Tuesday, March 31, 2009

five Civil War historians

Over at A. Lincoln Blog, Brian Dirck writes about his recent speaking engagements (see, he's a Lincoln scholar, and this was the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, so he's had a lot of invitations to speak), including one here at Kennesaw State University. I especially like the photo, which shows the four speakers at our day-long symposium: William Cooper, Brian Dirck, Stephen Berry, and George Rable. The guy in the middle is my colleague John Fowler, director of KSU's Center for the Study of the Civil War Era.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Somewhere, over the Bridge to Nowhere

An interesting update this past weekend on the old notion that characters and settings in L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) matched certain real-life people and places in late nineteenth-century America: NPR's Weekend Edition has an interview with historian Quentin Taylor, who suggests a few analogies between the book and modern America:

Sarah Palin — whom Taylor describes as "attractive, wholesome [and] somewhat provincial" — could be Dorothy, while Rep. Barney Frank might be cast in the role of the Cowardly Lion. "Underneath all the bluster, [the Lion is] really a sweetheart," says Taylor.

Though Taylor's not certain where President Obama fits into Baum's novel, he does have a role for the speaker of the House: "There's ... one last character not in the film, but in the book — this is the queen of the field mice. I thought that Speaker Nancy Pelosi fit this the best. After all, she presides over a collection of diminutive, chattering rodents."

NPR has a link to the five-minute interview with Taylor. If you missed it last Satureday, it's worth checking out!

Friday, March 27, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (2)

Washington Post
, December 4, 1946

For your enjoyment, a small collection of advertisements that used some variation of Abraham Lincoln's famous saying, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Click on images to make them bigger.

American Journal of the Medical Sciences, December 1893

New York Times, December 5, 1906

Christian Science Monitor, October 21, 1924

New York Times, May 29, 1934

Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1897

Dr. Seuss goes to war

How about that? Dr. Seuss's wartime cartoons are available online. Good stuff!

hat tip to More or Less Bunk

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (1)

New York Times, February 12, 1910

For your enjoyment, a small collection of advertisements that used some variation of Abraham Lincoln's famous saying, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Click images to make them bigger. More later.

New York Times, August 25, 1895

New York Times, February 10, 1915

Los Angeles Times, October 26, 1914

Boston Daily Globe, June 16, 1895

Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1931

Monday, March 23, 2009

y’all’s or y’alls?

How does one form the possessive of y’all: with ’s, or with an s and no apostrophe? I sort of want the answer to be y’all’s, because I like the way it looks, and I like that it sometimes makes my students mad when I write it that way on the board (without telling them that it’s really wrong), and because it’s one word that illustrates both uses of the apostrophe (to form both contractions and possessives).

But alas....

Personal or definite pronouns--that is, pronouns that refer to something definite and that have a clear antecedent--do not have apostrophes in their possessive forms. Examples of these pronouns are he, she, you, and it. The possessive form of these pronouns: his, her, your, and its (not he’s, and of course not it’s, which is not a possessive but is a contraction for it is).

Some pronouns, called indefinite pronouns, do use an apostrophe to form the possessive. Example: anybody, a pronoun that, unlike those above, does not refer to anything specific and has no real antecedent. (“Anybody can grow up to be president.”) The possessive of anybody is anybody’s, with an apostrophe. Other examples of indefinite pronouns: everybody, someone, and nobody.

But y'all is not an apostrophe-taking indefinite pronoun; it is a personal pronoun, and hence the possessive does not get an apostrophe: y’alls.

Another good question: Why am I bothering with this? Because I came across the following today in Wikipedia’s entry on y’all: “There is some debate on the spelling of the possessive form of y’all. Some will spell it ‘y’all’s’ while others will spell it ‘y’alls.’ As there does not seem to be an official answer, it is a matter of personal preference.”

So here you have it, Wikipedia, the official answer: y’alls.

(And yes, I do claim to be official when it comes to y’all.)

the real reason I read Andrew Sullivan

Sure, the Daily Dish offers a great discussion of political and economic matters. But what keeps me coming back is stuff like this (all links from yesterday):

dead people twittering: "Poke around and you'll find a whole bunch of dead people on Twitter, like Susan Sontag, George Washington and Sigmund Freud. It's fascinating to digest the life's work of a great thinker in 140 character chunks. Some are like performances — others are really trying to converse in the Twitterverse, ‘in the voice of’ or otherwise. Gandhi just uses the platform to spew quotes. Most fascinating is Charles Darwin, who is tweeting and blogging in real time on board the HMS Beagle (via his 1839 ‘Voyage of the Beagle’ diary).

when Jesus rode dinosaurs: a page from a creationist coloring book

NASCAR as religion: “Is your spiritual engine running on fumes? Do you feel like you're falling behind in the race of life, or that you've hit the wall? Get ready to start your engine once again. In The Race: From Pit Row to Victory Lane, author Rick Lemons offers timely and comprehensive insights that will fuel your relationship with God. Join him as he parallels the Christian life to NASCAR racing.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

comparing Lincoln and Davis

Today is Kennesaw State University's New Interpretations of the American Civil War Symposium. This year's topic: Envisioning America: The Leadership of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. We have four of the best Lincoln and Davis scholars around: William Cooper, George Rable, Brian Dirck, and Stephen Berry.

