a pleasant viewing of Kung Fu Hustle last night.

I've noticed in recent years that some of my old favorites - Airplane, for example - have lost a little of their luster.  The kids, having grown up watching dozens of films and shows that steal its tropes, thought it very funny...but it doesn't have the same impact for them as it did for me.  One day perhaps historians will study it and wonder why people ever thought it was funny in the first place.

So I approached Kung Fu Hustle with considerable trepidation.  I need not have.  What a movie.  It's not as good as you remember:  it's better.  In 2010 Bill Murray called it "the supreme achievement of the modern age in terms of comedy."

But even the second time through, I am discovering, I did not get all the jokes.  It turns out that one of the best gags in the film is when the identity of The Beast is revealed:

Now, I am sitting there going "that's a weird looking guy."  But everyone over 40 in Hong Kong is going "HOLY SHIT IT'S LEUNG SIU-LUNG!"  It would have been as big a shock to them as an American audience seeing Henry Fonda's first appearance in Once Upon a Time in the West, if Fonda had been out of the movie business for 15 years.

You see, Bruce Leung was once the Third Dragon, as they called him back in the day, after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.  And, until The Beast, he was always the good guy.

Here he is showing his moves in The Legendary Fok (1981):

His filmography, up until he quit the business in 1988:
  • The Invincible Eight (1971)
  • The Yellow Killer (1972)
  • Lady Kung Fu (1972)
  • Kung Fu, the Invincible Fist (1972)
  • Deep Thrust (1972)
  • Rage of Wind (1973)
  • Kung Fu Powerhouse (1973)
  • Blade of Fury (1973)
  • Call Me Dragon (1974)
  • Hong Kong Godfather (1974)
  • Bruce Lee, D-Day at Macao (1975)
  • The Fighting Dragon (1975)
  • Hong Kong Superman (1975)
  • The Return of the Condor Heroes (1976)
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes (1976)
  • Million Dollar Snatch (1976)
  • Bruce Against Iron Hand (1976)
  • The Dragon Lives Again (1977)
  • The Four Shaolin Challengers (1977)
  • Broken Oath (1977)
  • Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)
  • The Tattoo Connection (1978)
  • The Incredible Kung Fu Master (1979)
  • Enter Three Dragons (1979)
  • Ten Tigers of Shaolin (1979)
  • The Fists, the Kicks and the Evil (1979)
  • Black Belt Karate (1979)
  • My Kung-Fu 12 Kicks (1979)
  • The Fighter Dragon vs. Deadly Tiger (1980)
  • Shaolin Kid (1980)
  • Be the First (1980)
  • The Legendary Fok (1981)
  • Return of the Deadly Blade (1981)
  • Gang Master (1982)
  • Legend of a Fighter (1982)
  • Ruthless Revenge (1982)
  • Showdown at the Equator (1984)
  • The Eight Diagram Cudgel Fighter (1985)
  • Rich and Famous 2 (1987)
  • Vampires Live Again (1987)
  • Ghost Hospital (1988)
There are lots of other old school Kung Fu types in the film, too, like the landlord of Pig Sty Alley, Yuen Wah (one of Bruce Lee's stunt doubles) and tailor Chiu Chi-ling, who appeared in (says Wikipedia) "such well-known Kung Fu style movies as Snake in the Eagle's Shadow [and] Duel of the Seven Tigers..."  (Also: "he currently resides in Alameda.")

The film is riddled with stuff like this.  IMDB:  "The Landlord and Landlady announce to the Beast that their names are "Yang Guo" and "The Little Dragon Maiden" in the original Chinese, which is a joke nod to Louis Cha's famous novel Return of the Condor Heroes, adapted many times for television and film."  (One of those starred Bruce Leung.)

Wonderful stuff.  When The Chosen One appears, he comes dressed as Bruce Lee:

And what about the Buddha's Palm, you ask.  Well...

August 20, 2016

The movie that can never be...would be PERFECT

A race of Atomic Super-Men...!

This new supermicrobe will be so different from the natural tree of life that it will be resistant to all known viruses on Earth and will be capable of producing proteins unlike any found in nature, reports New Scientist.

And this new microbe is just the beginning. Eventually the researchers hope to re-engineer the entire human genome in similar fashion, to create superhumans that are also resistant to all known pathogens.


