History Topic of the Week or Month or Something

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Archive from the third quarter of 2004

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24 Sept. 2004 [make link]

"Literacy is the path to Communism." (Aha. So that's why my state won't support schools and libraries...)

19 Sept. 2004 [make link]

Sick Caesars: Madness and Malady in Imperial Rome by Michael Grant. Great title. Great topic. Great historian. Mediocre book. It's on the bargain shelves of every Barnes and Noble I've been to, so of course I picked up a copy.

Grant doesn't have nearly as much fun with the subject as you'd expect. Nor does he weave it into a wider pattern of historical cause and effect. The book mostly details the dry medical histories of the Roman Emperors -- recorded episodes of chills, fevers, headaches, dyspepsia, delusions, insomnia and epilepsy.

One notable peculiarity of the author's treatment is that he classifies an emperor's belief in astrology (and other occult matters) as a mental illness. I'd disagree. Right or wrong, a widely shared would-view counts as a religion, not a madness. Tiberius's devotion to astrology is no crazier than Constantine's conversion to Christianity.

13 Sept. 2004 [make link]

I finally found an excellent one-volume history of World War Two's Eastern Front: Russia's War by Richard Overy.

It has the right balance of analysis and anecdote. It's a well-written narrative that covers all the important command decisions, diplomatic debacles, the horrors of the battle front and on the home front. It gives all the broad outlines of economic trends and battle formations without bogging down in dull detail. It begins early enough to explain the causes, and it continues far enough to show the results.

Mount RushLess

12 Sept. 2004 [make link]

I live in a Red State, so I usually don't vote --well, maybe the occasional Republican primary when they're threatening to pick some screaming lunatic. But it's hard to avoid politics altogether, so a friend with relatives in a swing state had a research question for me:

We've all heard a million reasons to vote against Bush and a million reasons to vote against Kerry; and Bush has had four years to make his case for being reelected; however, what's been missing from the debate has been reasons to vote for Kerry, so she asked me to go looking for articles.

8 Sept. 2004 [make link]

"Counterfactual scenarios hint at the amount of guesswork in many books of conventional history."

4 Sept. 2004 [make link]

The cave art of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc

2 Sept. 2004 [make link]

> > > A friend forwarded a very cranky history of Social
> > > Security, with the question, "Is this true?" Aside
> > > from the obvious answer that any FW:FW: FW: e-mail
> > > is just false by definition, the Social Security Administration
> > > has already tackled this one.

28 August 2004 [make link]

Three problems. One solution.

Deer in the Eastern US are breeding wildly out of control, and the population has exploded because we've wiped out all their top level predators. Also, the human population of West Virginia is plummeting because jobs are scarce and everyone is moving out. Meanwhile, over in Asia, tigers are almost extinct because they've lost most of their habitat.

So here we have a perfectly good wilderness in need of predators, and perfectly good predators in need of a wilderness.

And we wouldn't even have to ship them very far since there are already more tigers in the U.S. than in the wild.


24 August 2004 [make link]

Here's a site for those of you who can't wait until November.

Well, now that I think about it, I guess all of us can't wait until November. Then maybe we'll finally be done with the lies, innuendo, rumors and deceit.

Well, this batch, anyway.

18 August 2004 [make link]

Who knew the history of Nevada was so misunderstood? It's one of the more interesting state history sites, but sadly, there's nothing about Battle Mountain.

8 August 2004 [make link]

There was brief bubble in history when a world's fair meant something. Consumerism, tourism and mass marketing had reached the point where a monumental open house introducing innovative technologies, new brands and exotic entertainments was a viable and profitable undertaking. Eventually, however, permanent amusement parks and the constant and mind-numbing media saturation of television made it unnecessary. You can almost chart the changing fortunes of the fairs by listing how much of the modern world was introduced or popularized at each one.

1876 Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia: the telephone.

1893 World's Columbian Exhibition, Chicago: the Ferris wheel, the wheats both shredded and creamed, Aunt Jemima and that pants song. It's where Pabst won a blue ribbon. It also saw the debut of the Pledge of Allegiance and America's first serial killer (See. That's what happens when you leave "under God" out of the pledge! It becomes a ritual incantation that summons serial killers.)

1896 Berlin Exposition: Baby incubators

1901 Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo: Presidential photo-ops gone horribly wrong

1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis: iced tea? ice cream cone? the hamburger sandwich? hot dog buns? Dr. Pepper? Heck, let's just blame them for the entire modern American diet, why don't we.

1933 International Exposition, Chicago: Dinosaurs!

1939 New York World's Fair: Futurama, television, nylon stockings, and fluorescent lighting

1962 Seattle WF: Without it, we'd never know when we were in Seattle.

1964 New York World's Fair: Picturephones! Dinosaurs!

1982 Knoxville World's Fair: became a Simpson's episode

6 Aug. 2004 [make link]

The Olympic Games, of course.

4 Aug. 2004 [make link]

Babe magnet, babe lair

1 August 2004 [make link]

I was worried. Ghostsites had itself become something of a ghost site for awhile, but it's back! Relive web history all over again.

30 July 2004 [make link]

When is a government not a government? When it's a company, of course.

Thankfully, the undisguised corporate colony as a system of government seems to have died out. For now.

20 July 2004 [make link]

I like flags. Don't you?

I don't mean to influence your votes, but here are a few random observations:

  • The worst city flag: Yonkers NY. Plain white background, round seal stamped dead center, and the most preeminent objects are George Washington (why?) and the word "CORPORATION" (certainly makes me want visit.).
  • Best motto: Helena, Montana, Guardian of the Gulch.
  • Most unsettling flag for conspiracy theorists who worry about the New-World Order: (Tie) Springfield IL and Louisville KY. both look like the flag of the European Community.
  • Best Thank-God-At-Least-It's-Not-Confederate Flag: Richmond VA
  • Best Confederate-without-being-scary Flag: Montgomery AL.
  • Most Squiggly: St. Louis
  • Least Squiggly: Baltimore
  • Number One "It Kind Of Grows On You The More You Stare At It" Flag: Minneapolis
  • Best WTF? Flag: Tampa.
  • Best "Let me guess... San Antonio" Flag: San Antonio.
    • Best "Let me guess... San Antonio" Flag (sarcasm division): Provo.
  • Best We-Put-The-L-Back-In-Flag Flag: St. Petersburg
  • Best pun-based flag: Phoenix, AZ
    • Second best pun-based flag: Anchorage, Alaska
  • Best candidate for being redesigned as a pun-based flag: Buffalo, NY
  • Worst candidate for being redesigned as a pun-based flag: Norfolk, Virginia
  • Best Critter-Based Flag: (no winner) I can't believe there's not a bear, elk, lion, unicorn, badger, rat king, batboy, something. The only mammal flags seem to belong to Cheyenne and Ft. Worth, but, frankly, I'm not impressed.
  • Best Oh-Now-I-Get-It Flag: San Francisco
  • Winner of the special "Are You Telling Me That Your Graphic Design Department Can't Come Up With Anything Better Than That? I Mean, You Claim To Be Major Cultural Centers For Crying Out Loud, And Yet You Don't Even Show As Much Imagination As Wichita and Indianapolis?" Award: (2-way tie) Los Angeles and Boston.

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