Monday, December 31, 2007
And I owe all of this to those of you who read this blog everyday or just occasionally. Thank you very much. Your comments and links are much appreciated. It is a struggle to keep posting sometimes but I will stay at it as long as it is clear that people are reading this blog and I am still having a good time doing it.
Will I do this another four years? Time will tell. This blog has changed a great deal in the last four years. I wonder what it will be like in 2011?
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The winner was easily Cleopatra with over 60% of the vote. Helen of Troy got slightly over 20%. Mae West and Wallis Windsor both finished in single digits.
What do you think? Here are some more information on each of the choices.
Helen of Troy is normally reported to have been seduced by Paris. She did not seduce him. Some feminist scholars are claiming she was raped. It is hard to determine if she even ever existed.
Betsy Prioleau, author of Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love, said of Cleopatra, "The way Cleopatra got Julius Caesar is totally amazing. Here is a guy -- you can imagine Mick Jagger -- he was surrounded by groupies. All the women wanted this guy. Men went into battle singing this little ditty about all the women he'd had. Not only that, he was bisexual -- he had all the beautiful boys too. He had everybody. He was a jaded ladies' man. Here's a guy maybe 56 when Cleopatra saw him. When she rolled out of that rug, she was about 18 and not beautiful at all. Plutarch is clear about that. She rolled out and barraged Caesar with such a stream of charming conversation -- a 'charm offensive' through language. She addressed him in perfect Latin. Then perfect Greek. She told him jokes. Stories. Displayed her magnificent erudition. She was a brilliant women. She wrote a tract on weights and measurements, of all things. She was happiest in a library. It was said she had a 'voluptuous' love of learning. Caesar had never encountered a woman like this. He was so charmed he made her his mistress that night."
Mae West was mostly a seductress on the screen. Kendahl Cruver wrote, "When vaudeville became less lucrative, Mae wrote her first play, under the pen name Jane Mast, and starred herself. From the moment it opened, Sex was notorious. The critics despised it, but ticket sales were good enough to threaten the deputy mayor. A year into its run, he had the production raided for indecency. Along with the principal cast and producers, Mae was sentenced to ten days in jail. She served eight, with two days off for good behavior. She spent a comfortable conviction, even convincing the warden to let her wear silk underwear instead of the scratchy prison issue variety. Mae continued to write plays. With salacious titles such as The Wicked Age, Pleasure Man, and The Constant Sinner, they were plagued by controversy and production difficulties. If indecency didn't shut down a play, slow ticket sales would."
Wallis Windsor did not start a war like Helen of Troy. But she did bring down a king. From the Royal Scribe, "The question became, How could a woman like her get a man like him; so handsome and promising; to give up the British Empire? The most obvious answer became that she was a seductress who had tempted him from his duty. With two husbands behind her, she must have some strange sexual hold over men. And, with witnesses claiming that she ordered the King about and treated him like a wayward child, the popular theory came about that she must be some sort of dominatrix. Rumors abounded that, while in China, Wallis had frequented notorious brothels where she had learned special sexual techniques that no man could resist. Not only that, this information was said to be gathered, as it were, by British Intelligence."
Of course, my short list may have left off the most famous historical seductress. Feel free to comment on any other historical figure you feel belongs on this list.
Friday, December 28, 2007
The site about page notes, "HPOL is a collection of invaluable audio materials some available for the first time on this website capturing significant political and historical events and personalities of the twentieth century. The materials range from formal addresses delivered in public settings to private telephone conversations conducted from the innermost recesses of the White House. Our aim is to provide an accessible source of audio information to enliven instruction and scholarship in history and politics and to enable easy access for all persons to the rich audio archives of American history and politics."
This is a great site full of primary source material. Although the site is limited in scope, what is here is good. The site could use more material but it appears it stopped growing in 2002. I guess we will have to just enjoy what is here.
A few samples:
George C. Marshall, Commencement address, Harvard University (1947)
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon explaining his start in the movement for civil rights
Winston Churchill, The sinews of peace (1946)
Chief Justice Earl Warren eulogizes President John F. Kennedy (1963)
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Crawford writes, "The truth is that the provisional government, the so-called republic, and the U.S. occupation were forced upon the people of Hawaii against their will and without their consent."
Crawford's view of Hawaiian history is one-sided. It ignores primary sources which do not support his views. It ignores that fact that the Hawaiian Kingdom was imposed upon the majority of Hawaii without the consent of Hawaiians by King Kamehameha. (I guess that means the Hawaiian Kingdom was never valid...) It ignores democracy in the 20th century because the "wrong" people voted.
