Gutenberg invents the printing press, DAMNIT. End of the Middle Ages, too. Couldn't have happened to a nicer era.
16. 1783. End of the American Revolution. Spoiler: We effing won!
17. 1865. End of the Civil War. And Lincoln assassinated. Here's a not-safe-in-the-slightest-for-work reinactment.
18. 1918. This is getting embarassing. Wasn't the end of WWI in 1919? Why am I thinking 1919? Did something happen in 1919? As with every question, the internet will set me straight.
November 11, 1918: WWI ends. Ass again. So what was 1919? Looking... Prohibition begins. That must have been what I was thinking. And here's some(yet another)thing I didn't know: Woodrow Wilson tried to veto the 18th Amendment. I hope God took some small measure of mercy on his soul for that.
Oops, I'm wrong again. Wilson vetoed a bill enacted in accordance with the 18th Amendent's "enforce this article by appropriate legislation" clause, and did so "largely on technical grounds" because it limited the executive branch's wartime powers. Still an asshole, then.
Speaking of WWI, are you ready to be moved to tears by a Motorhead song?
19. 1945. Atomic bombs dropped, WWII ends.
20. 1799. French Revolution... begins? Reign of Terror begins, maybe? Crud.
1799 was Napoleon. END of the French Revolution. OK.
21. 1820. This one's easy. Spring of 1820: Mormon founder Joseph Smith receives his First Vision in upstate New York. What? Something else might have happened that year? Fine, I'll take a gander.
I'm stumped. Some things seem kind of notable, but is any event big enough that it would stick in Dave the Dad's head? Missouri Compromise? Discovery of the Venus de Milo?
22. 1815. Another stumper. War of 1812 ends? Napoleon's Hundred Days? Restoration of the French Monarchy?
TOMORROW: A big one.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Amateur Annotations: Psayings 5Y, Part One
LET'S TRY ANOTHER TACK. I'm part of a fairly recent influx of poor people into an otherwise affluent town. Lots of Mexicans, lots of poor white video game nerds who move here to work at the oversized computer store (do you have Fry's in your neck of the woods? It's like a Radio Shack the size of Costco). This overlap of wealth and privation has created one of nature's perfect marvels: A Goodwill store in a rich neighborhood. An inexpensive trove of treasures donated by the guilty well-off. Valuable old toys and games, kitchen equipment whose only defect is being 20 years out of fashion, designer clothes never worn with the department store tags still attached donated because it wasn't worth the hassle to drive all the way down to the boutique and try to return a measly thousand-dollar sweater without the gift receipt that the maid threw away by mistake.
But I go for the books. Not to tell tales out of school, but if the selection at the Goodwills in seedy neighborhoods is any indication, the poor only ever read John Grisham, Stephen King, Harequinn romances, the Left Behind series, and the Alcoholics Anonymous blue book. Night and day from my Goodwill. In the last month alone I've scored The I Ching Workbook, the brilliant 7 Events That Made America America, A Brief History of Time (revised 10th anniversary edition, whut whuuuuut), twocollections of Camile Paglia essays from the 90s, and the Max Weber classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. All for about 3 bucks a piece. Also found a copy of The Case For Mars, a book I've wanted to read for a while, but I had to leave it on the shelf. They don't call me poor for nothing.
Out of that haul, the real prize is a tome called Cultural Literacy. The title's a little misleading. I thought I was getting an encyclopedia of cultural literacy. Or even an introduction to cultural literacy. What it is, is a case for cultural literacy. Preaching to the choir, in my case. The author's argument could be summed up in a sentence: Kids need to know about the world they came from. Maybe that's not a no-brainer for everyone else like it is for us.
The book redeems itself with its appendix, a big list of "what every American needs to know." Stuff from history, science, pop culture, The Bible, all fields of human thought and endeavor. A sample page:
I bought it with an eye towards googling and wikipedia-ing the entries in my spare time. Autodidact for the win.
On the way home, I worried at a nagging sense of familiarity, the way one worries at a cold sore with one's tongue. Couldn't shake the feeling I'd bought something like this before. I was through the door when it hit me: THE BOOMER BIBLE! Best book of the last century. That little thing. In particular, Cultural Literacy's index reminded mo of the discussions on the ancient Boomer Bible forum about the coyness of the Intercolumn Reference. There's a couple opportunities when the ICR could have unified the text of TBB in a big index-- but it suddenly goes silent. TBB wants to be understood, but she’s not the kind of girl who puts out on the first date. In the author’s blunt, immortal phrase, “work is required to get what you want.” That theme underlies almost everything he’s written. You want something? Figure out how to get it. Do the work it takes to learn.
