Friday, December 21, 2007

now I'm NEVER going to get any work done

How have I missed this site?

Classic Television Showbiz has Christmas episodes of dozens of old TV sitcoms and radio shows. There's Dragnet, Milton Berle, Beverly Hillbillies, Addams Family, Howdy Doody, Brady Bunch, Honeymooners, Munsters, Three's Company, and more. Over twenty Christmas episodes of the Jack Benny radio show. (That's Benny playing the Christmas fiddle.)


(I found this on WFMU's Beware of the Blog.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

well, hell

I got home late tonight-- a few minutes after midnight. After a day in the office, getting ready for next semester, I had dinner at a friend's house and got home later than usual. And when I got home, the door to my apartment (I live in an apartment over a two-car garage) was open, broken in, with the wreckage of the forced entry (the siding of the door frame) on the floor.

The apartment was a mess. Drawers had been pulled out and emptied. I didn't have much worth taking. Several years ago, I developed the habit of saving quarters, because the washing machine would sometimes break down and I would have to take the family's laundry to the laundromat. That's not an issue any more, but I never dropped the habit of saving quarters, and I had a huge bowl full of them--maybe fifty dollars, I told the police officer--on the bar separating the kitchen from the living room. They were all gone, as was my father's old pocketknife--a cheap knife, but damn it, it was my father's--and an 1896 silver dollar that I had bought a couple years ago, both beside the quarters. A bottle of Lotrel, a prescription drug for high blood pressure, was gone, as was a new dvd player that I bought just last week and a couple of dvd sets, one borrowed from our local public library, one borrowed from another friend. As far as I can tell, that's all that's missing, except for a considerable chunk of my peace of mind.

UPDATE-- I discovered later that several cans of chunky soup are missing from my little pantry. This isn't a complaint, just perhaps a sad explanation for what happened.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

born on Christmas Day

According to Sitemeter, this piece, which first appeared here a year ago (and was originally published in the Cartersville Daily Tribune News in 2003), has been the most-read posting on Another History Blog.

Next Tuesday, we observe the birth of the man who brought truth and enlightenment to the world. I refer, of course, to Isaac Newton, born on December 25, 1642.

Newton’s father, an illiterate farmer, died three months before Newton’s birth, and Isaac was raised by a largely uncaring grandmother and various members of his step-father’s family. Nothing in his childhood indicated the greatness that lay ahead. But according to an old superstition, “The child born on Christmas Day will have a special fortune” (perhaps to make up for getting cheated on birthday presents).

Isaac Newton has been called the greatest scientist in history. He didn’t discover gravity (others had noticed it long before him), but he was the first to understand and explain it in mathematical terms. His three laws of motion remain the basis for classical mechanics. He invented calculus, the bane of high school and college students. His work on light became one of the two pillars of modern quantum physics.

Alexander Pope wrote of Newton’s accomplishments: “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and there was light.” But if he had been born a day earlier, Newton probably would have turned out to be a nobody.

Isaac Newton wasn’t the only Christmas Day baby. Clara Barton (born December 25, 1821) earned the nickname “Angel of the Battlefield” for her selfless nursing of the wounded during the Civil War. Later, she organized and led the American Red Cross.

Conrad Hilton (1887) was Paris Hilton’s great grandfather. I believe he also had something to do with hotels.

Believe it or not, Robert L. Ripley was born on Christmas Day of 1893.

I wonder if Joseph McCarthy, born on December 25, 1908, was somehow traumatized by red bows, red lights, red poinsettias, etc.?

The list of famous people born on Christmas Day includes bandleader Cab Calloway (1907); Egyptian president Anwar Sadat (1918); The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling (1924); singers Jimmy Buffett (1946) and Barbara Mandrell (1948); and actors Sissy Spacek (1949) and Humphrey Bogart (1899).

One person who was probably not born on December 25: Jesus. Many scholars place that event in the Spring. So instead of “God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, Remember, Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas day,” perhaps we should sing “… was born some time in May.” (Try it.)

Christmas was moved to December 25 to allow retailers a chance to expand their after-Thanksgiving sales. Not really. Here’s what happened. Early church leaders paid less attention to Jesus’ birth than they did his death (Easter), and so at first no one really worried much about when to celebrate Christmas. But in the middle of the fourth century, Pope Julius I declared that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated on December 25. He chose that date because there was already a major holiday at that time: Saturnalia, a lengthy pagan festival tied to the Winter solstice. By placing Christmas at that point on the calendar, Julius hoped to preempt Saturnalia and gain instant support for his new holiday.

And that’s how Isaac Newton became a Christmas baby.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


What Would DeBeers Do?

Bruce Barton, the "Barton" in the New York advertising firm of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne, said in his 1920s bestseller The Man Nobody Knows that Jesus was the greatest salesman and best ad man in history: "He picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world." (I mentioned Barton in this post.)

But after reading Edward Jay Epstein's "Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?" (Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1982), I think DeBeers is giving Jesus a run for the money: "The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life." It's an amazing story, as DeBeers and N. W. Ayer (an advertising agency) came up with the most effective advertising campaign in two millennia.

(I found the Atlantic article by following a link in Pharyngula.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

words, funny and otherwise

Cake inscriptions gone wrong This morning I was surfing along, following links, and somehow I ended up at a page from about some pretty funny goofs. My favorite:

For my 40th birthday, my husband decided to surprise me with a birthday cake from our local bakery. "In the middle please print 'Happy Birthday Nita,'" he instructed them over the phone. "Then, 'you're not getting older' at the top and 'you're betting better' at the bottom." When he went to pick it up, he discovered that they had decorated the cake with the words exactly as he had said them. "Happy Birthday Nita, you're not getting older at the top, you're getting better at the bottom."

Unlike most entries at, this one doesn't try to get at the veracity of the stories.

British soldiers weren't called "lobsterbacks"--at least during the American Revolution. J.L. Bell, at Boston 1775, reports on research by Christopher Lenney that the first American use of that word, at least in print, came with the War of 1812. Only then did historians begin using the term in connection with the Revolution.

Like a ring in a bell Over at Language Log, Arnold Zwicky recently discussed a new eggcorn: "like a ring in a bell," a mis-hearing of the phrase in Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode"--he "played the guitar like a-ringin' a bell." I love this stuff.

added later: I really dislike the "blockquote" function on Blogger. I'm sure there's a way to use it without messing up the formatting of the whole posting, but I haven't figured it out yet.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Georgia Carnival, y'all

Georgia Carnival
...The 22nd edition of the Georgia Carnival is up and ready for your visit. As always, good stuff, including You Know You're in Georgia When....

y'all...Occasionally someone will post a comment on something that's been up here for months. I just got a comment on a posting from last December-- "More than y'all wanted to know about 'y'all'". Turns out a North Carolina newspaper cited it a couple of weeks ago. It starts out funny-- I forgot about the redneck Norman Rockwell parody.