Thurston Twigg-Smith, whom Crawford is attempting to rebut, notes this. If Kamehameha's conquest by non-democratic means was legitimate, why was not the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom? Twigg-Smith wrote, "The test is how things progressed from the date of illegitimacy. The 18th-century residents of Oahu and the other islands he conquered accepted Kamehameha as their new king, and the residents of 19th-century Hawaii accepted the Republic of Hawaii as their new government."
Crawford appears to miss this point entirely. Are only non-democratic events in history you retrospectively like legit? Despite this, I believe Mr. Crawford is actually speaking up for democracy and would respect a democratic vote today.
I believe in democracy as well. Governments should not be imposed upon a people without their consent. I also believe that people should not have a southern style "grandfather clause" placed upon them to determine whether or not they are "really" a citizen of a locality.
If any changes in the status of Hawaii are to ever be enacted, they must also be enacted with the consent and the will of the people of Hawaii. Any defect in how things were changed in the 19th century does not justify denying citizens their rights in the 21st century. The citizens of Hawaii have a right to determine their own fate regardless of what happened between people who lived and died long before they were born. Beware anyone who seeks to deny anyone their suffrage by trying to determine the status of their ancestors in the 19th century.
Let's not impose a government on the people of Hawaii without "their will and without their consent." Democracy can indeed work. But only if everyone votes. Excluding people based on 19th century events would assure a non-democratic process and sow the seeds of chaos and probable violence.
History is indeed informative to today. Mistakes in the democratic process in the past (as evidenced by Kamehameha and later by the rebel forces in Hawaii in 1893), need not be repeated in the future in Hawaii. Let us hope the lessons have been learned.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
There is a lot of good content at this site. I lost myself for over an hour reading many of the pages. Here are a few I thought were worthwhile:
Convict life - A life of floggings, regrets, and more floggings.
Gallipoli - Remembering loss in a useless battle.
Australian immortals - The great heroes who were losers.
Politics - Beer drinking records, and missing trousers.
Whether you study Australian history or not, you will find this site fun and informative. Have fun!
From the site:
Today, the Convict memory continues to shape Australia 's cultural evolution. For some concerned citizens, the Convict stigma seems to inspire an obsession with championing migrant cultures, or Aboriginal cultures, so that the stain can be washed away. Such people would look at the above comments and criticise them as inaccurate stereotypes in modern day multicultural Australia and/or irrelevant to the traditions of Aborigines.
For nationalists, Convict history also seems to be problematic. As much as nationalists love history, there just isn't any moral resonance in pulling out grandpa's ball and chain for a street march that preserves the spirit of the founding fathers.
To help understand the cultural peculiarities of the Australia's concerned citizens and nationalists, as well as those Australians who don't identify with either, the Convict Creations web site explores those missing links in the Australian story that, although having a significant influence in making Australians unique, have been ignored by the official textbooks.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I am highlighting a site today (Noonsite: Piracy) that documents current events. It includes the latest reports of attacks or suspicious incidents on ships from around the world. It also features messages from yachts seeking protection, general piracy reporting information, and articles on defending against pirate attacks. The archives go back to 2003 and the pirate reports are updated regularly.
While this site is not history yet, I hope the data being collected is saved for future historians. The early 21st century is going to be remembered for a reemergence (hopefully brief) of large scale piracy. Accurate data will help to study this period.
From the site:
No other danger has marred the beauty of cruising more than the threat of piracy, whether on the high seas or in coastal waters. Indeed it is a risk that mariners have had to confront for many thousands of years, and the good news is that as far as attacks on pleasure boats are concerned incidents in recent years have been mercifully few in numbers. The situation is very different when it comes to big ships, which have seen a steady increase in piracy incidents in recent years.
Hot spots for reported piracy attacks on any kind of shipping are well known, and undoubtedly the main reason why there have been so few victims amongst cruising sailors is that they have heeded the warnings and avoided such areas as the Sulu Sea and other troubled areas in both the Philippines and Indonesia, the coast of Somalia or the vicinity of Socotra Island.
Unfortunately the maritime authorities are more concerned with attacks on commercial shipping and do not regard attacks on pleasure craft as a high priority or even to be their responsibility. This is reflected in the absence of hard information about attacks on yachts on most internet sites dealing with piracy.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Are the British starting to move away from World War Two as their defining moment? BBC History magazine editor Dave Musgrove said the choice of the Magna Carta anniversary may indicate the UK is moving on from a "dependence on World War II as the critical point in our island story."
Of course, the Magna Carta is English, not British. "The problem with a Magna Carta day is that this was originally very much an English, not a British significant event," said Linda Colley, Professor of history at Princeton University.