Well, with the advent of the internet, learning has never taken less work. I don’t even have to walk the two blocks to my local library anymore. From the comfort of my own butt, the whole of history is open to me. With a few keystrokes, I can learn just about anything that ever happened.
Realizing all this, I was going to take Literacy’s index to Wikipedia and start typing. But September’s dust-up over God and history still looms in my mind. When he issued his 50-state challenge, I stalled out at around 37. Something from Psayings 5, maybe.
I’ve decided to make a game of it. Starting with the lengthy list of years from Psayings 5Y (to contrast, the Cultural Literacy index only lists about 7 dates), I’m going to see how well I know the dates I should. When I know the date, I’ll gloat, as is my right. When I don’t know the date, it’s off to Wikipedia’s handy year entries to see if I know history well enough to guess the important event.
Here goes nothin’.
Verse 1 In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Was that the same year he discovered America? Or was that 1493? He just set sail in 1492, right? Nope, hang on, incoming memory... He discovers America in October of 1492. Looking it up to see if I’m right... Yep. Nailed it. School wasn't a total waste after all!
3. 1776. That's funny. I remember not knowing most of the years in Psayings 5Y when I first read it (except for verse 35 of course). Maybe I didn’t recognize years when spelled out. 1776: Declaration of Independence signed.
You know what's cool about America? Besides a lot of things? We date the birth of our country from the start of the Revolutionary War. Not the end. We became independent the moment we declared it, by God. Britain just took an extra 7 years to convince. Yes, I had to look up when the Revolutionary War ended.
4. 1812. More low-hanging fruit: The War of 1812. Could I tell you when the war started if the year wasn't right in the name? Doubt it.
Something I didn't know: The War of 1812 lasted until 1815. Kind of misleading, right? A war's called the War of 1812, you expect it to be over and done inside the specified 12 month span. We don't call the Revolutionary War "the War of 1776," do we? Lasted way past '76! Maybe the name's a decent historical marker for a war that was about a lot of little things instead of one big thing.
What must that have been like? The old mother country invades and burns the capital barely three decades after the Revolution. How fragile our experiment with freedom must have seemed. Did the second coming of the British feel like history reasserting itself to the young nation? I can imagine the editorial cartoons of the day: A giant, open yoke coming across the ocean, balanced on the Royal Naval fleet. Dave the Dad calls it "a kind of strange and stupid war," but I bet we fought like hell.
5. 1860. Hmm. The Civil War was 1861 to 1865. 1860 was... secession of South Carolina? Gotta look it up.
Let's see... wow, 1860 was a busy year. "June 30 – The historic debate about evolution is held at the Oxford University Museum." That's probably not it. Nov 6, Lincoln wins presidential election? Could be. Lincoln's a big deal in TBB.
Hey, I was right after all: "December 20 – South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the United States Union." That’s the state that still flies the goddamn Stars and Bars over their capitol, right? I'm conflicted about that. On the one hand, it ticks the NAACP off, and I'm all for that. Maybe once upon a time the National Association for the Advancement of Colored (racist!) People was a force for good, but lately any action whatsoever they take is to batter their legacy. The organization that once crusaded against segregation and lynching now fearlessly leads the charge against racist greeting card companies that try to hide their racism behind a lot of fancy talk about "astronomical phenomena" and "science." To paraphrase Proverbs, opposing the modern NAACP on any issue, no matter what, is the beginning of wisdom.
On the other hand, it's the Stars and Bars. I don't care that half the Americans in my income bracket try to make it a symbol of rebelious individualism. It's the banner of slavery! Once upon a time, large swaths of Americans were so committed to keeping their slaves that they quit the country! That was evil, period, and should be revilled accordingly. Imagine if disgruntled Germans started flying the swastika from their pickups. "No, we don't hate the Jews or anything like that. We hate the European Union, and the swastika is from a time when Germany really stood up to the world, you know? It represents defiance and civic pride now. Not so much the other, nastier stuff." Would that just fine and dandy?
