Friday, August 7, 2009

that looks like "Peach Papers," doesn't it?

Hot off the (University of South Carolina) Press: a new edition of Bill Arp's Peace Papers, with an introduction by me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

loving my students

I met for the last time yesterday with my methodology class. It was a good group of students. In lieu of a final exam, we talked about "what we've learned this semester." As part of the discussion, I read out loud the long list of course objectives. After the one about "students will learn to use Chicago style (Turabian) footnotes," one student said she had a great idea for a t-shirt slogan: "Historians do it Chicago style." Man, I'm going to miss them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

worst record ever?

Bob Purse, writing at WFMU's Beware of the Blog, describes his experiences with what could well be the worst record ever made.

My story begins well over 25 years ago, back to the day when I heard Dr. Demento play an excerpt of a 45 called "I'm Surfing" by George W. Husak. This was during a segment on some of the worst records in his collection. I was intrigued, and was quite glad when, several years later, the good doctor played the record in its entirety, prefacing it with the following (edited) comments: "If you asked me, 'what is the worst musical performance that was ever actually released on a 45 … a record that somebody actually expected somebody to go out and buy,' this might well be my choice. It's from some time in the early to mid '60's, and it came out on a label based in San Francisco. The perpetrator of this truly incredible performance is one George W. Husak." Here is that record....

Bob Purse has posted an MP3 of "I'm Surfing," and oh my god, it's awful.

But that's not all. He found a copy of this LP, George's Album. A dozen songs, all in that inimitable Husak style. Hear Georga and Anton give Bob Wills's "San Antonio Rose" and Hank Williams's "Cold, Cold Heart" that special Husak treatment. Enjoy.

(On the WFMU blog, it's quickest to click on the little blue box in front of the title.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Food of a Younger Nation

Mark Kurlansky, author of two of the best-known commodity histories
(Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History), is just out with a brand new book that should get a lot of attention. The Food of a Younger Nationtakes us back to the food and eating habits of a younger America: Before the national highway system brought the country closer together; before chain restaurants imposed uniformity and low quality; and before the Frigidaire meant frozen food in mass quantities, the nation’s food was seasonal, regional, and traditional. It helped form the distinct character, attitudes, and customs of those who ate it.”

From the publisher’s description:

“In the 1930s, with the country gripped by the Great Depression and millions of Americans struggling to get by, FDR created the Federal Writers’ Project under the New Deal as a make-work program for artists and authors. A number of writers, including Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, and Nelson Algren, were dispatched all across America to chronicle the eating habits, traditions, and struggles of local people. The project, called ‘America Eats,’ was abandoned in the early 1940s because of the World War and never completed.

“The Food of a Younger Land unearths this forgotten literary and historical treasure and brings it to exuberant life. Mark Kurlansky’s brilliant book captures these remarkable stories, and combined with authentic recipes, anecdotes, photos, and his own musings and analysis, evokes a bygone era when Americans had never heard of fast food and the grocery superstore was a thing of the future. Kurlansky serves as a guide to this hearty and poignant look at the country’s roots.

“From New York automats to Georgia Coca-Cola parties, from Arkansas possum-eating clubs to Puget Sound salmon feasts, from Choctaw funerals to South Carolina barbecues, the WPA writers found Americans in their regional niches and eating an enormous diversity of meals. From Mississippi chittlins to Indiana persimmon puddings, Maine lobsters, and Montana beavertails, they recorded the curiosities, commonalities, and communities of American food.”

The book reminds me of my friend Joe Dabney’s Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Appalachian Cooking, which won a James A. Beard Award (as Kurlansky did for Cod). I get hungry whenever I read Joe’s book, and now the same thing happens with Kurlansky’s. My North Carolina grandmother made “Kentucky Wilted Lettuce”--leaf lettuce, torn, covered with sliced green onions and then “wilted” with hot bacon grease. She taught me how to put crumbled cornbread in buttermilk. I haven’t had wilted lettuce or cornbread in buttermilk in a long time.

The book describes “Oyster Stew Supreme at Grand Central, New York” and oyster roasts in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina, as well as the other kind of culinary oysters--Kentucky Oysters” and “Oklahoma Prairie Oysters.” I’m a big fan of the first kind of oyster.

It's hard to believe that these wonderful pieces have remained unpublished for seventy years. Kurlansky came across them when he was working on Choice Cuts, a best-of collection of food writing through history. I’m glad he did, and that he had the sense to put them together into this book. A friend who teaches American Studies saw the book on my desk and said that she might use it in one of her classes. I can see that. Students would love it, and I can imagine a class drawing all sorts of observations about American culture(s) from the book. Plus it would be fun, as the piece in the book goes on for nearly 400 words about Kentucky oysters without saying that they are hog testicles.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (8)

Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1921

Yet another set 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.

Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1910

New York Times, February 28, 1909

New York Times, November 30, 1907

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

those crass insurance companies

Click image to embiggen.

On April 12, 1899, Alfred Cranford was allegedly murdered (and his wife, Mittie, raped) by Sam Hose, who would pay with his life in one of the most horrific lynchings in Georgia history. One of the generally unknown parts of that horrible story is the way the life insurance company used the event for advertising.