One commenter on the story noted, "My National Day would be the anniversary of the date in AD410, when the famous letter of the Emperor Honorius told the cities of Britain to look to their own defences, and as a result started a period where we have never again been occupied." Well, England has not been occupied but some Scots, Welsh, and Irish may feel differently...
The full story is Magna Carta tops British day poll.
Monday, December 17, 2007
But this is not always the case. Four men have stood out as amongst the worst through history. This may be just bad press but the evidence suggests these men were not people you would have wanted to have had to deal with. These are Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and Commodus.
A just closed World History Blog Poll asked, "Which of these men was the most evil Roman Emperor?" Nero was the consensus choice with 49% with Caligula following at second with 29%. Commodus got 11% and Domitian finished fourth with 9%.
Were these really evil men? You decide.
Tacitus noted how Nero murdered his mother Agrippina, "A night of brilliant starlight with the calm of a tranquil sea was granted by heaven, seemingly, to convict the crime. The vessel had not gone far, Agrippina having with her two of her intimate attendants, one of whom, Crepereius Gallus, stood near the helm, while Acerronia, reclining at Agrippina's feet as she reposed herself, spoke joyfully of her son's repentance and of the recovery of the mother's influence, when at a given signal the ceiling of the place, which was loaded with a quantity of lead, fell in, and Crepereius was crushed and instantly killed. Agrippina and Acerronia were protected by the projecting sides of the couch, which happened to be too strong to yield under the weight. But this was not followed by the breaking up of the vessel; for all were bewildered, and those too, who were in the plot, were hindered by the unconscious majority. The crew then thought it best to throw the vessel on one side and so sink it, but they could not themselves promptly unite to face the emergency, and others, by counteracting the attempt, gave an opportunity of a gentler fall into the sea. Acerronia, however, thoughtlessly exclaiming that she was Agrippina, and imploring help for the emperor's mother, was despatched with poles and oars, and such naval implements as chance offered. Agrippina was silent and was thus the less recognized; still, she received a wound in her shoulder. She swam, then met with some small boats which conveyed her to the Lucrine lake, and so entered her house...Meantime, Agrippina's peril being universally known and taken to be an accidental occurrence, everybody, the moment he heard of it, hurried down to the beach. Some climbed projecting piers; some the nearest vessels; others, as far as their stature allowed, went into the sea; some, again, stood with outstretched arms, while the whole shore rung with wailings, with prayers and cries, as different questions were asked and uncertain answers given. A vast multitude streamed to the spot with torches, and as soon as all knew that she was safe, they at once prepared to wish her joy, till the sight of an armed and threatening force scared them away. Anicetus then surrounded the house with a guard, and having burst open the gates, dragged off the slaves who met him, till he came to the door of her chamber, where a few still stood, after the rest had fled in terror at the attack. A small lamp was in the room, and one slave-girl with Agrippina, who grew more and more anxious, as no messenger came from her son, not even Agerinus, while the appearance of the shore was changed, a solitude one moment, then sudden bustle and tokens of the worst catastrophe. As the girl rose to depart, she exclaimed, "Do you too forsake me?" and looking round saw Anicetus, who had with him the captain of the trireme, Herculeius, and Obaritus, a centurion of marines. 'If,' said she, 'you have come to see me, take back word that I have recovered, but if you are here to do a crime, I believe nothing about my son; he has not ordered his mother's murder.' The assassins closed in round her couch, and the captain of the trireme first struck her head violently with a club. Then, as the centurion bared his sword for the fatal deed, presenting her person, she exclaimed, 'Smite my womb!' and with many wounds she was slain."
Suetonius wrote of Caligula, "Having asked a man who had been recalled from an exile of long standing, how in the world he spent his time there, the man replied by way of flattery: 'I constantly prayed the gods for what has come to pass, that Tiberius might die and you become emperor.' Thereupon Caligula, thinking that his exiles were likewise praying for his death, sent emissaries from island to island to butcher them all. Wishing to have one of the senators torn to pieces, he induced some of the members to assail him suddenly, on his entrance into the Senate, with the charge of being a public enemy, to stab him with their styluses, and turn him over to the rest to be mangled; and his cruelty was not sated until he saw the man's limbs, members, and bowels dragged through the streets and heaped up before him."
