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Archive for May, 2012

PoW Horace Greasley

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

PoW Horace Greasley defiantly confronts Heinrich Himmler during an inspection of the camp he was confined in. Greasley also famously escaped from the camp and snuck back in more than 200 times to meet in secret with a local German girl he had fallen in love with.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The 1968 Olympics Black Power Salute: African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a gesture of solidarity at the 1968 Olympic games. Australian Silver medalist Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in support of their protest. Both Americans were expelled from the games as a result.

“La Jeune Fille a la Fleur”

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

“La Jeune Fille a la Fleur,” a photograph by Marc Riboud, shows the young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir planting a flower on the bayonets of guards at the Pentagon during a protest against the Vietnam War on October 21, 1967. The photograph would eventually become the symbol of the flower power movement.

Johnson’s Oath

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Jacqueline Kennedy wears her pink Chanel suit, still stained with the blood of her husband, as Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office in Air Force One.

According to Lady Bird Johnson, who was also present:

“Her hair [was] falling in her face but [she was] very composed … I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy’s dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked, it was caked with blood – her husband’s blood. Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights – that immaculate woman, exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.”

The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Spanning one-ninth of the earth’s circumference across three continents, the Roman Empire ruled a quarter of humanity through complex networks of political power, military domination and economic exchange. These extensive connections were sustained by premodern transportation and communication technologies that relied on energy generated by human and animal bodies, winds, and currents.

Conventional maps that represent this world as it appears from space signally fail to capture the severe environmental constraints that governed the flows of people, goods and information. Cost, rather than distance, is the principal determinant of connectivity.

For the first time, ORBIS allows us to express Roman communication costs in terms of both time and expense. By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity.

Taking account of seasonal variation and accommodating a wide range of modes and means of transport, ORBIS reveals the true shape of the Roman world and provides a unique resource for our understanding of premodern history.

Danton in Film

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Made in 1982 by the Polish director, Andrzej Wadja, Danton is based on a Polish play of 1931 called the “Danton Affair.” Begun in Poland during a high point of the Solidarity liberation movement, it was eventually filmed in France after the movement was outlawed and martial law was instituted in 1981 under General Jarulszelski—a coup directed by the Soviet Union.  After the coup, Wadja and his crew moved to France as émigrés.  There they completed the film with a cast of Polish and French actors.  Danton was played by the French Gérard Depardieu and Robespierre, by the Pole Wojciech Pszoniak.  The  film reflects Wadja’s opposition to the return of a Stalinist regime in his homeland.


Our objectives are to compare Andrzej Wadja’s portrayal of the Danton Affair with history while also assessing the film itself as an historical artifact. As a means to this end, your assignment is to:

1. Read this Wikipedia entry on Danton. This should offer a decent foundation.
2. Read Robespierre’s Justification for the Use of Terror and The National Convention’s decision that “Terror is the order of the day
3. Read these film reviews from Mary Ashburn Miller of Reed College and Vincent Canby of the New York Times.

Then write 1000-1500 word film review which considers the objectives above and which clearly demonstrates that you have read and thought about the given readings. To do so, consider these questions:

  • Some critiques claim that historical films reveal more about the period in which they were made than about the period they portray.  To what extent and in what specific ways do you think this is true of Danton?
  • However flawed it may be, what does Danton contribute to your understanding of the French Revolution?
  • What does Danton illustrate about the possibility of film as form of good history?

Be prepared to discuss your film reviews in class.

Best Coffee in Berlin?

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Alana asked about best coffee in Berlin. I don’t know. I do know there are diamonds in the rough:

Chapter One (get the Bonmak Hikaria Siphon)

Double Eye

God Shot

Five Elephant

Bonanza Coffee Heroes

Toytown speaks…or better yet, check out the CafeKulturBerlin blog


Lesson Plan on Life During the Great Depression: A Diversity of Experiences

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

To some extent, the optimism of the Roaring Twenties was stymied by the financial crash of October 1929 and the economic depression that ensued. Conventional memory of the The Great Depression (TGD) paints a historically inaccurate, often whitewashed, version of life in America during  TGD. To the chagrin of historians of this era, we paint TGD in broad brushstrokes and, as a consequence, overlook the nuances and the diversity of American Experiences during TGD.

Thus, the objective of this lesson is to explore how different people from different walks of life experienced TGD. This era was complex, dynamic, and curious; it was not just Depressing.

To this end, each of you will read 1 of these 4 documents and respond to the questions given

Print your reading responses, bring them to class, and be prepared to discuss the articles.

Group #1: Wall Street Stock Broker
Group #2: American Women
Group #3: White Americans
Group #4: African Americans

If stories of life during the Depression peaks your curiosity, here are some video documentaries that explore themes of life in the TGD:

The Civilian Conservation Corps

The Crash of 1929

Hoover Dam

Hurricane of ’38

Riding the Rails


Surviving the Dust Bowl

If you are really interested in life during TGD, my favorite book on the era, and one of my favorite oral histories, is Hard Times by my hometown hero Studs Terkel


Zakaria on the Bo Scandal

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

From Zakaria in Time

The rise and fall of Bo is part of a much larger and potentially disruptive trend in China — the return of politics to the Chinese Communist Party.

We don’t much think of the party as a political organization these days. It is dominated by technocrats obsessed with economic and engineering challenges. These men — and they are almost all men — are comfortable talking about detailed economic and technical data, but they are not skilled politicians, adept at handling large crowds or palace intrigue. This apolitical system is a recent phenomenon and the outcome of a conscious decision by the founder of modern China, Deng Xiaoping.

When the Chinese communists took power in 1949, the party was dominated by charismatic revolutionaries and military leaders. Court politics, intrigue, ideological posturing and mass politics were pervasive in the new regime, and its leader, Mao Zedong, was a master politician. In 1957 he launched the “antirightist campaign,” which was followed by the Great Leap Forward, which was followed by the Cultural Revolution, all designed to divide and destroy his opponents and consolidate his power.

Deng was determined to end the high drama of Chinese political life and focus on economic development. He wanted to turn the party into a professional organization run by technocrats, mostly engineers. He required them to have been top students who subsequently showed skill in practical problem solving. He even changed the tone of party meetings, which had been devoted to long-winded ideological speeches, saying in 1980, “If you don’t have anything to say, save your breath … The only reason to hold meetings and to speak at them is to solve problems.”

The party was soon transformed. By 1985, the Central Committee was dominated by younger college graduates and the Politburo’s Standing Committee, the country’s ruling elite, were all engineers. That tradition of technocracy has persisted. A party whose history is tied to peasants, workers and soldiers is now the most elitist operation in the world. Its system of promotion favors engineers, economists and management experts over anyone with grassroots political skills. For two decades, China has been run like a company, not a country.

Eventually, politics had to re-emerge. China has reached a level of growth and development at which the big questions it faces are not technical engineering puzzles but deep political, philosophical ones.

Bo represented the revival of politics in at least two ways. In a system of colorless men, he was charismatic, conniving and political. He was comfortable in front of crowds, eager to push himself forward, and he rubbed against the grain of consensus decisionmaking. Money was, as in U.S. politics, the grease that smoothed Bo’s rise. But he also represented the “new left,” an ideological movement that emphasized social and cultural solidarity, the power of the state and other populist issues.

Bo’s ouster is the most significant purge in the party’s top ranks since Tiananmen Square. The party may hope that the People’s Republic, as it did after that earlier upheaval, can return to its efficient and steady technocratic path. But China has changed too much. And politics in China is xenophobic, populist, nationalist, messy and certainly unpredictable — like politics everywhere.