Sunday, October 11, 2015

Powerful Seven Seconds from the Old Grey Lady!

Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign. Meet the the families funding the 2016 presidential race.
Posted by The New York Times Politics and Washington on Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Material Matters: It's in the Details

Those who know me well know that I am something of a fanatic about Colonial history, particularly 1750-1791 in North America. Today, I received good news:
Congratulations! You have been selected as a scholarship winner to attend the Fifth Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” Seminar November 7 & 8, 2015. 
Your scholarship covers: 
·        the registration fee;
·        lunches on both Saturday & Sunday;
·        and a private dinner off-site on Saturday evening with members of the Seminar faculty and staff, along with the patrons whose generosity made your scholarship possible.
This two-day seminar focuses on 18th-century material culture and is intended for people with an interest in learning more about objects of the 18th century and what they can tell us about history.

Session Descriptions

A Revolution in Wood: The Buckets, Boxes, and Canteens of Hingham, Massachusetts—On the eve of the American Revolution Hingham coopers worked around the clock to produce thousands of drinking vessels and other woodenware for the Massachusetts militia. This presentation explores these finely crafted containers and their evolution from vital utensil to decorative accessory. Derin Bray is an art & antiques dealer and consultant specializing in early American furniture, folk art, and decorative arts. He is the author of BucketTown: Woodenware & Wooden toys of Hingham, Massachusetts, 1635-1945.
18th-Century Military Use of Tinware—Tinplate objects were functional, light, and cheap, qualities that appealed to the 18th-century military for their logistic importance. Armies and navies of Western European nations consumed good amounts of tinware that was often produced in their own armouries. The Williamsburg Armoury Tinshop is a case of a well-documented metal-working site expanding into the production of tinware to supply Virginia troops. Steve Delisle is Journeyman Tinsmith at the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Publick Armoury at Colonial Williamsburg.
American-made Bayonets during the War for Independence—At the onset of the American Revolution, many  blacksmiths were called upon to make bayonets for American forces. This presentation will analyze a series of American-made bayonets and discuss the variety of ways in which they were constructed by these smiths. Derek Heidemann is the owner of Resurrection Iron Works and Coordinator of Men's Crafts at Old Sturbridge Village.
The Clothing of Conflict: Military Dress at Fort Ticonderoga—Fort Ticonderoga’s uniform collection represents an almost unbroken catalog of the evolution of military dress from the 1770s through the 1840s, making it the most comprehensive of its kind in North America. This presentation will introduce the scope of the collection, share its highlights, and present the results of new research on this important resource.  Matthew Keagle is the Curator of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum.
George Washington’s Disappearing Ribbon and the Memory of the American Revolution—From 1775 to 1779, General George Washington wore a blue silk shoulder ribbon as the symbol of his rank as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army.   This talk evaluates the possibility that a recently re-discovered blue-moire-silk ribbon in Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography is in fact Washington’s Revolutionary War decoration.   It highlights evidence in the technology used in the object’s construction, and also explores the cultural history of its ownership and display as a “relic” of Washington. Phil Mead is Historian and Curator at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
Clothing Rogers Rangers—Continuing with the theme of 18th-century clothing, this presentation discusses the materials that survive from the companies of Rangers that served in North America during the final French & Indian War. Powder Horns, buttons, knives, and other items that actually belonged to these men will be the focus, as well as relevant examples that survive from that period. Simultaneously, examination of the surviving written records on Rangers will provide a deeper idea of what objects these men carried with them and what they were made of. After all, the materials really do matter to understand their world. Gibb Zea is Artificer Tailor at Fort Ticonderoga.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

On the Other Side of the World: Tragedy in Oregon

I am numb. Inhuman, even. I have read nothing about Oregon yet. It is so commonplace that I cannot react emotionally anymore. I don't want to know the details. Except...

What is wrong with my country? I know people (math teachers!) who think we would be safer if we had concealed weapons in our school for trained personnel to use in the case of an attack. We have had a fire drill, an evacuation and bus-loading and unloading drill, and a lock-down drill at our school already this year. This is the law, I am told. Most of it seems as effective as crawling under a desk during a Soviet nuclear attack. But we live in a country that has had a nearly fifteen year, multi-trillion dollar, outsized reaction to some wacko fanatics who steered airplanes into iconic buildings. How have we not learned that you don't stop lunacy with more violence?

On the day that the crazy mo-pho at Sandy Hook Elementary School sprayed his ammunition killing 26 people, I was in China. On the other side of the world. That day in the Middle Kingdom was also a day of terror. A man walked into a kindergarten and stabbed 23 children and an elderly woman at Chenpeng Village Primary School. Nobody died. The crazy mo-pho at Sandy Hook killed 20 children and 6 adults! That is the difference between guns and knives. Do the math!

My former wilderness trip camper from an expedition that I led in 1997 is now, also, a former officer from the US Marine Corps. He shilled for the NRA and Remington for a while after his active-duty tours and now makes videos with our flag draped behind him. I respect the guy and like him, but I think the NRA is for crazy people. Though I have friends who hunt and a deep, long-standing respect for subsistence cultures (the Cree and the Woodchucks who fill their second freezers with venison and geese), I am starting to resent boys who "need" their toys (except guns really are not toys) being allowed to dictate our national security policy.

President Obama submitted to Congress in early 2013 a gun violence plan that included proposals like these:

  • Universal background checks for all gun sales
  • Passing a new, stronger assault weapons ban
  • Limiting the size of ammunition magazines 
  • Banning civilian possession of armor-piercing bullets  

This is just as "imbalanced" and nutty as the NRA.  I signed a petition supporting it, because it's a beginning and maybe it is part of a larger strategy. He wants to limit bullet clips and access to guns, which nobody in more civilized countries is even allowed to own. Small potatoes! Thinking this will solve the problem is like, it is not like thinking at all.

It is access to guns of any sort that is the problem. Strict constructionists of our living, breathing 18th century founding documents will claim that there was never a time when America did not have guns and that my heroes--men like Hamilton of Weehawken and Washington of Mount Vernon Plantation--wanted us to have guns. So what? I am on a fishing trip for red herrings. "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." Well, I rebel..peacefully in the political world. I do not need the Second Amendment's "right to bear arms" to protect me from my government. Come now, what should I do? Take down my Brown Bess and hang a nuclear weapon above my fireplace in its stead?

Failure to act now is akin to letting Caesar bring his armies into the city. It will be a major contributing factor to the downfall of our empire. Rise up, ye good citizens, and repeal the Second Amendment.