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A letter from a freedman named Jourdon Anderson to the southerner who kept him in slavery, August 7, 1865:

We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

So many parts to love in this, but my favorite is where Mr. Anderson carefully totals the back wages owed for his years as a slave, and gives an address to send the money.

(hat-tip Corey Robin)

(as usual, Ta-Nehisi Coates is ahead of us all)


(Part one here, part two here)

Having ended up with thousands of photographs from an archival research trip to Britain, I returned to the United States and realized that I had to figure out what to do with them. In essence, by using the digital camera, I had transferred the work of sifting, reading, and note-taking the sources from the archive itself to my home. What had been a concentrated effort in the archive, with multiple layers of seeking, finding, and judging all going on at the same time, had become more spread out.

The solution lay in both new tools and new methods. Unlike my earlier approach, I actually planned out ahead of time the process I was going to use to take notes. I would load the pictures into Scrivener, my writing tool of choice at the moment, and take notes on them directly into the program. That way I wouldn’t have to switch back and forth between photo application and note-taking application. Each individual item (following my practice) would include the information or quote I wanted to remember and the citation to its source (Scrivener could do citations that MS Word would recognize and format as footnotes when I exported the prose to the manuscript, making this even more useful). If I could think of the text I might actually use in the eventual manuscript, I would try to write a paragraph incorporating the information/quote in it, with the citation. Then, when I came to writing, I would have complete nuggets of text, all ready to be placed into the draft.

This went wrong almost immediately. Scrivener was not designed to hold lots of large photos (2 MB + each) and started to slow down as I put more and more into it. It wasn’t going to be able to handle hundreds, let alone thousands of large files. I thus looked around for something that could handle such large files. Eventually, after trying a range of applications, I settled on Devonthink Pro (now Devonthink Pro Office). The developers emphasized large-scale document storage, analysis, and retention as the primary goal of the program. It had other tempting attributes: OCR was built-in, it supported scanning directly into the program, and it had reasonably useful text-handling attributes. It did lack the ability to create footnotes in its text, which munged my process a bit.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot. Read the rest of this entry »

220px John Tyler by George P A Healy

John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, may not have been a particularly remembered executive (except perhaps as the trailing end of “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too“), but he, his children, and grandchildren quite nearly cover the span of the American nation. Tyler himself was born in March, 1790, just over a year after the Constitution, having been duly ratified, came into force. He lived until 1862, dying in the greatest test of that nation (and also the war of the greatest American general, although Tyler tried to join up the wrong side).

During that life, he fathered fifteen children, the latest, Pearl Tyler, coming only two years before his death in 1860. Her mother, Tyler’s second wife, Julia, was thirty years John’s junior. The youngest children of that union, Lyon, Robert, and Pearl, lived well into the 20th century, Pearl dying the last of all in 1947.

Two of Lyon Tyler’s son are, as of 2012, still alive, and living in the ancestral mansion “Sherwood Forest,” Lyon Jr., and Harrison. They are the third generation of a family that spans the Republic (and is trending on Twitter), and makes it personal in their memories. I can’t help but imagine that it is that deep sense of America that informs Harrison Tyler’s judgment of Newt Gingrich: he’s a “big jerk.”

It’s positively constitutional, it is.

(Full genealogy here).

The DSCC will give you a bumper sticker saying “This is a blue car” for your $5 donation. That’s a pretty good bumper sticker. But if you really wanted to be a brie-snorting decadent coastal fifth columnist, as a friend points out, it would say, “Ceci n’est pas une voiture rouge.”

The best part of Bob Dole’s sandbagging of Newt Gingrich – and a distinctly Doleful touch – is this passage:

if we want to avoid an Obama landslide in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney

Not, mind you, “if we want to win” – just “if we want to avoid an Obama landslide.”

Loooong-time readers of this blog will be unsurprised that I agree with Charles Pierce about Tim Thomas’s right to refuse an invitation to the White House. Thomas’s politics aren’t mine. In fact I’ll go so far as to say they’re loopy. But it’s perfectly honorable to say “no thank you” to a White House invitation for political reasons. Especially when you do it with reasonable class.

I think I’d be softer on an invitation to a private function. One does perhaps have a duty to advise a president. But ceremonial functions are fair game for refusals as statements.

Roald Dahl, Aldous Huxley, JG Ballard, and lots of others have turned down an hono(u)r from the Crown.

Near the beginning of the new film version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, just after he gets kicked out of the Circus, George Smiley gets a new pair of glasses.1 In contrast to the horn-rims he’s been wearing, the new frames are squarish bifocals that magnify his eyes.2 They remind us Smiley has, in exile, become a watcher, rather than a player.3 He’s removed from the action, behind glass.

And throughout the movie, so are we. Read the rest of this entry »

The occupation of UC Berkeley’s anthropology library ended Saturday evening when campus administrators agreed to meet the demands of protesters and restore the library’s hours.

Ronald Reagan with Newt Gingrich
What did you say your name was?

Reading this Wall Street Journal article about Newt Gingrich’s short but odd career as a history professor,* I felt the need to explore what the other people in the story were thinking. Obviously, I have no direct knowledge of West Georgia College or the people there, but I have been at an academic institution for a while.