August 18, 2016

Ice-T explains stuff

Trump is a little too volatile for me. He asked a couple times, “Why can’t we use nukes?” It’s like, “Is that a question, you dumb f—? Really?” That’s can’t be a solution. Once one of them goes off it’s a wrap for everybody. You can’t even talk like that because if you do, the next step is it actually happening and that’s the end of the world.


Some Ice-T memes:

August 17, 2016

How to dance

[See also... -laird]

Your newsletter, I would like to subscribe to it

There is currently no definitive proof that having your very own utility pole and an ample amount of electricity makes any meaningful difference on sound quality, but die-hard audiophiles insist that they are critical for a pure audio experience. “Electricity is like blood. If it is tainted, the whole body will get sick,” Takeo Morita recently told the Wall Street Journal. “No matter how expensive the audio equipment is, it will be no good if the blood is bad.” He recently paid around $10,000 to have a concrete utility pole installed in his yard. It comes complete with his own personal transformer, which feeds power more directly from the grid.


Maya moviehouse

"With the huge assortment of Roman, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Persian, Egyptian and other standard [cinema] styles already in use, the Chicagoans had something of a problem to find a novelty," the Chicago Tribune reported when Graven & Mayger secured the [Detroit Fisher Theater] commission in Sept. of 1927. "… the Maya Indians of the Yucatan peninsula generously provided the inspiration and the new showhouse will have for its motif the bizarre adornments of that ancient race."


August 16, 2016

From Napoleon's Will

31. Item. To Colonel Marbot, one hundred thousand francs. I recommend him to continue to write in defense of the glory of the French armies, and to confound their calumniators and apostates.


I have mixed feelings about this

August 13, 2016

Meanwhile, at the Olympics...

Down at the park

With my family out of town I go down to a little park in Los Altos most nights to shoot some hoops and generally shake my limbs around.  A couple of vignettes.
  • I went down there one night and the place was deserted.  I took a shot and it went in.  And another, and another.  I must have made, like ten or twelve in a row from all over the court.  Some people wandered up the path from the park, and: clang clang clang, that was that.  But I'm telling you, when no one is around and no one is guarding me, I am deadly.
  • A few nights later a 9 year-old kid challenged me to one-on-one.  I thought it over - I'd seen him practicing and knew he had a deadly jumper in the 6-12 foot range, and was a legit ballhandler.  I sized up him and said ok.  I admit I played somewhat passively on defense, and made a botch of even that, as he called me on it.  "Come on," he said, "guard me for real."  I slapped the ball out of his hands.  He looked at me coldly and said "don't do that again."
  • This morning a man was out with his young son and a friend shooting on the 9 foot basket.  His son - we'll call him Little Johnny - insisted on taking shots from as far away as possible.  His father tried to con him a little - "you know, you should shoot from as close as you can - that's what the pros do."  And you know damn well Johnny was having none of it, because in his mind there is only:

They should talk about this in Davos

[T]he median credit score for a new mortgage remained quite high at 756. That’s well above the average credit score of 695, and means that the typical American, nearly eight years after the credit crunch and financial crisis, would still struggle to secure a mortgage.


August 12, 2016

Let's go with "Beast"

I wondered which Marshal the people in the know (by which I mean random posters on Napoleonic forums) think was the best.  After a meticulous search of the Internets, here is who Marshal 'mavens' pick as the most excellent...oh Lord...

This is not as close as it looks because posts about Davout usually begin with "obviously", while posts about Ney tend to be more equivocal (e.g., "Ney was best when serving under Napoleon, but worst when he was out on his own").  Yeah, I'm gonna say Davout's the guy here...the Marshal who lost his first battle after Waterloo, during the last ditch defense of Paris against the Allied forces.

One reason Davout faced such overwhelming odds at Auerstedt was that Bernadotte failed to support him.  Davout proposed a simple solution:  a duel to the death.  (The plan did not come to fruition due to the intervention of The Emperor.  Bernadotte was later sent home in disgrace for retreating without orders at Wagram.  He found redemption and fulfillment late in life by becoming King of Sweden.)