Happy weekend to all.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Steve Eberhart: See "Darkey, old-time"

Old history books, I tell my students, might be pretty lousy history--but they are often great historical documents.

Years ago, when I was working on my dissertation, I read A History of Rome and Floyd County [Georgia], by George Magruder Battey, Jr. (1922). The book has a photograph of Steve Eberhart, an old ex-slave. In the picture, Eberhart is wearing a huge hat with feathers; a Confederate battle flag on one shoulder, the U.S. flag on the other; and a sash with stars and the words "Rome, Ga." He's carrying two chickens. The caption notes that he is the mascot of the local Confederate veterans organization.

The text consists of three items clipped from the Rome newspaper (I think). The third one, dated simply 1920, is a heartbreaker.


GEMS FROM “UNCLE STEVE.” — Steve Eberhart, the slavery time darkey whose gyrations around Confederate veterans’ reunions with live chickens under his arm always stir up the ebullitions of guilty bystanders and others, yesterday submitted to an interview as he filled a place in the picket line at their meeting at the Carnegie Library.

“Steve, how does your corporosity seem to segashuate?”

“Fine as split silk,” promptly returned Steve, who had borrowed that expression in Cedartown.

“Well, Steve, do you suppose your opsonic index would coagulate should the Republican administration at Washington send down here and try to get you to accept an office?”

"It mout, boss, but dere ain’t no chance to git dis here Steve to cept no place wid dem folks.”

“Wouldn’t you like to represent your country in the jungles of Africa?”

“Lordy, boss, I’s skeered enuf o’ de varmints we have right here around Rome. And as fer dem cannibalists, you sholy don’t ketch dis old nigger furnishin’ de bones for none o’ dat missionary stew. Naw, sir, I’s bleeged to decline with profound deliberation. Dem ’publicans jes’ want de nigger’s vote. Steve Eberhart’s a lily white Democrat, Steve is!”—Aug. 7, 1921.

Steve Eberhart, the ancient Senegambian who dresses up in flags and feathers, mostly just before Confederate reunion time, has written a card in which he pours out his libations of joy and gratitude to the “white folks” for their generosity in giving him enough money to attend the state meeting at Albany. Steve hopes the fountain of satisfaction may overflow for his friends and the wax tapers burn brightly on high, while he stews in the sacred unction here below.—May 16, 1921.

“I want to thank the good white people of Rome for sending me to Texas to the Old Soldiers’ Reunion. I am thankful. I shall ever remain in my place, and be obedient to all the white people. I pray that the angels may guard the homes of all Rome, and the light of God shine upon them. I will now give you a rest until the reunion next year, if the Lord lets me live to see it. Your humble servant, Steve Eberhart.”—1920.


"I shall ever remain in my place...."

Makes me think of the Cherokees in western North Carolina who wear the war bonnet and stand in front of the tipi with their hands out.

Steve Eberhart learned who he was supposed to be back in the days of slavery, and at some point after emancipation, probably decades before this picture was taken, he decided (perhaps without realizing it) that he needed to keep being the "old-time darkey"-- remain in his place, be obedient to all the white people.

Or is this "puttin' on ol' massa"? I don't know.

White folks loved Eberhart and other African Americans who shared the "remain in my place/be obedient to white people" approach. In fact, several pages after introducing Eberhart, the book's author offers a section that pays loving tribute to them (including another paragraph on Eberhart). Here's a lengthy selection:


DARKEYS OF ROME, OLD-TIME. — Among the “segashuating corporosities” of the older colored folk of Rome may be mentioned the following, as mostly supplied by Richard Venable Mitchell:

Lewis Barrett: “Veteran barber, while an old timer, he says he is never too tired to entertain his friends.

Allen Collier: “His occupation is that of a cook. He knows how to prepare something that will satisfy one’s bread basket. His wife, Alice Collier, washed many a garment in her younger days, but as she was suffering from the white swelling, she retired about 15 years ago and has always lived with her old man. She never knew she was an offspring of one of Col. Alfred Snorter’s slaves. Allen does not belong to the aristocratic Shorter crowd, however.”

Charlie Coppee: “Retired drayman. Some eight years ago Charlie quit and has since been doing pretty much as he pleases as a butler in a good family on West Eleventh Street, Fourth Ward. He is 80 years old. His team consisted of a small flat-top wagon drawn by a slow-moving ‘hard-tail.’ He leaped to this city in 1885 from Athens. When he talks to you he squinches out of one eye and smiles out of one side of his mouth. He can still do a plantation breakdown if you give him a young enough partner and a shot of mean licker. In size he is very low and stumpy, but can cover ground. His home is in the rear of the place where he works.”

Ellen Pentecost Daniel: “A slave of Col. Alfred Shorter. She died in October, 1914, at the ripe old age of 73. One of the most appetizing cooks in her day. She was my nurse and I understand held the bottle for quite a number of Romans, all of whom remember her affectionately. Poor old soul; she never rusted, but wore herself out.”

Steve Eberhart (or Perry): “Profession, whitewasher. Steve came to Rome about 20 years ago from Athens, where he was the slave in the war of Col. Abraham Eberhart. He is the mascot of the Confederate Veterans of Rome, and in his attempts to attend every reunion of the Boys in Gray collects a lot of money under various false pretenses, and gets away with it. Some of his whitewash might well be used on himself, for he is as black as African midnight and nearly as small as a chinquapin, but he carries himself with an erectile strut that immediately becomes a dissembling shamble when he wants to pass around the hat. At reunion time he puts on his artillery uniform of red and gray, and lays a barrage of profanity that withers every new-fangled darkey that crosses his path. Under his arm is his pet rooster, borrowed from a convenient hen-house, and such feathers as are missing from the fowl’s tail can be found in Steve’s beaver hat. Steve is on the shady side of 80. His sideline is collecting clothes from the white folks so the women can wash ’em, and on his shiny dome he can balance a bag of clothes nearly as well as a watermelon. He is of the aristocracy, having been just after the war valet at Athens to Henry W. Grady and Ben Hill. He is a powerful orator, with ‘Fiddling Bob’ Taylor’s ability to cry on occasion, and if his education had not been cut short by Mr. Grady’s graduation from the University, he might have been the Daniel Webster of his race. While he has never been ordained as a minister, he can preach with the best of them. He served with his ‘marster’ in the war on the west Coast of Florida, and there learned how to fish.”

Ned Huggins: “Retired Armstrong Hotel barber and retired sexton of the First Presbyterian church. His good word was always ‘Call again.’”

Bob Lake: “Bob is only middle-aged but has old-fashioned ways. He still works when there is a chance to make an honest living. At Christmas time he helps the Rotary Club distribute baskets to the poor, and totes home a well-filled basket for himself. He is the handy man at Judge Harper Hamilton’s on East Fourth Street, but for 30 years has ‘drayed’ for the Simpson Grocery Company and is an expert at handling salt meat with a cotton hook.”