Roman-Empire.net noted of Commodus, "In the later stages of his reign Commodus became ever more obsessed with performing as a gladiator. He even changed parts of his palace into an arena in order to fight beasts there or gladiators. But Commodus was not satisfied with such private fights. He also appeared in public as a gladiator. For the Roman public, or at least the privileged classes, it was a harsh shock to see their emperor publicly debase himself to the level of a slave or a prostitute in the arena. For, in Roman attitudes, gladiators were indeed understood as one of the lowest possible levels of society. But Commodus cared little about such attitudes. He liked to appear in the arena dressed up in a lion skin as the ancient hero Hercules, son of Jupiter. There is little doubt that by this time Commodus was deranged. Senators had to be present at such performances, as their emperor slaughtered helpless animals or hapless gladiators. At one day he is said to have killed one hundred bears. Given this number, it is hard to imagine that the animals were anything but helplessly tethered with no chance to fight back and were simply stabbed to death. The fighters who would meet Commodus in the arena stood equally little chance. For if the emperor was armed, all they would have were harmless wooden weapons."
Of Domitian, one site noted, "Historians have described Domitian as 'crazy and unbalanced'. He suffered from social inadequacy and preferred solitude to the company of people. He had a distrustful nature and was constant in fear of conspiracies; the pillars of his palace were made of white reflective marble so that he could see what was going on behind him. Like Caligula, Domitian was very sensitive of his baldness and official portraits continued to show him with flowing locks of hair. Domitian was also notorious for his cruelty. He is supposed to have invented a new method of torture: burning the sexual organs of his victims. Domitian was capable of inviting an erring official to supper, dismissing him in such a way that the man retired happy and carefree. Nevertheless, the next day he was executed. Domitian also enjoyed asking senators to dinner-parties at which all the equipment was black, so that the guests were numb with fright. Like Vespasian, Domitian persecuted Stoic philosophers and Jews. He had all Jews, who claimed descent from King David, tracked down and killed. Very peculiar was Domitian's pleasure in catching flies, stabbing them with the point of a pen and tearing their wings out. "
Friday, December 14, 2007
Researchers have been discovering the genes and evolution do not always work as we thought we understood them. Evolution can happen quickly. It does not always take thousands of years.
I recently read Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem. In the book, he wrote about jumping genes and retroviruses. Moalem noted, "The capacity of African primates to support the persistent of other viruses may have put our evolution on fast forward by allowing more rapid mutation through exposure to more retroviruses. It's possible that this capacity helped spur our evolution into humans" (p. 153).
Further, Epigenetics is showing that genes can be modified in a generation to deal with issues such as famine. If the gene markers are not turned off after a few generations, the genes can be modified. The Scientist has an article on this titled Epigenetics: Genome, Meet Your Environment.
The article in Time does not deal with all of this but it is interesting. It postulates that evolution is occurring more frequently now due to a larger human population and the fact that humans live in more diverse environments. Schmid wrote, "Harpending and colleagues looked at the DNA of humans and that of chimpanzees, our closest relatives, they report in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If evolution had been proceeding steadily at the current rate since humans and chimps separated 6 million years ago there should be 160 times more differences than the researchers found. That indicates that human evolution had been slower in the distant past."
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I found the discussion on this post inspiring. I can come up with three bad war films! My reasons are different from those who posted (I am not clever enough to recognize the wrong uniforms and planes in the films) but I do like well told stories that at least try to be close to historical reality. Poor or silly story lines helped me come up with a list of three.
Wake Island (1942) - The ending of this film is entirely fictitious. The movie shows the Wake Island garrison fighting to the last man. In reality, they surrendered to the Japanese after repelling the first wave of the Japanese attack. They could have held out longer and may well have done so if the survivors had known what they were going to be in for at the hands of the Japanese. I do not find the film that well done well technically either. The film probably achieved the goal of helping encourage American men to enlist and to show that American soldiers were hard fighters, but the film is still bad history and makes the top of my list for bad war films.
The Patriot (2000) - This is not a bad action movie and do like Mel Gibson. However, the portrayal of the British in the film is unacceptable. They were not Nazis and did not participate routinely in the slaughter of children, women, and captured soldiers. They did not burn down churches full of civilians. And the Americans did not win the Battle of Guildford Courthouse. The British did. This film is just a really bad representation of the American Revolutionary War.
Independence Day (1996) - Ok, this film is not based on history. It is alternate history based on what might have happened if aliens bent on eradicating the human race had invaded Earth in the 1990s. It is not real history but it is a war film so I can include it on my list. The movie is exciting, has some good acting, and it technically brilliant. I actually loved the President's inspirational speech before the final climatic battle. However, how is it that a technologically advanced species that can travel between stars can lose dogfight battles with 90s era fighter planes? Why are their alien computers vulnerable to a computer virus? Is the evolution of computers on different worlds so similar that uploading a virus based on a human created programming language would have any chance of working? How is it that the aliens had such bad record keeping that they did not notice a ship missing for forty years (the Roswell crashed one!) attempting to dock on their mothership? And of course we also learn that an alcoholic dust cropper can learn to fly a fighter jet in under a day and win a battle almost all by himself.