6. 1914. Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Start of WWI.
In Asia, a chap named Shen Kuo "receives a post in the capital China." Good for him. I doubt Shen Kuo is on Dave's radar. Maybe it's the Granada massacre? "A Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada, crucifies Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacres most of the Jewish population of the city." Damn, dude. Good thing those psychopaths didn't make it out of the Middle Ages!
Wait, here it is: "Conquest of England"! I bet that didn't happen very often. The wiki entry has a timeline of events, and some of the events have names and everything. Looks like it spanned the whole year-- BATTLE OF HASTINGS! I've heard of that once! Those words in that order, at least.
Fun fact: The Wikipedia contributor who wrote this-- Often erroneously labeled "the last successful invasion of Great Britain", it was in fact the last successful conquest of Great Britain (the last successful invasion of Great Britain in general – by the Dutch in 1688 – was upon invitation by Parliament to overthrow King James II of England)-- is an asshole.
Have to bookmark this page. There's a thousand-year gap in my mental chronology of the world where I've scribbled "Kings, knights, swords, crusades, bad science, no bathing" in parentheses.
9. 1215. Magna Carta. The reform seems meager to modern eyes-- now the king AND rich people have rights!-- but it was a huge deal at the time. The idea that the law be something other than the king's whim, that it be something objective, led to every good innovation in government since.
10. 1640. Pre-enlightenment, so again I have no clue.
Charles I, that’s something. That’s a name I know. Summoned the Short Parliament in April... but that can’t be notable enough. Ditto for the Long Parliament in November. (I’d heard of the Long, but not the Short. That’s kinda funny)
Aha: Treaty of Ripon. Scotland makes off like bandits. That’s gotta be a favorite historical event of R.F. Laird.
TOMORROW: Part Two.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Tim Tebow, The
Eagles & the end of everything...
All six of NFLN's
coach and player experts told us this couldn't happen. It did.
DESPAIR. I did the big post Monday because I wanted a few
days off to
think. Then it gets difficult knowing how to jump back in. Why I rely
on serendicity so much. Eduardo had this to say when he grew tired of
Who’s up for a topic change? If anybody
else watched that Jets/Broncos game last night (it was unwatchable by
itself, but I had it on in the background as I surfed the web and wrote
an email to Apotheosis explaining why I thought the movie Priest was
more amusing than unbearable), it encapsulated the entire Tebow
Tebow didn’t look so good. He flat out missed wide open receivers in
crucial 3rd down situations. Other times it looked like he was trying
to peg them in dodgeball instead of passing to them. Here’s the thing,
though: Mark Sanchez was even worse. In fact, Sanchez has been bad for
longer than Tebow, but is there a legion of dedicated Sanchez haters?
Not that I know of. Instead, he’s been doing Verizon & Pepsi
Yeah, granted, Tebow can be annoying. And the Broncos can’t keep
winning on the last minute Tebow TD scramble, which I still can’t
believe is catching teams by surprise (I mean…really??). At some point
he will have to start throwing the ball accurately to be successful, so
if he’s taking the past few games as some sort of sign that he can
survive by running, he is setting himself up for a massive fall. But
still, I can’t see hating the kid. If I were a Jets fan I would be
hating Sanchez a lot more than Tebow right now.
What he left out was the magic he was reporting on. The Tebow Magic. An
almost cartoon hero, looking lousy for the whole game, then suddenly
doing everything right to win at the end. Even people who are rooting
for him are embarrassed by it. How can it be? How is it possible to
have a talent for nothing but winning?
I was already thinking about it when I saw Eduardo's comment. Because
in Philadelphia, we are facing the exact opposite situation: a whole
team of great talent that keeps finding a way to lose late. The Eagles
roll up yardage, points, and spectacular highlight plays, then collapse
in a heap when it really counts.
I think both these phenomena are related to what I've been struggling
with of late. (I concede Penn
State was a kind of last straw... the one
that broke this camel's back.
The past is still alive in the present, and if some part of the past
you trusted is corrupt, where does that leave you? Gasping.)
Why is the whole world falling so completely apart right now, so that
the news is just sickeningingly awful every day, and not enough people appear to see it to take any
decisive position against it? Obama is so utterly the worst president
of not only my lifetime, but my parents' lifetime, including even FDR,
that every even-toned discussion of how he might yet win reelection
fills me with a sensation approaching panic. Polls showing the race
close are like getting stabbed by glass.