Mack Madison: “An old-time farmer who can always get together a mess of vittles like ham, cracklin’ bread, pot licker and turnip greens, in spite of the boll weevil and potato bugs. He is a shy old rascal, and when he comes to town, which is not often, he keeps out of the way of the police. If you eye him too closely or try to question him, he gets off like a rabbit through a brier patch. He has a sweet tooth, so keeps a bee gum, and is as industrious as anybody in the hive. Once he ignored a summons to court, and two officers brought him in. Asked by a friend why he finally went, he said his legs got in motion and his body had to go too.”

West McCoy: “Retired plasterer; uncertain age. He winks out of one eye because he has lost the other. He sits around on garbage boxes and holds out his hand for a penny, saying, ‘It takes only 100 to make a dollar.’”

Toi Reed: “Had a white beard and could cover lots of ground. His nephew was hanged near the old Rome railroad above the Southern crossing about 1900, and he was run out of Rome and is supposed to have died in Atlanta. He sometimes went by the name of Dr. Potter. He was a mortar mixer and boasted loudly that he helped build the Armstrong Hotel. His hobby was fine horseflesh, on which he was an authority.”

Augustus Sams: “Business is wood-chopper and age about 80. He chops wood all around the country, and for the want of a conveyance sometimes walks to Cedartown for a job, and then walks back. He will not quit chopping wood except to go ‘possum hunting or to eat a watermelon. He wears a black felt hat with a curve in it, only needs a turkey feather to make him look like a Dutch admiral; and he carries his lunch in a crocus sack. He has a keen sense of humor, but occasionally when outraged rears back on his dignity like an angry porcupine.”

“Mink” Sims: “A darkey of 25 years ago who hunted and fished a great deal, but was never known to hit a lick of work. He used to sing a song that started ‘Rabbit and the Hash,’ and which brought in the polecat, the jaybird and the other birds and animals of the menagerie.”

“Tip” Smith: “Passed to the other world Jan. 25, 1911, at the age of 77. He was an old slave who had belonged to Maj. Chas. H. Smith (‘Bill Arp’). After he got his freedom, he took up the trade of carpet and mattress stretcher and house cleaner, and made a very useful citizen. He hung shades, did wall-papering and generally helped many a housewife of Rome. At entertainments he was indispensable, whether it was freezing the pineapple sherbet or handing the guests their hats and coats; and many a grateful Roman said if he could have ‘Tip’ around at the final trumpet call, he would not bother to summon an undertaker. ‘Tip’ lived in peace and African plenitude on the gentle slopes of Blossom Hill.”

Martha Stevenson: “She is short and dark and wears a turban. For a long time she cooked for Mrs. Seaborn Wright, then served Mrs. Bessie B. Troutman at Pope’s Ferry, then was cooking for Mrs. Robt. Battey when Mrs. Battey died and now is indispensable at Mrs. Evan P. Harvey’s. She is nigh onto 75 and spry as a cricket, but occasionally complains of the misery in her side.”

“Uncle Towns:” Never seemed to have any other name, but worked many years around yard and flower garden of the I. D. Fords on Second Avenue. He wore a heavy gray beard, and his old back was bent from much cutting of grass and pruning of shrubs. He bore a closer resemblance to a certain large creature of the jungle than anybody in Rome. His fondness for little children was well known, but such as he didn’t like he would scarce with a fiendish grin.”

William Walker: “Not less than 80, but gets about like a man of 45. He is a retired plasterer and his earthly home is in Hell’s Hollow. He says he has mixed lots of Etowah River sand and slack lime for buildings in Rome, has always served the Lord and expects to make the acquaintance of St. Peter instead of the devil.”


The whole book is available at Google Books; the above excerpts are from pages 302 and 370-374.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

pink and yellow, blue and white, they're all precious in my sight

I'm out-voted on hot pink blue books, but that's ok. Turns out pink blue books already exist. From Wikipedia:

Blue books typically contain several sheets of wide-ruled notebook paper and have the words "Blue Book" across the front. However, the books' covers do not necessarily have to be blue; some schools use pink, yellow, or white covered exam books.

But now I'm curious-- Why are blue books blue (usually)? Who started that? Maybe something as simple as the printer had a lot of blue paper stock.

more yellow ribbons than you can shake a stick at

Ed Brayton, at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, links to a video from the Asylum Street Spankers titled "Stick Magnetic Ribbons on Your SUV" (to the tune, of course, of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree"). What got Ed started was all the bunkum on Barack Obama's decision not to wear an American flag pin on his lapel; the whole posting is worth reading.

Gerald E. Parsons, a folklorist with the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center, wrote a brief article on the origin of the yellow ribbon. Neat stuff. (There is a brief but updated bibliography at the end.)

On Educated & Poor, I saw this banner. It and more are available here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ibid., R.I.P?

Tomorrow, students in my methodology course learn to do footnotes, and when I say "footnotes," I mean, of course, Turabian.

Historians, from undergraduate majors on up, will recognize the name. Turabian is our bible ("The Gospel According to St. Kate") for citation formats and style. (Miss Ash, who is going to be a history major but pretends not to know it yet, will soon have to learn the rigors of Turabian. She needs the discipline--no pun intended--as she recently came out for "hot pink" blue books.)

The 7th edition of Turabian was published this past April, and for the most part, it's good. But the editors for this new revision did a couple of things that I find disturbing. First, they made "ibid." optional. ("Ibid." is the abbreviation used in notes to indicate that the citation is the same as that in the previous note.) No, that's not exactly right. They don't really offer ibid. as an option. They say that in such circumstances one should give the name of the author (or author/title), and then they offer this little gem: "Some writers still use 'ibid.' to shorten a citation to a work whose bibliographical data appear in the immediately previous note." Did you get that patronizing tone? "Some writers still use...." The Sixth edition prescribed "ibid."; now it's "some writers still use...." Well, I'm an ibid. kind of guy, so I guess that makes me "some writer" (and it makes me feel like Dr. Fossil).

Second, the editors added a completely new section, "Research and Writing: From Planning to Production." Generally it's quite good, but in the chapter titled "Planning Your Argument," they employed the Toulmin method of argumentation, which includes "warrants," "claims," "qualifiers," and other bunkum. Students don't get it, and I understand it just enough to know that I don't, either. We do talk about logical fallacies, but that comes in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow, it's footnotes, and I'm going to let 'em know that ibid. is still OK.

Monday, October 8, 2007

those blue book blues

Rate Your Students has ten midterm "forgot my blue book" excuses. Includes:

Muddled half-dressed coed: “Umm…I don’t have that blue sheet thing....”

Stoned young male voter: “What if I don’t have a blue book?”

Roaring Spring Paper Products recently came out with an examination book made of recycled paper. The cover is green, of course. We (faculty) got an e-mail message from the bookstore at the beginning of the semester to let us know that the new exam book was available and to alert us to a potential problem: "A large number of students are hesitant to purchase the 'Green Book' since you have specifically told them to buy a 'Blue Book.'"

