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 WFMU.org.

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.