What you hear repeatedly about Davout is that he was basically Spock, completely logical in all his combinations, always seeing deeper than his opponent, always anticipating every possible turn of events.  He was not popular, did not try to be.  According to this Masters Thesis prepared for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1994, "he spent less time talking about his reputation, and more time earning it."  Also,
[Montgomery] observed that a battle is really a contest between the wills of the two commanders.  If the will of one commander fails then his opponent is bound to win.
And the will of every general who faced Davout during the reign of Bonaparte...failed.  So, yeah, "Beast" would be fine.

Interesting conception, but it is flawed.  You, and all you care for, will be destroyed.

August 10, 2016

We Are Marshals

Of the four generals discussed so far, three reached the highest point in the Napoleonic military cosmos, Marshal of the Empire (Rapp was around Napoleon from the beginning, but never made the top rank).  Only 26 men were made Marshal during Napoleon's reign, and never more than 20 at time.  A pretty exclusive club, although when complimented on his promotion Masséna scoffed and said "there are fourteen of us."

I know what you're going to ask:  was there a hat?

Oh, yes there was, with a white plume.  AND a baton.  AND Napoleon had top artists design the uniforms, and They. Were. Awesome.

Wikipedia's interesting article on Napoleonic Marshals says that three of them - Lannes (whom we have met), Davout, and Suchet, "were virtually never defeated in pitched battle, despite fighting in dozens of engagements."

All right, I'll bite.  Who were Davout and Suchet?

Louis-Nicolas d'Avout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt, 1st Prince of Eckmühl (Wikipedia)

  • Napoleon said:  At one point in 1800 Bourrienne was surprised at Napoleon's extensive conversation with Davout. "How could you talk so long with a man whom you have always called a stupid fellow?"−−"Ah! but I did not know him well enough before. He is a better man, I assure you, than he is thought; and you will come over to my opinion."
  • Nickname: THE IRON MARSHAL (has to be all caps)
  • Where he came from:  Our only nobleman!  Davout was born at Annoux (Yonne), the son of Jean-François d'Avout...  He was educated at a military academy in Auxerre, before transferring to the École Militaire in Paris on 29 September 1785.... On the outbreak of the French Revolution, he embraced its principles. He was chef de bataillon in a volunteer corps in the campaign of 1792, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Neerwinden the following spring. He had just been promoted to general of brigade when he was removed from the active list because of his noble birth...  Napoleon, who had great confidence in his abilities finally promoted him to general de division and arranged his marriage to his sister Pauline's sister-in-law Aimée Leclerc, thus making him part of Napoleon's extended family, and gave him a command in the consular guard. 
  • That time when:  At Auerstedt (1806) his 28,000 drove the main Prussian army of 63,000 from the field.  (And that Blücher guy was hardly ever heard from again.)
  • Died:  Paris, 1823.

Louis-Gabriel Suchet, Duc d'Albuféra (Wikipedia)

  • Napoleon said:  On St. Helena Napoleon was asked who the best French general was, and he replied "this is difficult to say [because early on Suchet had been a political opponent], but it seems to me that it is Suchet..."
  • Nickname:  Mr. Suchet, apparently
  • Where he came from:  He was the son of a silk manufacturer at Lyon, where he was born, originally intended to follow his father's business; but having in 1792 served as volunteer in the cavalry of the national guard at Lyon, he manifested military abilities which secured his rapid promotion. As chef de bataillon he was present at the Siege of Toulon in 1793, where he took General O'Hara prisoner.
  • That time when:  He subjugated Spain.
  • Memoirs:  Here
  • Fun Fact:  The chicken dish poularde à la d'Albuféra is named after him.
  • Died:  1826, in a castle, natural causes.

August 09, 2016

Some French generals mentioned in Doyle's Brigadier Gerard stories

André Masséna, 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling (Wikipedia)

Massena was a thin, sour little fellow, and after his hunting accident he had only one eye, but when it looked out from under his cocked hat there was not much upon a field of battle which escaped it. He could stand in front of a battalion, and with a single sweep tell you if a buckle or a gaiter button were out of place. Neither the officers nor the men were very fond of him, for he was, as you know, a miser, and soldiers love that their leaders should be free-handed. At the same time, when it came to work they had a very high respect for him, and they would rather fight under him than under anyone except the Emperor himself, and Lannes [see below], when he was alive.  - Gerard