I told my students either was OK. A colleague told his students that they might want to avoid the new one--"You don't know where that recycled paper has been."

I like the old blue books, though. Come exam time, a pile or two of blue books on the desk seems about right.

I got those blue book blues,
Lord, it's bluebooks all day long.
Said I got those blue book blues,
Blue, blue, blue books all day long.
Sometimes it seems like
Nothin' but blue books from now on.

I'd rather drink muddy water
And sleep in a hollow log,
Drink muddy water,
Sleep in a hollow log,
Than have to grade these blue books
And feel just like a dog.

Green books, on the other hand, sound too damn cheerful.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

another word for "claptrap"

A few days ago, I posted a brief note about John McCain's recent "claptrap" about the United States being a "Christian nation." And yesterday, in a conversation with a friend, I mentioned Asheville, North Carolina, where I was born. I wish those two events had happened in reverse order, because then I might have used a better word than "claptrap": bu******.

To explain, I will take the lazy blogger's approach and reprint a piece I wrote for my local newspaper a few years ago.


From Buncombe to Bunk

In 1816, the people of western North Carolina elected Felix Walker to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives. Walker was a colorful figure. He had traveled west with Daniel Boone to help establish the community of Boonesboro, Kentucky, and fought in the American Revolution and several Indian wars. He was a farmer, a merchant, and a land speculator. For several years, he was successful in state politics. Then, at the age of 63, he ran for Congress as a Republican (a Jeffersonian Republican--the modern Republican party wouldn’t form for almost forty years).

Although he was reelected twice, his career in Washington was less than spectacular. Realizing that he needed to keep reminding the folks back home that he was on the job, he made a speech in 1820 that ended up putting a new word into the English language.

The occasion was the congressional debate over the admission of Missouri as a state. The issue of slavery entered the debate when a northern congressman tried to amend the Missouri statehood bill so as to make slavery illegal there. Walker had little to say about what would become known as the Missouri Compromise, but he knew that his constituents expected him to say something. So on February 25, 1820, he rose to address the House.

Walker talked and talked, but said next to nothing. His colleagues, weary with the debate, urged him to sit down, but he kept going. Finally he admonished his detractors by saying that he was not speaking to them, he was speaking for the folks in Buncombe, one of the counties in his district. (Asheville is the largest city in Buncombe County, named for Colonel Edward Buncombe, a Revolutionary War soldier from the area who had been captured and died while still a prisoner.)

When people read the speech, reprinted in a Washington newspaper, they agreed that he had been “speaking for Buncombe,” and the phrase soon became popular for any frivolous, irrelevant, nonsensical, or questionable remark. By 1850, the word was often spelled “bunkum.” By the early twentieth century, it had been shortened to “bunk.”

Walker’s speech worked, by the way, at least for a while. He was re-elected in 1820, but lost his bid for a fourth term in 1822.

One of the most famous uses of the word “bunk” is, unfortunately, one that I as a history professor have to hear occasionally from disgruntled students: Henry Ford’s comment that “History is bunk.”

Actually, that’s a misquotation. In 1916, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune questioned Ford about his opposition to building up America’s military strength in light of the war in Europe. The reporter pointed out that, a century earlier, only England’s powerful military kept Napoleon out of Britain. “I don’t know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across there and I don’t care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today.”

Cultural critic Robert Fulford was perhaps being a bit generous when he wrote that Ford (who was actually something of a history buff) “thought that devotion to the past prevents us from grappling with the present and may encourage us to make war out of historical grievance. In 1914 all the European leaders knew history, Ford said, yet they blundered into the worst war ever.”

Still, I can tell my students that Henry Ford didn’t really say “History is bunk,” and he didn’t really mean that history is (to quote Roget) “balderdash, blather, claptrap, drivel, garbage, idiocy, nonsense, piffle, poppycock, rigmarole, rubbish, tomfoolery, trash, twaddle,” words that might be used in place of the “bunkum” inspired by Felix Walker.

The above first appeared in the Cartersville Daily Tribune News, August 1, 2004. Any of the listed words in that last paragraph could apply equally well to McCain's pronouncement.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ed Darrell takes on John McCain

... and McCain loses.

Ed Darrell, over at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, has the best discussion I've seen of why John McCain was wrong with that "Christian nation" claptrap. Read the whole thing.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Random comments for Sunday

The Drive-By Truckers brought their "Dirt Underneath" tour to Atlanta Friday night. The Variety Playhouse was rocking. They played for over two hours, the second more raucously than the first, due partly to a very enthusiastic crowd, but even more (I suspect) to the Jack Daniels and beer they were drinking onstage.

So I'll meet you at the bottom if there really is one
They always told me when you hit it you'll know it
But I've been falling so long it's like gravity's gone and I'm just floating
-- "Gravity's Gone," by Mike Cooley/DBT

John McCain's recent interview
with BeliefNet shows that he's forgotten his Constitution--either that, or he's pandering. Or both.

Q. Has the candidates’ personal faith become too big an issue in the presidential race?

A. . . .
I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'

Q. A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.

The 19th Georgia Carnival is up and ready for your perusal at Georgia on My Mind. As always, good reading.

"What an idiot," one might be tempted to say after reading Michael Medved's recent piece at, "Six Inconvenient Truths about U.S. Slavery." But then his readers come to his rescue with comments that make Medved look almost brilliant by comparison. Timothy Burke's "Knowledge Is Inconvenient" provides a good scholarly smack-down.

"Funniest comic I've heard in a long time," says Blue Gal about Demitri Martin, and she has the proof.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

THE Little Rock picture.

I was looking at this photo a few weeks ago in my office with a couple of colleagues, and someone asked about the young white woman shouting at the African American student. None of us knew who she was or what had become of her.

Now, thanks to a tip from Ralph Luker, we know.

Her name is Hazel Bryan, and her changing relationship with Elizabeth Eckford, the African American woman, is the subject of "Through a Lens, Darkly," an article by David Margolick from Vanity Fair. The photo is from Will Counts/Arkansas History Commission; the article is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Bryan's words at the time are lost to history, but can be easily imagined.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Let's Do Something Constitutional on Constitution Day

Two hundred and twenty years ago today, the Constitutional Convention met in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, for the last time. Since the middle of May, the 55 delegates had been writing a proposed new government for the United States of America. On this day, their work complete, they signed their draft of the Constitution and sent it out to the states for ratification.

Below, in honor of Constitution Day, is a brief essay by Dr. Joyce Appleby, emerita professor of history at UCLA. This piece was originally written for the History News Service and appears here with HNS's permission.