If this topic interests you, go take a look at the post that inspired this at the Osprey Publishing Blog. Many films are nominated for a variety of reasons and it is worth perusing.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Snapp Conner PR for Footnote.com Jeremy Kartchner, (801) 994-9625 firstname.lastname@example.org
Footnote.com today announced the addition of thousands of US Air Force photos to their digital World War II collection. This release coincides with the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing, and contains tens of thousands of original World War II photos and documents from the National Archives. Among this collection are missing air crew reports, documents from allied military conferences and photos of Japanese air targets.
"They say that a picture is worth a thousand words," says Russell Wilding, CEO of Footnote.com. "What's exciting about this collection of photos is they also include captions that tell stories of the people and events in the photos."
Footnote.com has added these new pictures and documents as part of a much larger, ongoing effort to preserve the heroic memories and stories of the brave men and women that served in World War II and other wars.
"We are providing priceless content from our archives and libraries that is only a part of a much larger picture," continued Wilding. "While this is an extensive collection of history, we understand that many people out there have valuable pieces of history in their personal record collections within their own homes. We encourage everyone to upload their own photos, letters and documents contained in their old shoeboxes."
Footnote.com is leading the movement to preserve the documents and stories about World War II and invites everyone to join in this effort. Uploading photos and documents and creating memorial pages is completely free on Footnote.com. To view samples of these photos and other World War II documents, visit Footnote.com. About Footnote, Inc. Footnote.com is a subscription website that features searchable original documents that provide users with an unaltered view of the events, places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit Footnote.com.
Friday, December 07, 2007
It is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii today. It plunged the United States into World War Two. This very short video has footage from that day as well as the beginning of FDR's speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war. The video has the wrong year at the beginning (it is 1941 and not 1942!) but other than that is well done and worth a minute and a half of your time.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The Montgomery Advertiser has details. It notes, "The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. He is Army 1st Lt. Dixie S. Parker of Green Pond. He will be buried Dec. 6 in Arlington National Cemetery."
It is hard to believe that there are still unaccounted American soldiers from the Korean War. I guess it shouldn't be surprising as the fog of war and the chaos of the post-war political climate made it very easy for bodies to get lost. I know there have always been those unaccounted for in wars going all the way back to antiquity. How many families never knew what happened to missing kin in the Roman civil wars for example? It just seems that in the modern era that lost soldiers should be a thing of the past. This is probably an impossibility but at least the percentage of soldiers becoming missing-in-action for decades on end is much smaller.
Parker was assigned to Battery B, 8th Field Artillery Battalion, 25th Infantry Division then occupying a defensive position overlooking the Kuryong River in P'yongan-Pukto Province, North Korea. On Nov. 27, 1950, Parker was killed in his foxhole while serving as a forward artillery observer. His body was not recovered until recently.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
Lucas wrote, "Baron Manfred von Richthofen buzzed above the muddy World War I battlefields in his red Fokker tri-plane, downing a record 80 Allied aircraft on his way to becoming the war's top fighter ace and earning the famed Red Baron nom de guerre. But von Richthofen, who was shot down and killed just before his 26th birthday in 1918, has been a legend in limbo since Poland's borders moved west after World War II and swallowed the baron's hometown of Schweidnitz — today called Swidnica. The neglect has been largely due to apprehension about honoring a German, a legacy of the brutal Nazi invasion and occupation of World War II."
Swidnica resident Jerzy Gaszynski is attempting to have a memorial built. He said, "I think that with a figure this well-known around the world, it's a bit of a sin that he's not even that well-known here and that there's really no effort to remember him. Everybody here kind of said under their breath 'baron this, baron that,' but he was neglected, nobody was doing anything."
Gaszynski had a plaque put on the house the Red Baron was born in. It reads, " "In this house lived the best pilot of World War I, the Red Baron. Born May 2, 1892, he died in aerial combat April 21, 1918, Manfred von Richthofen."
Swidnica used to be a part of Germany. However, it was given to Poland after World War Two. So the Red Baron (German hero) was born in what is now Poland. As can be imagined, the Poles do not have fond memories of the German military. So, this makes it hard for the Red Baron to be honored in his hometown.
Lucas noted, "Honoring a German soldier in Poland, which lost some 6 million citizens under the Nazi occupation, can still be a touchy issue. The two countries continue to wrestle with efforts by some Germans to regain property lost to Poland when the borders shifted west after World War II."
It does seem strange that a town in Poland would honor a German pilot from World War One. However, the Red Baron is from the town. So it kind of makes sense.