Those schlocky paperbacks are a residue of my adolescence. Mixed in with Hubbard and Asimov and other mid-century know-it-all entertainers, Ayn Rand’s novels peered from the racks at Horton’s Shop’n Basket on Oxford Road in Atlanta. Facing the Emory University campus, Horton’s always carried an abundance of cheap literature for the young, self-infatuated idealist. It was a great resource while I was in high school, and I consumed its paperbacks zealously — but somehow, as if guided by instinct, I avoided Ayn Rand.
A case of erroneous premises, no doubt.
There’s a beautiful essay on the erstwhile Alisa Rosenbaum (Ayn Rand) by Jenny Turner — three years old, but new to me — here at the London Review of Books site. If you don’t have time for it, at least read this: Continue reading
The “Free Don Siegelman” lobby has been active, but Obama’s Justice Department seems unimpressed. In April the dismissal of the Ted Stevens case raised hopes that Siegelman’s prosecution might also be found improper. And in May, a federal judge in Alabama sent a strongly worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on behalf of Siegelman.
Siegelman fans are enthusiastic, but I remain unmoved. (In the past I disclosed my own bias here and criticized Siegelman’s case here.) Continue reading
From the Auburn University press people:
The College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University invites the public to dialogue with scholars from around the nation during a two-day symposium on the Creek War and the War of 1812 on May 22-23, 2009 at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in Auburn. The event will also be available via the web at connect.auburn.edu/cah.
The symposium, co-sponsored by the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Daviston, AL will feature scholars from around the nation, including Gregory Dowd (A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815), David and Jeanne Heidler (Old Hickory’s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire) and Gregory Waselkov (A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Red Stick War of 1813-1814).
For more information about the symposium or the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities visit www.auburn.edu/cah or call 334-844-4946.
Update: Video from the symposium will be podcast later this summer, most likely in July. Plans are to include some footage from a tour of the Horseshoe Bend battlefield. Podcasts from the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center are distributed through iTunes; a search for
auburn draughon will take you there.
I appreciated Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Remember the bleak winter of 2007-2008? That was when Rudy Giuliani, Warlord of the New York Marches, was the party’s crown prince, destined to face off against Her Royal Highness the Queen Consort (also of New York). Barack Obama and John McCain were a couple of no-chance long shots.
It was a grim, joyless time, and Huckabee’s aw-shucks populism, which so plainly got on the nerves of his party’s junta grande, was about the only touch of humanity in the race. My state is both needy and knee-jerk Republican, and I thought Huckabee might at least give us a way to, you know, “send a message.”
And that’s what we did, although by the time we voted, Huckabee was on the way out and Obama was steaming ahead. When I canvassed for the Obama campaign (in Condoleezza Rice’s old neighborhood, as it happened), my canvass partner, an African American soldier just back from Iraq, told me his dream ticket would list Obama for president, with Huckabee as his running mate. Continue reading
To learn a language is to gain another soul. Charlemagne is supposed to have said that, or something like it, probably in Old High German. I’ve always admired the saying, and I believe it.
F’rinstance, when I speak German (the only language besides English that I’m anything like fluent in), I often find myself acting and feeling like a different person. A younger, less knowing person, I think — possibly because my German is far less sophisticated than my English, and I can’t speak the language without thinking in it.
Today I happened on The Language Nest, a blog by Jack Martin of William & Mary College. He’s a linguist who studies “endangered languages, especially those native to the southeastern United States.” I have a copy of the dictionary he co-authored of Creek/Muskogee, the principal language of Alabama until about 1800 (and a language I’m determined to learn).
The most recent posts cover some interesting online tools I didn’t know about, and that don’t apply only to language learning: namely, an online drawing program, image editing program, T-shirt printing service, and comic strip generator for people who can’t draw.
Drop your subscriptions to Elsevier journals. Crooked Timber digs into the scandal around the publisher’s astroturf “journals” of corporate-funded medical findings.