Let's Do Something Constitutional on Constitution Day

by Joyce Appleby

On September 17, Constitution Day, in 2002, scholars presented a petititon, signed by 1,200 American historians, urging members of Congress to assume their constitutional responsibility to determine whether or not to declare war on Iraq. Reminding them that Congress had ignored this provision since its 1941 declarations of war on Japan, Germany and Italy, the petition explained why the Founding Fathers gave this power to them and to no other body.

As the petition explained: "Americans deserve to hear their representatives deliberate about a possible war, lest such a momentous course of action be undertaken by the president alone after a public airing filled with rumors, leaks, and speculations." It continued: "Leaving the president solely in control of war powers" has been "to the detriment of our democracy and in clear violation of the Constitution."

Now, four years into a disastrous war initiated without a congressional declaration, no member of Congress has publicly raised this issue since. A majority of Democratic representatives actually voted against the resolution giving President Bush the okay to invade Iraq, but none has announced that it was time to stop amending the constitution by selective neglect. No one has even suggested a congressional resolution to make the point.

The American people revere their Constitution. They can't seem to get their fill of books about the Founding Fathers either. Yet there's something empty about such reverence if our elected officials ignore key grants of power.

Take the case of the executive authority over the military. Article 2, Section 2, couldn't be clearer: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Military of the several States when called into the actual service of the United States." Nowhere in this concise document is there any grant of the sweeping powers now claimed for the commander in chief.

Indeed, the congressional power to declare war and the president's power to head the military in time of war go together. The men who submitted their constitutional draft to the several states for ratification on September 17, 1787, left the declaring of war to members of Congress because their constituents would bear the brunt of war should they make the awful choice of resorting to violence. The Framers made the president commander in chief for efficiency and to avoid a dangerous concentration of power in Congress.

Passing resolutions giving the president permission to invade a country instead of formally declaring war is an evasion of responsibility on the part of Congress and a disregard of duty, moral as well as constitutional, to the men and women they represent.

Denying writs of habeas corpus, spying on Americans, abrogating treaties have all excited attention in recent years, but no abuse of power has graver consequences than leaving the war-making powers exclusively in the hands of the president.

The national rumor mill is full of stories that President Bush is planning to attack Iran. If ever there were a moment for Congress to reassume its constitutional powers to determine when American forces go to war, now is the time. Let's stop this silent amending of the Constitution that we hold so dear.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Charles Wesley and two blind boys

I'm reading Sing Them Over Again to Me: Hymns and Hymnbooks in America, ed. by Mark Noll and Edith L. Blumhofer. (Isn't that a great dust jacket?) My favorite chapter thus far is John R. Tyson's on "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," the Charles Wesley hymn that Tyson calls "the Methodist national anthem."

I grew up Methodist, and Tyson's about right.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer's praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The Triumphs of His grace!

A later verse:

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Savior come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

Years ago, when we sang that song in church, that verse always brought to mind a particular poem--and it still does.

One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys stood up to fight.
Back to back, they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise
And came to arrest the two dead boys.
If you don't believe my story's true,
Just ask the blind man-- he saw it too!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

slavery and the Civil War II

I recently posted briefly about the connection between slavery and both secession and the reason Confederates fought.

In comments, Miss Kitty, of Educated & Poor, asked for more information.

All right, here goes--

Correlation does not equal causation, but the following is interesting. The first list shows the percentage of free households that owned slaves in the various states; the second is the southern states in order of secession.

Mississippi: 49%
S. Carolina: 46%
Georgia: 37%
Alabama: 35%
Florida: 34%
Louisiana: 29%
Texas: 28%
North Carolina: 28%
Virginia: 26%
Tennessee: 25%
Kentucky: 23%
Arkansas: 20%
Missouri: 13%
Maryland: 12%
Delaware: 3%

South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
Florida (January 10, 1861)
Alabama (January 11, 1861)
Georgia (January 19, 1861)
Louisiana (January 26, 1861)
Texas (February 1, 1861)
Virginia (April 17, 1861)
Arkansas (May 6, 1861)
North Carolina (May 20, 1861)
Tennessee (June 8, 1861)

(I’ve seen this elsewhere, but I copied the slavery statistics from this site)

Georgia (where Miss Kitty and I both live) voted to secede from the Union on January 19, 1861. The secessionists explained their actions ten days later, in a document called Declaration of the Causes of Secession. Prominent among those causes: the victory of “abolitionists and their allies in the Northern States” who were guided by the principles of “prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, and the equality of the black and white races.”

South Carolina’s “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union” was more direct:

On the 4th day of March next, this party [Republican] will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.

From Mississippi's document:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

(All the above is from this website.)

Georgian Alexander Stephens, in a speech in Savannah on March 21, 1861, a month after having been elected vice president of the Confederacy, spoke of “our new government”: “Its foundations are laid, its corner stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery--subordination to the superior race--is his natural and normal condition.”

(text available here)

Rebecca Felton, the first woman in the U.S. Senate (and, like me, a resident of Cartersville, Georgia), wrote in her memoirs: “We, in the South, honestly believed we could engineer a peaceable separation. There is no doubt of the sincerity of the belief. It was not an attempt at revolt or insurrection or anything else but a resolute intention to own slaves and regulate slavery just as our forbears had been doing for nearly a hundred years. . . . It was slavery and nothing but slavery that made Georgia secede.”

(from Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth [1919], p. 80-81)

Here is the introduction to William Barney’s review of Charles Dew’s Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War:

“Will the South give up the institution of slavery and consent that her citizens be stripped of their property, her civilization destroyed, the whole land laid waste by fire and sword? It is impossible. She cannot; she will not” (101). In these words Stephen F. Hale, Alabama’s secession commissioner to Kentucky, laid bare the core argument of the secessionists committed to the break-up of the Union and the creation of a separate Southern nation. The secessionists insisted that Lincoln’s election in November 1860 as the head of the antislavery Republican party posed a direct and an unconscionable threat to the stability and safety of the slaveholding South. Submission to that election meant the certain destruction of slavery and a calamity of horrors for Southern whites that included impoverishment, degradation, and racial humiliation.

In his aptly titled Apostles of Disunion, Charles B. Dew examines the arguments and rhetorical strategies of the special commissioners sent by the seceding states to preach the gospel of disunion to slaveholding states still wavering on the issue of secession. Appointed either by their governors or by the secession conventions, some fifty-two men served as commissioners. . . .

Dew’s analysis of the commissioners’ message yielded one central finding: the absolute centrality of concerns over slavery and race as the prime justification for secession and hence the coming of the Civil War.

(from Civil War History 48 [2002]: 366-67)

There was more to secession than slavery, of course, but slavery was clearly the BIG thing.

Slavery led to secession, which led to the war. But why did Confederates fight? That’s a very different question. In What they Fought For, James McPherson examined the diaries and private correspondence of hundreds of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate. McPherson noted that unlike memoirs, often written long after the war with an eye toward justifying a particular cause, these more immediate writings--the diaries and letters home--“bring us closer to the real thoughts and emotions of those men than any other kind of surviving evidence.”

