What is No Longer Seen

While hunting for images to use in class, I found photos by Margaret Bourke-White and other Life photographers of the aftermath of the 1946 Calcutta riots. I pulled two to use in class, thinking at the time that there is no way you’d see things like this in magazines or on the news today. Continue reading




An idealized middle-class German or Austrian household in the Biedermeier Period (1815-1848 or so)

My mind makes strange jumps, I think we can all agree on that. I was listening to yet another news story about Millennials and like-minded younger people preferring experiences and clean lifestyles to material goods, families, and houses, and for some reason my thoughts leaped back to central Europe in the post-Napoleon era. Because I’d read this before, just phrased in a different way, and in descriptions of furniture and art.

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Offended? That was the Point!

By now everyone has heard that R. Lee Ermy, a Marine, an actor, and a really good man who did a lot to help the men and women in the military in his own way, has died at age 74. The role he is most famous for was in Full Metal Jacket, where he played a Drill Instructor.

For those not familiar with the military, the DI is the man or woman tasked with the hopeless, impossible job of turning recruits into sailors, soldiers, and Marines. A Marine recruit is the only thing on Earth lower than whale sh-t, and the DI’s job is to raise said recruit to the level of Marine. All while serving as an example of what a Marine, sailor, or soldier is to aspire to become. No pressure, right?

So, since the excerpt is highly offensive, but isn’t really, it is below the fold. Continue reading

Hard Lessons to Teach

This month has two of the hardest classroom lessons for me to teach. One is the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The other is 1989. There are a few times per year when I am at risk of losing it and crying while I teach, and these are two of those days. Why? Because I know people who were involved, and because I’ve been there, walked the streets, followed events on foot even though it was after the fact. Continue reading

On Luck

Luck + hard work + resources = amazing things

I have had periods in my life when I was very, very lucky. I knew the right people, or the right people knew of me (more important, probably), I could take advantage of opportunities to do amazing things, and was in good enough shape to do the work needed to take advantage of invitations and chances that appeared on my doorstep. And I’ve had bad breaks, metaphorical and literal (foot, ribs X3, concussion, cars crunched [not all at the same time]). Continue reading

The Value of “Bad” Books

Some time ago I wrote a blog post for Sarah Hoyt on history and “bad books.” Now, these were not titles like the (in)famous E—— Th—– or Sean Penn’s alliterative-alternative to acceptable writing, but books that caused historians to recoil in horror and say “Aieeeeeee! That can’t be true,” and to produce a number of really valuable titles in response. Alas, the examples I used were a bit touchy, so Sarah opted not to run the piece, lest she have a battle erupt in the comments section.

I was reminded of that when I read Kris Rusch’s essay:


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Chaos and Its Enemies

“And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep.” Genesis 1:2, NKJV.  Other translations say “all was chaos.” Some people maintain that this is the first mention of lawyers in the Bible, while others sigh and say that obviously, the US Marine Corps had been there (“chaos” translation).

All jokes aside, the idea of everything being intermixed and formless and swirling and without order or form appears in a number of faith traditions around the world. And then a Creator, often aided by different spirits and/or animals, creates order from that chaos and the world comes into being. Chaos is not good. Order of some kind is better. We humans do best when we can find order in our lives—not so much that we are reduced to near-automata, but a basic structure of some kind, sort of a theme that supports the variations.

It seems today that the pro-chaos people are winning. Or if not winning, at least happily sowing chaos and overturning order without having a better system to set in its place. Continue reading