Mildred Lewis Rutherford, state historian of the United Daughters of the Confederacy for Georgia, made that same comparison almost a century ago in a little booklet she published. Given her affiliation, perhaps it's not a surprise that Lincoln came in second. Davis, she said, was a Christian, a humanitarian, a philanthropist, a patriot, a statesman, and a scholar. As for the U.S. president: "Shall Lincoln be held up as an exemplar for the imitation of our American Youth? We cannot hold him up as a GENTLEMAN OF REFINEMENT AND CULTURE.... We cannot commend Lincoln for integrity of character.... We cannot hold him up as humane or tender hearted.... The evidence is very strong against him as a VIOLATOR OF THE CONSTITUTION." And so on.

Well, I guess that settles it. No need for the meeting now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

information age prayer

I was trying to tell a student the other day about Dial-A-Prayer, the telephone service that you would call to hear a 30-second or so generic prayer. Needless to say, she had no idea what I was talking about. (Dial-A-Prayer started back in the 1950s. I remember it growing up. I guess it went the way of--well, the way of the dial telephone.)

Well, now there's Information Age Prayer, "a subscription service utilizing a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget." $3.95 a month-- but check the "Popular Prayers" link for some special deals.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the universe knows....

Yesterday, early afternoon, I started to get hungry. It's spring break here, so nothing's open on campus, and I hadn't packed any lunch. I told a colleague I was going to walk to Wendy's, a little over half a mile away. By the time I got downstairs and started to leave the building, I'd decided to drive to a Chinese restaurant not far from campus. The fortune in my fortune cookie said: "Work on improving your exercise routine."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Everything is amazing, nobody is happy

A former student sent this to me. At least he was kind enough not to say, "I think you'll identify with this guy; he reminds me of you."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday afternoon

Mid-70s today. I pulled out the sandals for the first time of the year.

Booker T. (formerly of Booker T. and the MGs) is releasing his first album in a long time next month--Potato Hole--and to kick it off, he's touring with his back-up band, which in this case was the Drive-By Truckers! First tour date, April 1 at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta! Ought to be a great show!

The semicolon, properly used, is a thing of beauty. It is not always properly used. This semester, I asked students in one class if they knew what we professors do when we see a well-used semicolon in a student paper. Answer: We check Google to find the source of the obvious plagiarism. I guess they took it as a challenge, because in a set of papers I returned this week, I must have written "Good use of semicolon!" a dozen times.

The GAH conference went well last weekend. The weather was bad--rain, at times pretty hard--but that was a good thing, because it kept everyone inside and at the sessions instead of out driving around the beautiful Georgia mountains. (The meeting was at Dahlonega.)

The only known color photograph of Lincoln. That's what I said when this popped up on the first slide of my PowerPoint presentation. A silly comment, I thought; the audience thought it was hilarious. I pointed to the corner with the little laser thing and said that if you look closely, you can see "Olan Mills." More laughter. I think the fact that I was giving the last presentation at the last session of the conference explains it.

Spring break has begun here at Kennesaw State. Woohoo! The first half of the semester passed quickly, but those last few days, I decided I was ready for a break from classes. I suspect my students felt the same way, at least about that last point.

The Inauguration String Quartet Revealed:

(hat tip to WFMU's Beware of the Blog)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In the Garden? Out the window

Today in the history of American religion class we were talking about chapter two ("Sweet Savior") of Stephen Prothero's American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. The chapter describes the move from the wrathful Calvinist God of the 18th century to the loving evangelical Jesus of the 19th.

Near the end of the chapter, Prothero quotes the first verse and chorus of "In the Garden," the hymn that perhaps best represents this new view of Jesus:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

"How many of you know this song?" I asked the students. There were 22 or 23 in the room; four raised their hands.

It's not that they're a bunch of heathens. I suspect the great majority go to church, or did until recently, on a pretty regular basis. And most of them, I suspect, are mainstream Protestants, the kind of people who would have heard this song often just a couple of decades ago.

I threw out the names of a few other hymns--"Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling," "O for a Thousand Tongues To Sing," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Shall We Gather at the River," "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "How Firm a Foundation"--always about four hands, the same small bunch of students. I didn't ask about "Amazing Grace."

How can one teach late 19th-/early 20th-century revivalism without "Softly and Tenderly"?

Fortunately there's NetHymnal, with over 10,000 hymns--not just lyrics, but tunes (midis) and brief sketches of the song writers.

I do love Prothero's book, though.