McPherson found that about two-thirds of Confederate soldiers expressed patriotic motives for fighting; they fought for their country, the Confederate States of America. “Sink or swim, survive or perish,” wrote one, “I will fight in defense of my country.” Another wrote to his wife: “I confess that I gave you up with reluctance. Yet I love my country dearly. . . . I intend to discharge my duty to my country and to my God.”

About forty percent (there were overlaps) said they were fighting for ideological principles such as liberty, constitutional rights, and resistance to tyranny. McPherson reported that he found hundreds of references in Confederate letters to phrases like “the holy cause of liberty and independence,” “southern rights and southern liberty,” “death before Yankee rule,” and “bursting the bonds of tyranny.”

President Lincoln noted that “the perfect liberty they sigh for is the liberty of making slaves of other people.” Still, only about 20 percent of Confederate soldiers explicitly said they were fighting to maintain slavery.

This is not to suggest that Confederate soldiers were antislavery, of course, or that they didn’t assume that the war would make the South safe for slavery. But it does suggest that the connection between slavery and “what they fought for” is not nearly as strong as that between slavery and secession.

There you go, Miss Kitty-- more than you wanted to know.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

slavery and the Civil War

Over at History News Network is a new piece by Robert Cook, author of the recent Troubled Commemoration: The American Civil War Centennial, 1961-1965-- "150 Years after the Civil War, Can We finally Remember It the Way We Should?"

"Southern whites," Cook writes, "must be shown what they were not shown in the 1960s: That they seceded and fought primarily to protect slavery and defend the racial order that was based upon it."

Cook--and everyone else--needs to separate the two. Southern whites seceded to protect slavery; they fought for a variety of reasons. It's two different questions. We can see this in other wars (Vietnam, for example), that there is an obvious distinction between the reason for the war and the reason individuals fought in that war. Why do we have so much trouble understanding that for the Civil War?

Friday, August 3, 2007

just in the nick of time

I thought I was going to have to spend the hour before lunch working on the syllabus for my Georgia History class this fall when, just in the nick of time, I see that Georgia Carnival 15 has shown up at Georgia on My Mind. Yay!! I can read that instead!

And, hey, you should too. As always, good stuff, including the introduction of my favorite Educated & Poor adjunct from west central Georgia as well as postings on travel, "good eatin,'" and more--the best recent postings from Georgia blogs.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

our newest (and oldest) graduate

Something pretty cool happened at our graduation ceremony yesterday (we have graduation after every term, including summer): As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kennesaw State University awarded a diploma to our oldest graduate ever:

Arthur Harris attended college for barely two months--when he was 17--before dropping out and joining the Navy. Decades later, while he was working in the skin-care business, he went to Georgia State University.

Now, at 81, he's finally earned his bachelor's degree.

Harris . . . received his diploma from Kennesaw State University on Monday. In a school that always has attracted nontraditional students, Harris was as nontraditional as it gets: He is the oldest student ever to graduate from the Cobb County university. . . .

For the past three years, not unlike his classmates, Harris took two or three classes a semester and stayed up late to write papers on his computer. He even went to Italy this summer in a study abroad program.

He was an English major. Now, according to the story, Harris is considering going back to school to get a second degree in psychology. I guess he heard those rumors about how tough it is for English majors to get jobs.

A story that has bothered me even more than I thought it would

This story (from The Primate Diaries):

The shocking news that four more critically endangered mountain gorillas were killed last week should make all primates of good conscience wince. Furthermore, one of the females was pregnant and another was nursing a five month old infant who is not expected to live.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, there are an estimated 700 mountain gorillas alive in the wild. The loss of these six gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo represents 0.86% of the total population. This would be the equivalent of slaughtering 5,910 endangered African elephants or 60 million human beings in a single week. In human terms this is the death of every man, woman and child in England (and nearly as many as the population of Congo).

Actually it was probably the images rather than the story itself.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"Bush justice is a national disgrace"

This past week, the Denver Post carried an op-ed piece by John S. Koppel, identified as "a civil appellate attorney with the Department of Justice since 1981." I came across it on TPM's, and I've seen it nowhere else.

It begins:

As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor "politics as usual," but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate - which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.

Koppel's piece deserves much wider circulation.

UPDATE: "I've seen it nowhere else" referred to a quick search of printed media. Turns out Koppel's piece has been reported in several dozen blogs in the last couple of days. Go blogosphere!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Neal Boortz is an idiot, and he's paid way too much

Folks have noted Neal Boortz's ranting this past week in which he claimed--repeatedly, even after a caller tried to correct him--that "Scooter Libby and Bill Clinton got sentenced and convicted for exactly the same crime."

But what really got me is this Boortzism: "Scooter Libby was sentenced to pay a $250,000 fine. That's a quarter of a million dollars, that's more than a lot of people make in a year." No, Neal. $30,000 is more than a lot of people make in a year.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Last week, in response to a meme tag from Ed Darrell, I mentioned a couple of facts about my genealogy-- lots of Methodist preachers and at least one presidential assassin (alleged).

Of course, the family tree is just one sort of genealogy. There's also one's academic genealogy. In graduate school, I was a George Tindall student-- "Our father, who art in Chapel Hill," as Bob McMath, another Tindall student, once said. Bob's right; one's grad school advisor is much like a parent figure, guiding and protecting, shaping the student's research, preparing the student for the world of the profession, etc. Tindall was a Fletcher M. Green student, which makes me Green's academic grandson. (I never met him, but I have Grandpa Fletcher's original American Nation series.) Green was a student of Joseph Gregoire de Rhoulhac Hamilton, who in turn was a student at Columbia of William Archibald Dunning, a fact that amused more than impressed my students as we discussed Reconstruction historiography.

And then there's blog genealogy. Blaine Bettinger, writing at The Genetic Genealogist, recently announced that the site has been given a Thinking Blogger Award. Recipients of the award have to name the next generation of winners. Blaine is in the 70th generation, and if one traces his line back to the original (as Blaine does on the site), Another History Blog is number five, the great (times 60-something) grandparent. (And I just realized I'm late coming to this party. Elementary History Teacher, who is number six, has already left a comment at Blaine's site, "I'm one of your blog great grandmothers....") Those seventy blogs would make a very interesting evening's reading!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Touch of Grey

I had students in my US History survey class read L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Ranjit Dighe's annotated edition, The Historian's Wizard of Oz). Discussion went well. To make sure they read the book before class, I told them they would have a little test on the book. I asked what color Dorothy's slippers were, of course, and I also asked what color Baum used at the very beginning to show the bleakness of prairie life. Most students got it right (gray), but over half spelled it "grey."

I blame it on Grey's Anatomy. What do you think?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I got memed!

Ed Darrell, over at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, did the Eight Random Facts meme and tagged me. Only for you, Ed....