  • Napoleon said:  "The greatest name of my military Empire."
  • Nickname:  l'Enfant chéri de la Victoire ("the Dear Child of Victory")
  • Where he came from:  Many of Napoleon's generals were trained at the finest French and European military academies, but Masséna was among those who achieved greatness without benefit of formal education...  At the age of thirteen, Masséna became a cabin boy aboard a merchant ship; while aboard he sailed in the Mediterranean Sea and on two extended voyages to French Guiana. In 1775, after four years at sea, he returned to Nice and enlisted in the French Army as a private in the Royal Italian regiment. By the time he left in 1789, he had risen to the rank of warrant officer, the top rank achievable by non-noblemen. 
  • That time when:  He fell from his horse at Wagram, injuring his foot, and commanded instead from a phaeton carriage:

"Tell them to shoot more that way."

  • Fun fact:  Maseena, New York and Maseena, Iowa are named after him.
  • Died:  Died in Paris in 1817, natural causes.

Jean Lannes, 1st Duc de Montebello, 1st Prince de Siewierz (Wikipedia)

  • Napoleon said:  "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant."
  • Where he came from:  He had little education, but his great strength and proficiency in all manly sports caused him in 1792 to be elected sergeant-major of the battalion of volunteers of Gers, which he had joined on the breaking out of war between Spain and the French republic. He served through the campaigns in the Pyrenees in 1793 and 1794, and rose by distinguished conduct to the rank of chef de brigade. However, in 1795, on the reform of the army introduced by the Thermidorians, he was dismissed from his rank...  He re-enlisted as a simple volunteer in the French Armée d'Italie, and in its campaign of 1796, he again fought his way up to high rank, being eventually made a general of brigade by orders of Bonaparte. 
  • That time when:  Outnumbered and outgunned, he held off the Austrians at Marengo - "Lannes, at the head of his four demi-brigades, was two hours in retiring three quarters of a league.  When the enemy approached and became too pressing, he halted and charged with the bayonet."
  • No really:  Aide - "Sir, the enemy is becoming too pressing."  Lannes - "BAYONETS!"
  • Representative victory:  His victory over the Prussians at Saalfeld is still studied  at the French Staff College.
  • Died:  1809 at Aspern-Essling, Bonaparte's first military defeat in over a decade, after which the Emperor wrote to Mme. Lannes:  The Marshal died this morning of wounds received on the field of honour.  My sorrow is as deep as yours.  I lose the most distinguished general in my armies, my comrade in arms during sixteen years, he whom I considered my best friend.

Jean-de-Dieu Soult, 1st Duke of Dalmatia  (Wikipedia)   

If Soult were here with thirty thousand men— but he will not come.  - Gerard

  • Napoleon said:  "Just because you have all been beaten by Wellington, you think he's a good general."
  • Nickname: "King Nicolas" for his intrigues in Portugal
  • Where he came from:  Well-educated, Soult originally intended to become a lawyer, but his father's death when he was still a boy made it necessary for him to seek employment, and in 1785 he enlisted as a private in the French infantry.
  • That time when:  He brilliantly evaded Wellington's pursuing army in the Peninsular campaign.  Twenty years later, at Queen Victoria's coronation, Wellington grabbed his arm and said:  "I have you at last."
  • Died:  At his castle in 1834, natural causes.

Jean Rapp  (Wikipedia)   

  • Nickname:  "Piece of Fine Lace" on account of his many wounds (final count:  22).
  • Where he came from:  Rapp was born the son of the janitor of the town-hall of Colmar. He began theological studies to become a clergyman, but with his build and heated character, he was better suited to the military, which he joined in March 1788. From the rank of a regular of the chasseurs de Cévennes, he worked his way up the ranks through his courage and character to the rank of a division general and adjutant of Napoleon Bonaparte. 
  • That time when:  He captured Prince Repnin-Volkonsky at Austerliz and presented him to Napoleon (now THIS is a painting)
  • Died:  In Baden in 1821, natural causes.

More Brigadier Gerard

'One instant!' cried the Marshal, smiling at my impatience. 'The worst remains behind. Only last week the Dowager Countess of La Ronda, the richest woman in Spain, was taken by these ruffians in the passes as she was journeying from King Joseph's Court to visit her grandson. She is now a prisoner in the Abbey, and is only protected by her——'

'Grandmotherhood,' I suggested.

'Her power of paying a ransom,' said Massena.