This ad, from the Atlanta Constitution, May 19, 1899, contains a letter from Mittie Cranford thanking the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York for its prompt and courteous payment of the claim. "I can truthfully say that the beneficent results of life insurance were never more fittingly bestowed than in my case," she wrote, "as this policy comes like a god-send to assist me in educating and bringing up my four little children."

My favorite part: the box in the upper right corner. "A Side Light on the Cranford-Hose Tragedy / The Thoughtful Husband -- The Thankful Widow." "A Splendid Investment"! For a $2,000 policy, Alfred Cranford paid only $84 in premiums, giving a "Profit over Cost" of $1,916.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

spell checker epic fail

Last week of classes, so I'm sitting here trying to grade three sets of papers while I take care of those students who stop by my office to ask (as the jailer at Philippi asked Paul), "Sir, what must I do to be saved?"

I think this is the winner for the semester. I can't believe anything will top this. A student referred in a paper to the Second Seminole War, and it came out "Second Seminal War."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (7)

Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1899

Yet another set 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.

New York Times, Feb. 12, 1906

Atlanta Constitution, Jan. 1, 1911

Chicago Daily Tribune, March 22, 1920

Los Angeles Times, Nov. 14, 1909

an old joke, updated

Rick Perry, Texas governor -- voted "most likely to secede" by his high school class

"There's a lot of different scenarios. We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (6)

Atlanta Constitution, Feb. 15, 1898

Yet another set 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.

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 1897

New York Times, Dec. 25, 1893

Chicago Daily Tribune, Aug. 28, 1931

Thursday, April 9, 2009

12-step program for apostrophe abuse

"Programme," actually, because Lauren is British.

This is just beautiful
. I'm reading and grading papers this afternoon, and I just wrote, for the umpteenth time, "Do not use an apostrophe to create plurals!" Since I can't drink for a few more hours, stumbling on this while taking a brief Apostrophe Abuse break was, from a mental health standpoint, most fortuitous.

Step 1 --

1. Admit you have a problem - It’s ok, you’re in the safety of your anonymous interwebbed life. I won’t know. Just admit to yourself, out loud:

My name is X and I don’t know how to use an apostrophe. I force them into plural words where they don’t want to go. Yes, that’s me, I commit these crimes because I don’t know any better. I want help.

Steps 2-12 here.

advertising: fooling all the people (5)

New York Times, November 28, 1897

A special Macy's and Gimbels edition 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.

New York Times, December 6, 1930

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Yesterday morning, on Car Talk, one of the guys (Tommy, I think) used the word "aforementioned," except he pronounced it "afromentioned." I've heard him do it before, and I've heard it from one or two other speakers.

OK, I understand that people sometimes reverse sounds when they talk, and it's especially believable when they're reading from a slightly-unfamiliar script. But no one would make this mistake in writing, right?

Wrong. A quick Google search turns up over 1200 "afromentioned" and variations. Not all are wrong. Someone uses "Afromentioned" as a screen name; a screen name "afro" leads to the construction "afro mentioned...."; and I think a few of these were intended as jokes. But most meant "aforementioned."

A few examples:

The Afro mentioned cowboy . . . . (This is from a transcript of a Katie Couric on-air piece. The short video is available, and yes, she says "afro mentioned.")

Next to the afro-mentioned McQueen and Robinson, there's the always reliable Karl Malden . . . . (from a comment on

This layer 27 may not be formed thick owing to the afro-mentioned reason . . . .
(from a US patent)

A sixty (60) day notice explanation for vote will be made to the afro mentioned members.

i believe the afro mentioned list of songs is pretty good.

I searched the aforementioned "afromentioned" in the Eggcorn Database, but I don't see it there.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Responsibilities of American Citizenship

A short film I'm going to show my class on Monday. Produced by the National Education Program and distributed in 1955, the film vividly shows how the Cold War affected American society. There's so much to talk about here--religion (notice that "fundamental belief in God" is at the base of the building blocks that support "the American way of life"), economic prosperity, bad haircuts, and so much more. An infuriating line is at 6:25: "Private ownership diffuses the wealth and economic power over the very widest area." What??

video from the amazing Internet Archive

Friday, April 3, 2009

Booker T. and the DBTs

Through the magic that is Internet Archive, four songs from a great show: Booker T. (formerly of Booker T. and the MGs) and the Drive-By Truckers, April 1 at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse. Booker T's new album, Potato Hole, will be released in a few weeks, and they're out promoting it. This was the opening show of the tour. From here, they go to Australia. "Pound It Out" is from the new album; "Green Onions" and "Time Is Tight" are Booker T. classics; "Gravity's Gone" is one of my favorite DBT songs. (DBT played a long second set.) The next day I told folks that I was smiling so hard for those first 75 minutes that my face hurt.

Pound It Out

Green Onions

Time Is Tight

Gravity's Gone

Thursday, April 2, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (4)

Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1959

A fourth set 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.

Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1921

New York Times, February 11, 1901

Boston Daily Globe, January 18, 1897

Los Angeles Times, June 19, 1907

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

advertising: fooling all the people (3)

Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1955

For your enjoyment, another 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.

New York Times, February 12, 1902

Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1923

Los Angeles Times, March 3, 1895

Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1943

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)