The rules:
  • Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
  • Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
  • Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

OK, here we go:

1. One of my favorite snacks (Ed started his list with food) is graham crackers with peanut butter, washed down with a big glass of cold milk.

2. For years, I thought I was born on the same day that Patsy Cline first recorded “Walking after Midnight,” which would be an interesting fact to include here. But I decided to check first, and it turns out I was wrong: according to a dozen web sites, Patsy recorded on Nov. 8; I was born on Nov. 28, same year (exactly which year isn’t terribly important here). I don’t know what led me to believe that she recorded her first big hit on the wrong day.

3. John Harrison Surratt was my third cousin, six times removed. His wife Mary was hanged for her alleged (alleged, I said!) participation to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

4. I wrote an essay several years ago on how L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz reflected certain aspects of late-nineteenth-century American politics etc. It wasn’t a terribly original essay (nor did it claim to be), but it got picked up and cited/reprinted on a number of web pages and elsewhere. I still get letters and email messages about it. I especially like hearing from students who are doing Oz as a school project.

5. I was a science fiction fan in my younger days--and a huge fan of Isaac Asimov. When I was a senior in high school, some buddies and I went to a science fiction convention where I got to meet Asimov. I got him to autograph my program, and then, not satisfied with that, I picked up a copy of one of his novels from a table in the huckster room and asked him to sign it as well. But, wanting to keep a little of my dignity, I told Asimov that the book was for my English teacher. Asimov said he’d be happy to sign it--and he asked for the teacher’s name. Without a moment’s hesitation, I used my right arm to scratch my left shoulder, hence covering the name tag on my pocket, and said “Mr. Parker.” So my copy of Fantastic Voyage (Asimov wrote the novelization from the movie) is inscribed, “Dedicated to Mr. Parker, with best wishes, Isaac Asimov.”

6. I’m slightly tall (6’ 2”); my parents were both shorter by a foot (5’ 2”).

7. My father was a Methodist minister, as were three of his uncles and his grandfather on the Hamilton side, plus another uncle (I believe) on the Parker side. So when someone tells me I sometimes sound like a preacher, I tell them I come by it naturally.

8. Except when I’m driving, I generally listen to internet (rather than over-the-air) radio. I especially like

And there you have it--Eight Random Facts about me.

I'm supposed to pass this on. Let's see. . . . I'd like to know 8 facts about: A Typical Joe; South Georgia Liberal; Sweet Georgia Blue; Southern Pasts; Michael at Silly Humans; Ross at Primordial Blog; Djamine at Dark Side of Mars; and Dr. History.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monday morning

A friend/colleague had a couple of grad school buddies in for the weekend, from Alabama and South Carolina. We spent a couple of hours on Friday afternoon at nearby Pickett's Mill Battlefield, a nice site. At one point, conversation turned to how various contemporary journalists might describe that and other Civil War battles, which reminded me of this: How World War II would look if it had been a real-time strategy game. I saw it on the web a couple of years ago, and fortunately I was able to find it again:

*Hitler[AoE] has joined the game.*
*Eisenhower has joined the game.*
*paTTon has joined the game.*
*Churchill has joined the game.*
*benny-tow has joined the game.*
*T0J0 has joined the game.*
*Roosevelt has joined the game.*
*Stalin has joined the game.*
*deGaulle has joined the game.*
Roosevelt: hey sup
T0J0: y0
Stalin: hi
Churchill: hi
Hitler[AoE]: cool, i start with panzer tanks!
paTTon: lol more like panzy tanks
T0JO: lol
Roosevelt: o this fockin sucks i got a depression!
benny-tow: haha america sux
Stalin: hey hitler you dont fight me i dont fight u, cool?
Hitler[AoE]; sure whatever
Stalin: cool
deGaulle: **** Hitler rushed some1 help
Hitler[AoE]: lol byebye frenchy
Roosevelt: i dont got **** to help, sry
Churchill: wtf the luftwaffle is attacking me
Roosevelt: get antiair guns
Churchill: i cant afford them
benny-tow: u n00bs know what team talk is?
paTTon: stfu
Roosevelt: o yah hit the navajo button guys
deGaulle: eisenhower ur worthless come help me quick
Eisenhower: i cant do **** til rosevelt gives me an army
paTTon: yah hurry the fock up
Churchill: d00d im gettin pounded
deGaulle: this is fockin weak u guys suck
*deGaulle has left the game.*
Roosevelt: im gonna attack the axis k?
benny-tow: with what? ur wheelchair?
benny-tow: lol did u mess up ur legs AND ur head?
Hitler[AoE]: ROFLMAO
T0J0: lol o no america im comin 4 u
Roosevelt: wtf! thats bullsh1t u fags im gunna kick ur asses
T0JO: not without ur harbors u wont! lol

And so on (available here, and elsewhere).

On Saturday, a cookout/birthday party with the same folks and others. A lot of fun. We ended up playing a board game. I don't think I ever saw the title, but the basic point was that players have to list as many examples as they can of certain categories. At one point, I had "sexy movie actresses." After one or two names, my mind went blank, and I said "Julie Andrews," which resulted in more ribbing than I thought appropriate. Another time, the category was "famous people whose first and last names begin with the same letter." The others didn't like my "Daniel DeLeon" (late 19th-cent. American socialist--not famous enough, they said), so I raised an objection about Woodrow Wilson (his first name was Thomas). I won on the first point, lost on the second.

A week and a half into summer classes, and things are going well. The pairing of Clio Bluestocking's posting on her town's trauma and Eric Foner's Who Owns History? worked very well for my methodology class-- Thanks again, Clio.

Off to class. This morning, the Populists!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Eric Foner and Clio Bluestocking

The students in my methodology course this summer are reading Eric Foner's Who Owns History? Tomorrow evening we discuss the first couple of chapters, so I'm re-reading the book today.

In the preface, Foner describes how recent changes in the discipline "began to produce a long-overdue diversification of public history." As examples he mentions Boston, where the Freedom Trail "has now been supplemented by a Women's History Trail, a Black Heritage Trail, and a guide to the city's gay and lesbian history"; Greensboro, N.C., home of the sit-ins in 1960; and the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

As I read this, Clio Bluestocking's recent posting on "The Town Trauma" came immediately to mind. She tells how, in the 1880s, people in a town she has researched decided to erect a statue to the English military leader who, over two centuries earlier, had made the area safe for white settlement by getting rid of the natives, a feat he accomplished by a terrible massacre. His soldiers "surrounded the [native] village, set it on fire and killed anyone who tried to escape. The descriptions, written by the militia captains, are flat out chilling not just for the destruction that they describe, including the killing of children and elderly people, but also for the soldiers' expressions of deep conviction that they were doing the work of god."

Recently, Native Americans in the area expressed some dissatisfaction with the statue. The result was a confrontation that shows that, while Foner is correct about the "long-overdue diversification of public history," we still have a ways to go. I think I'll read Clio's posting to my class tomorrow.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

PZ's "Double standards in the public schools?"