In addition to the normal application materials, Gingrich submitted his reading list for the last three months to the history department at WGC. He had read 26 books, though they were “too eclectic for a specialist” Gingrich confessed in his letter to the department. Nonetheless, Benjamin Kennedy, the chair, talked to him on the phone, thought he sounded nice, and hired him. Even early on, Gingrich was not shy:

A year into his first full-time teaching job, Newt Gingrich applied to be college president, submitting with his application a paper titled “Some Projections on West Georgia College’s Next Thirty Years.”

According to a history professor, this “‘drew a chuckle'” from administrators. Gingrich did not get the job, needless to say, but he applied undeterred for the chairship of the history department when it came open the next year. This was not funny. It was one thing to apply for the Presidency, but presumptuous to apply for a job with real power. Gingrich’s application was not greeted “so kindly.” Kennedy ruefully recalled him as being “Well, he seemed pretty energetic, young, ambitious. God, always that.”

At this point, there seems (I speculate) to have been a meeting of minds between the administration and the history department on how to distract Gingrich into less bothersome pursuits. The answer? A committee! Read the rest of this entry »

Or so it seems. No, I’m not talking about Joe Paterno again [spits]. I’m talking about the description of the United States as a Grand Experiment in democracy or sometimes as a lower-case grand experiment in democracy. I always assumed that one of the founders* said that, that it was a quote in other words. But no, it seems that’s not the case. Unless I’m missing something — which is entirely possible; no, really, it’s entirely possible — the whole thing is a charade.

* Probably Jefferson [spits], right? I mean, he’s usually the guy who said the stuff about the things, isn’t he? But apparently not in this case. Unless, again, I’ve missed something. Which is to say, this is chance for you to note that somebody is Wrong on the Internet! And not just any somebody, but me.

If you don’t hear the key phrase here in John Cleese’s French accent, you’re dead inside.

The bill also would criminalize ‘outrageous minimization’ of the Armenian genocide.

Garton Ash, presumably wearing his poker face, points out only that “minimization” will be hard to figure, leaving out “outrageous” altogether.

David Greenberg’s review of Chris Matthew’s new Kennedy biography is, like everything Greenberg writes, worth reading. It’s a wonderful takedown, I think, because it’s not entirely captivated by the search for the perfect snark (they’re wily, snarks are, and should be hunted at dawn and dusk, when they typically rest).

Read the rest of this entry »

I have no love for Rick Santorum, but the Times’ lead on the Iowa caucuses recount is quite impressive in its naked slant towards Romney:

Mitt Romney’s eight-vote victory in the Iowa caucuses will be rescinded on Thursday, following a two-week review by the state’s Republican Party that found that Rick Santorum actually finished 34 votes ahead of Mr. Romney, two party officials confirmed.

So Romney was the winner when he was ahead by eight votes, but Santorum only “finished…ahead” when his lead was 34? The Times might defend itself by pointing out that the Iowa GOP isn’t going to certify a winner because they can’t be sure of votes from eight precincts, but, as Nate Silver pointed out, Santorum almost doubled Romney’s total in those precincts when counted on caucus night. The Times does not mention that. I guess being the presumptive nominee has its advantages.**

*There was a joke in my house growing up that the Times would not report things about Cornell particularly well. It was that “upstate” school. The classic example was that a Cornell victory over Harvard in football (rare enough!) would be reported by the paper as “Harvard Loses.”

**Though I’m sure that Gail Collins will connect Iowa to Romney’s dog, somehow.

Kevin Kruse brings the historicizing to Mitt Romney’s effort to unite us, under God.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This opposition of God to the New Deal is of course specious: God was a member of FDR’s Brains Trust and in His incarnation as Jesus Christ and author of the beatitudes He directly influenced the New Deal’s relief provisions. As for the public works, He explained, “Yes, I could have built ’em quicker, but only by robbing the economy of much-needed stimulus.”

Any conference report that includes “but the mere public showing of his erection from the podium was not sufficient” is worth an extended read. The presenter–one Professor Brindley–was experimenting with cures for erectile dysfunction. His strategy involved the wince-inducing method of direct penile injection. He was not content with merely showing slides:

He paused, and seemed to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence’. With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs, approaching (to their horror) the urologists and their partners in the front row. As he approached them, erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air, seemingly in unison, and screamed loudly. The scientific merits of the presentation had been overwhelmed, for them, by the novel and unusual mode of demonstrating the results.

Suddenly, Powerpoint doesn’t seem that bad.

If Mark Wahlberg had been seated in first class on that fateful day, there would have been no 9/11. Yes, seriously. I dare you to challenge his logic.

the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes

Don’t get excited, fellow Americans – in the UK. A country where a physicist, Brian Cox, can have a prime time television special featuring major stars. A country with crap reality tv, tabloid press, and science. Behold.

Mitt Romney is flacking for his campaign donor’s business, “Full Sail University.” I eagerly await even one of our leaders sending his children to such an outfit.

Received in the mail on Friday, by a fellow EotAW blogger-person:


Required for my spring course on “Conspiracy theories in American History.”

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