There's way too much evidence to cite. He has set not just the poor
against the rich, but the middle and upper middle classes against the
rich, endorsed the "Occupy Wall Street" shibboleth of the 99 percent
against the 1 percent. And the mainstream media endorse him in that
idiotic characterization, so that polls for a long time indicated that
ordinary Americans preferred incoherent, lice-ridden squatters -- with
no political platitudes not plagiarized from expressly marxist 1960s
SDS mimeographs -- to the Tea Partiers who asked, politely, and
amazingly hygienically, for less government control of their lives. In
the United States of America.
The Republicans keep calling him a socialist, but he's more national
socialist -- i.e., fascist -- than marxist. The party with the closest
links to the financial epicenter of the country is the Democrats, not
the Republicans. Why Solyndra gets the sweetheart deal, why Goldman
Sachs provides more money -- and White House functionaries -- to Obama
than to the evil conservatives the dim-witted 'Occupy' thugs are so
anxious to do in.
Why I keep saying -- and no one ever listens -- that the crisis facing
us is not about hunger for money but the thirst for power. Last night,
on Fox News's four-to-one against libs show The Five, a conservative insisted
on describing the Penn Sate mess as being about greed. It's not. The
people who run government, universities, and the media don't care about
prosperity at all. They want to be vindicated in their belief that
they're smarter than all us flyover fools, and more than anything, they
want the power to tell us what to believe, who to believe in, how to live, how to bring up our children
(uh, as theirs, or their
compliant drones), and how to go gently into the good night of
Sometimes, the devil really is in the details. You have the mayor of
New York, a billionaire, who cites freedom of speech when he's
approving a mosque nobody wants at Ground Zero but who refuses to
tolerate religious representation at the tenth anniversary of September
11. He cites freedom of speech again when he refuses to crack down on
dope-smoking 'Occupy' protesters who are incapable of any kind of
articulate speech while he insists on regulating the tobacco, caloric
and salt intake of the law-abiding citizens of his city. He just wants
to be in charge, to be our daddy and mommy by turns, until we are only children waving pennants for sports teams.
What they all want. And they don't care about prosperity for the real 99 percent. Especially Obama.
They just want credit for pretending to care about people they
demonstrably don't give a shit about.
Obama won't approve drilling for domestic oil or natural gas. Jobs? He
won't approve a pipeline that would create what? Jobs. He pushes a
government control bill that is guaranteed to raise health insurance
premiums and lies about the fact that everyone's premiums will go up
and many will have to give up plans he insisted they wouldn't? Does he
care? No. He blames it all on his predecessor and the rich. Also why
his whole approach to tax policy for stimulus is to pay the wages of
teachers, cops, and firemen and perpetuate unemployment indefinitely
rather than turn the much larger private economy loose to do the 'evil'
American thing of creating new economic opportunities where bureaucrats
typically see none.
Europe is financially imploding. Even the dumbest of the mainstream
media used to know that if the United States catches an economic cold,
Europe catches economic pneumonia. Now Europe has something worse than
pneumonia, and the only remaining mechanism for reining in the
world-bankrupting federal spending levels in the U.S. is an
extra-congressional committee of octogenarians who are empowered only
to trim a fraction of the automatic growth of a U.S. budget that hasn't
existed in legislative reality since Obama became president.Try to find
a description of the European debt crisis that places the blame for
Euro-tuberculosis on American pneumonia. Good luck.
Foreign affairs? Oil prices spiking, rising, scaring? Obama doing
nothing -- absolutely nothing other than bland talk -- about Iran's
nuclear intentions. Withdrawing completely from Iraq. Promising to flee
Afghanistan soon, if not sooner. He chooses to kill bin Laden, Awlaki,
etc, rather than capture them because his political buttboy
attorney-general is committed to trying them in New York City if
they're captured alive, and the alternative of a mlitary tribunal in
Guantanamo would be even more embarrassing. And maybe we'll be able to
get rid of Israel too. Who doesn't want that in the American liberal
community? Lousy goddammed Jews. Except for the ones who insist on
helping us every step of the way. (They'll get something for their help
in the end....)
Am I boring you? Back to first questions. What do Tebow and the Eagles
have to do with this mess?