P.Z. Myers's Pharyngula is one of the most popular blogs around, and I suspect that most of my dozen or so regular readers are fans. But just in case someone missed it, let me point the way to an interesting post this morning: "Double standards in the public schools? No, say it ain't so!" in which P.Z. describes and links to a couple of stories in the news.

In one, Shannon Spaulding used her valedictorian address at Wolfson High School (Jacksonville, FL) to try to save the souls of her classmates and their familes and friends. "I want to tell you that Jesus Christ can give you eternal life in heaven.... If we die with that sin on our souls, we will immediately be pulled down to hell to pay the eternal price for our sins ourselves."

P.Z. missed what was, for me, an important tidbit from the news story: "Spaulding told Channel 4 she was not aware of the controversy" her speech created. Here's a young woman smart enough to graduate at the top of her class, and yet she had no idea that her 20-minute sermon might be controversial?

The second story concerns a school in Albemarle County, Virginia, where Christian parents used the threat of a lawsuit to force the school to distribute a flyer advertising a local church's vacation bible school and other religious literature. The parents were then upset when other groups--a Unitarian Universalist church and a secularist summer camp--started sending their own literature home with the students.

Nope, no double standard there.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mark Twain's "War Prayer"

Over the last couple of days, several dozen bloggers have mentioned, linked to, or quoted Mark Twain's "War Prayer." I was behind on my blog reading and didn't see it until an hour ago on Daily Kos.

Twain wrote the story, which concluded with the following prayer, just over a century ago, in response to the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. The words are as pertinent now as they were then.

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Georgia Carnival

The Tenth Georgia Carnival is up at Georgia on My Mind. Tenth? Has it been that long? Check it out--Elementary History Teacher, the carnival's founder and this edition's host, has done another wonderful job!

weekend reading

A couple of pieces worth reading during this long weekend.

Andrew Bacevich, a politically conservative scholar who has long opposed the current war, has an essay in today’s Washington Post. “Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.’s life is priceless,” he writes. “Don’t believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier’s life.” Bacevich lost his son in Iraq a couple weeks ago.

D.R. Scott discusses and links to a recent column in the Boston Globe on “how and why enlistments of African-Americans are at their lowest numbers since the all-volunteer military was created in 1973.” Part of the answer: “This is not a black people’s war. This is not a poor people’s war. This is an oilman’s war.”


. . . or, How Would Jesus Smell?

Attaturk links to a press release:

The world’s first spiritual perfume – Virtue® – was Premiered this week by IBI, a niche fragrance company in Orange, CA. Based upon an inspired Biblical formula, the perfume is designed to be a reminder of God, Christ, spiritual self and soul.

“We turned to the Bible to seek inspiration about which items to include and became convinced that a formulation would reveal itself,” explains Rick Larimore, IBI’s chief executive officer. “Creating Virtue® has been a journey and adventure through fragrance and scripture, with remarkable miracles confirming our choices.”

Virtue®’s subtle blend includes top notes of apricot (the real “forbidden fruit”), pomegranate and fig that transition to a gentle heart of iris, warming to a golden base of rich, exotic woods of frankincense, myrrh, aloe, and spikenard....

“The Bible documents that fragrance was associated with Christ and many of the ancient saints, including last century’s Padre Pio, gave off a fragrance that was associated with virtue,” explains Larimore.

IBI notes that “it will introduce a Biblically based moisturizing lotion soon.”

It just ain’t right. Or maybe I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

Actually, IBI didn’t think of it first. A couple years ago, I read about a South Dakota couple who developed and marketed this:

Light up the candle called “His Essence” and its makers say you’ll experience the fragrance of Christ.

Bob Tosterud and wife Karen say the formula is all spelled out in Psalm 45. “It’s a Messianic Psalm referring to when Christ returns and his garments will have the scent of myrrh, aloe and cassia,” says Karen Tosterud.. . . .

“You can’t see him and you can’t touch him,” says Bob Tosterud. “This is a situation where you may be able to sense him by smelling. And it provides a really new dimension to one’s experience with Jesus.”

I hadn’t thought of the Tosteruds and their candle for a long time, and when Attaturk reminded me of it, I did a quick Google search and discovered that “His Essence” was only the beginning. The original is still available, but two new candles have been added: Resurrection and Servanthood. According to the website, Resurrection is based on John 19:39-40: “Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” From a marketing standpoint, I’d be concerned with trying to sell something explicitly based on masking the smell of dead people.

Servanthood, based on John 12:3, is more promising. “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Reminds me about that verse about how there’s one born every minute.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Meanwhile, back in Kennesaw....

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been a month since my last posting. . . .

No, wait, I'm not Catholic.

It's been a quiet month in Lake Wobegon. . . .

No, that's not right either.

A couple of things came up that kept me away from the blog for a while, and I just never got back to it. No excuses, no further explanation, I just took a long unannounced break.

Early this morning, I saw that One Blog a Day recently featured Ed Darrell's Millard Fillmore's Bathtub. I thought "Go, Ed!" He deserves the attention. And then, just a few hours after I read that, Ed added a comment to my last posting here: "'No students' means 'no posting?' Hurry back, please."

OK, I guess Ed's comment was all I needed. Here I am.

It's been a good month. Our Civil War Symposium went well. Good speakers, and a good crowd. I was happy to finally meet LeeAnn Whites, who has written on Rebecca Felton, a champion of women's rights and the first woman in the U.S. Senate (and, like me, a resident of Cartersville, Georgia--well, she resides in the city cemetery). LeeAnn didn't know that the old Felton home, built in the 1850s, burned down a few years ago. I go to the home site every once in a while as I drive around town, and I always pick up a few of the old nails (the ruins have not been cleared). I gave one of the nails to LeeAnn, and she was happier than I would have imagined to have it. She's a very pleasant person, as were all the speakers.

Spring classes ended. One, the senior seminar, I'm especially going to miss. I had a really great bunch of students, the sort of combination that you might expect maybe once in a half-dozen years.

Summer classes begin next week. I'm teaching three. Three classes is a full-time load during the regular year, so this is a killer schedule for the summer (8 weeks rather than 15). One of the classes is the second half of the US survey, and I'm going to use The Historian's Wizard of Oz, edited by Ranjit Dighe. (This edition contains the entire text of L. Frank Baum's book, plus Dighe's extensive annotations on how the story reflects late-nineteenth century politics, economics, and culture.) I've thought about using it before and always chickened out. We'll see how it goes. I'm also doing a section each of Georgia history and the methodology course. I get tired just thinking about this!

While I was away, Elle abd became Elle PhD! For non-academic readers, "ABD" is an informal designation for PhD students who have completed the coursework for the degree but not the dissertation--"all but dissertation." Sadly, ABD ends up being a terminal degree for some, but Elle made it!

All right, those syllabusses for next week aren't going to write themselves. See y'all next month. (Just kidding.)