Things have certainly fallen off since the 1670s, when the House of Elzevir was ready to publish the work of that radical poet John Milton.*
I’m feeling both melancholy and fond-of-my-fellow-mortals today. The perfect piece for the occasion is “Les voix humaines (Human voices)” by Marin Marais.
So take four minutes and listen to this recording at Last.fm. It’s by a Montreal viola da gamba duo, also called Les Voix Humaines [website].
Or you might watch this video of a live performance with two viols and a theorbo.
A new German website uses hypertext and Web technology to present an archive of first-hand accounts of the Thirty Years’ War in central Germany. If you’re interested in the future of digital archives, the site is worth a look, even if you don’t read German. It’s called MDSZ, short for Mitteldeutsche Selbstzeugnisse der Zeit des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.
One thing to notice is the behavior of the image on the front page, of an armored knight attacking fleeing peasants. If you mouse over the image, it is instantly magnified to show its detail in (presumably) actual size. Moving the mouse navigates intuitively to different parts of the picture (unlike some cumbersome image viewers on the Web, which move only in slightly overlapping blocks, or respond in unexpected ways to the mouse).
At MDSZ, mousing over an image (left) automatically zooms in on details (right). Moving the mouse glides smoothly around the enlarged image. (Example is reduced from actual size.)
The archive contains four Selbstzeugnisse (“ego-documents”), first-hand accounts of violence and war-related events in Thuringia. None of these has been published before. The four manuscripts are (respectively) by Volkmar Happe, Michael Heubel, Hans Krafft, and Caspar Heinrich Marx, and all four are constantly available through links in the upper right-hand corner of every page. Continue reading
Attention Conservation Notice: This begins with a note about Alabama politics, then discusses equitable taxation in general, mentioning Winston Churchill.
Today the Alabama legislature’s Republicans are expected to rally (for the fourth time this session) around the medieval principle of “might makes right” — especially its fiscal corollary: that the state should tax heads, but wealth should be tax-exempt.
In brief, taxes are for little people. So the state tax on groceries will survive another challenge today, in order that a state income tax shelter for the super-rich can be saved. (Prior posts are here, here, and here.)
This is an ancient principle that keeps democracy in check: Peasants pay taxes. Castles are exempt. Corporations are modern-day castles. Continue reading
So long, Pontiac.
This is a fairly idle observation, but the death of the Pontiac automobile nameplate (last Monday) reminded me of the 20th-century fashion for naming car makes after figures from early American history. The Pontiac make was unique in commemorating an Indian leader who went to war with the United States (and whose name, I suppose, was considered catchier than Tecumseh’s). The more usual practice was to commemorate an explorer; preferably one with a Continental name: Hence the Chrysler DeSoto and the LaSalle make.
An earlier example of a car being named for a European in American history was LaFayette Motors, founded in 1919 in Indianapolis, and named in honor of the French marquis who came to America to work for George Washington. In his old age Lafayette performed at least as great a service to the young republic by returning here for its fiftieth birthday. Showing an endless patience for bad roads, provincial towns, and windy speeches, Lafayette was mobbed by admirers as he toured the country in detail to bestow his paternal blessing. Our grateful ancestors, showing a charming inability to get their hero’s name right, next blanketed the countryside with little burgs and counties named “Fayette,” “La Fayette,” or occasionally, just by chance, “Lafayette.” For good measure, they threw in the odd “La Grange” as well, after the marquis’s estate back in France.
LaFayette Motors probably counts as the endpoint of this enthusiasm for the marquis’s name. Perhaps, though, it was “LaFayette” that inspired others to mash up “LaSalle” and “DeSoto” and to brand cars with them.
With the fall of Pontiac, few people may realize that the last of the American history cars is Cadillac. Started in 1902, just after the bicentennial of Detroit, Michigan, the Cadillac Company is named after Detroit’s French founder. He called himself Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac — or “Caddy” to his friends.
(No, that was a joke.)