So, this morning, I heard two different sets of analyses. Maybe they
were close to the truth because the facts are so stark, I don't know. A
quarterback I know doesn't think Tebow has what it takes shook his head
and said (something to the effect of), "You can't underestimate the
power of belief. If he's really able to convince them they can win,
that's an incredibly potent force in sports."
Conversely, I heard from multiple analysts who still believe the Eagles
might yet be a force to be reckoned with this season (none of them from
Philadelphia), I heard (and I'm just summarizing), "When bad things
start to happen, you can start to look for the bad things, and then
I'm sure you all want a bottom line. I refrained from watching news
coverage of the 'Occupy' nonsense that was happening yesterday. I
watched a SyFy
movie instead. All about the moon about to collide with
the earth. Lady Laird makes fun of me for watching these movies. I
enjoy them because we always escape Armageddon at the end. Totally
unlike what we see on the History,
Discovery, and Science channels.
They actually can't wait for the end of the human race.
Which is where I come down on the whole subject. Since World War I, the
so-called intellectuals have been rooting for the end of the world as
we know it. They believe they killed God and the proof they seek is
that we disappear into nonentity and meaninglessness. Which makes them
Simple as that.
Why do you suppose they have battled so hard and furiously against the
idea of American Exceptionalism when the actual history is so
decisively against them? The American Revolution is responsible for all
the freedom in what we call the western world. Directly. Muscularly
(given WWI and WWII and the Cold War). They want to die. They want us
to die. To this end, they have conquered the educational institutions
and the media, they have turned truth into lies (post-modernism), and
they have created a phony ideal of a green world that if it had ever
existed would not contain Gizeh, Athens, Pompeii,
York. Where most of them live or
wish they did. Their fantasy is that we all live naked on the banks
of the Amazon drinking bad beer made from capsum bark. While listening
to John Lennon on our iPods.
Buying it? Not me.
But I'm buying the bigger point. Which is that the world is at a
crossroads. The propagandists have succeeded in convincing something
like a majority to give up. (William O'Blivion is looking forward to
the breakup of the United States.)
The resisting minority have not perceived the extent of the danger.
They believe that most people still believe. They are in error about
that. Something cracked in the body politic after the end of the Cold
War. They haven't caught up. The end of the Cold War thawed out the
worst emotion of all -- Thanatos. They
still think they are raising
their children to participate in something like a continuum from the
past. Wrong. The continuum was fatally sabotaged long long ago.
Why I am so, so unhappy. Death is advancing on everything we hold dear.
Our children have to be raised not as good citizens but implacable
I'm too old to understand all the implications of my own statement. But
it's making me close to catatonic.
I took down a post earlier in the week. I should explain. I apologize.
But cover-ups go way way back. The roots of the "Occupy' movement go
all the way back to my own adolescence in 1969, when a third of the
student body walked out of Saturday Chapel at Mercersburg
was, perhaps, the moment when the Boomer
Bible was born. I tried to go back. Thomas Wolfe famously said,
"You can't go home again." He was mistaken. You can go home again. I have. You just
can't go back in time.
Everyone who was alive then has his own version of what happened, and
almost nobody else remembers anything that could be called truth. There
is only the myth of what happened.
So I spoke to old teachers and younger relatives of those who were, in
fact, present. I was trying to understand how institutions remember
things that changed their histories for good or ill. The answer? They
don't. It's all a continuous present that ejects the past like shit
from a goose.
Why do I trust my memory? I committed an historic event. I published an
"Extra" of the school's award winning newspaper. I got it published in
48 hours. I documented what was said at the all-school meeting after
the walkout, I solicited pro and con articles from members of the
faculty, and I wrote an editorial. The only thing I don't remember is
my editorial, except that I was opposed to what had happened.
What did my research disclose? Nobody knows anything about the event
itself anymore, even though my Extra still sits in the annals of the
paper, on record and accessible.. My favorite teacher doesn't want to
know about the relevance of that moment to 'Occupy Wall Street' because
it conflicts with what he wants to remember about his own liberal
tenure. And the youngsters have been taught to remember that only my graduating class -- 1970 -- is
somehow mysteriously bitter about their alma mater.
What does any of this have to do with Penn State or the state of the
world? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Except I'm still stubbornly thinking about Tebow. And this: