About those Confederate monuments…

There are basically two schools of thought floating around the public’s consciousness about confederate monuments right now, especially in light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  1. These are monuments to slavery, hatred, bigotry and the losing side of a war. They should be destroyed, or at the very least put in museums.
  2. You’re rewriting/destroying history. They should be left in place.

Now let me tell you a story:

In 1968 and 1969, I spent a year at Gettysburg College.

Old Dorm

Pennsylvania Hall, also known as Old Dorm, was built in 1837 and was used as a signal station and field hospital by both Union and Confederate forces. It was gutted and restored the year I was there, and underwent additional restoration in subsequent years. The entire campus is steeped in the history of the Civil War.

Decades later I returned to visit the campus, and had more time and more mobility to visit the historical sites, museums, and the battlefields.

20090518 - Michael Contemplates Gettysburg

In May of 2009, my son contemplates a battlefield.

The silence that hangs over those fields, where about 8,000 people lost their lives and over 57,000 were listed as casualties, is haunting. In Lincoln’s words, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” Standing on that quiet land, listening, one can almost hear the tumult and terrors of war – and it’s important to note that Lincoln did not single out either Union or Confederate soldiers in his appellation “brave men.” Those who fought and died, regardless of how just their cause or how willingly or not they served, deserve to be remembered. They belong to the annals of our nation.

The word nigger appears 219 times in Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, but it was a product of its times and remains a classic piece of literature – an ode to the evils of slavery – just as it stands. I’ve seen “sanitized” versions of the work, which has long been one of my favorites, and they just feel wrong.

When I visited Albania numerous times in the early 90s, shortly after the fall of Communism, I found a land in which almost every reference to Enver Hoxha had been purged, except for the national museum in Tiranë. And I understood that national sentiment as well. After 41 years of brutal repression, very few Albanians had any desire to “remember” that part of their history, that they had so recently been relieved of.

In our case, the civil war is now 150 years behind us, but the history of slavery in the USA was almost 100 years longer than that, beginning on 31 August 1620, when John Rolfe recorded that “there came in a Dutch man-of-war that sold us twenty negars.” And the ripples and ramifications of slavery extended well into my lifetime; although I personally never saw scenes like this one, I was 14 the year of the Selma to Montgomery marches, 15 when Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the Black Panthers, and am watching the social media storm swirling around the Black Lives Matter today. If black lives really mattered, there would be no need for such a movement.

The record shows that most Confederate monuments were put up during the eras of Jim Crow segregation and the civil rights movement. They were put up, many with financial support from  The United Daughters of the Confederacy, to influence the narrative of the Civil War; the message was that the Civil War was not an issue of slavery but rather an issue of states rights.

On one hand, historical revisionism is a slippery slope. Humans are imperfect, and there will always be unpleasant truths in our past that must be acknowledged and remembered if we are not to repeat them. On the other hand, while my experience has been one of white privilege I can at least begin to imagine the gut feelings of those who have been impacted by the legacy of slavery at viewing – or even thinking of the existence of – monuments to people who fought, killed, and died to keep their people in bondage.

There are no monuments in Germany venerating Hitler or Göbbels or Eichmann. According to Joshua Zeitz, writing for Politico,

“The generation of Germans that came of age in the 1970s and 1980s confronted the country’s Nazi past and forcefully repudiated it. It took several decades of hard self-reflection, but a reunified Germany emerged from the Cold War as one of the great mainstays of democracy and human rights.”

Even though America stood for freedom and self-determination during the many wars of the last century, at home our own legacy of keeping a large part of our own population in miserable servitude for centuries remains not only unrepudiated but continues to be celebrated under the guise of another kind of historical revisionism.

It’s not enough to remove bronze and stone monuments to human wretchedness and cruelty; the underlying attitudes of the antebellum South and the Civil War remain enshrined in the hearts of too many people and too many textbooks. But it’s a step that we owe to the descendants of those who sweated under the loads and suffered under the lash and who have endured second-class status since their forefathers were emancipated, a step that must be taken if we are to eradicate those attitudes.

And what of private Buford Liles who marched off to war believing that the cause of the South was just and who never came home to wife and children, and all the privates and sergeants and fighting men like him who laid down their lives? A nation that has turned its back on the inhuman excesses of the past and that strives to build a society that works for everyone, with no one left out, can honor the bravery of these men and women, and all the victims of that wretched conflict, in memory without celebrating the flawed cause that moved them.

A contemplative visit to a peaceful battlefield would suffice.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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The Deseret Alphabet remembered

I have written about the Deseret Alphabet before, in a somewhat unusual context – today I came across a nostalgic article at the Deseret News commemorating this bit of linguistic whimsy. It appears to have begun development as early as 1847, which would make it closer to 170 years old.

lark is up

The poem above, from the Deseret Second Book (page 31), reads as follows:

The lark is up to meet the sun,
The bee is on the wing;
The ant its labor has begun,
The woods with music ring.

And shall I sleep while beams of morn
Their light and glory shed?
For thinking beings were not born
To waste their time in bed.

Clearly the authors of these primers were not above a bit of plagiarism; the first stanza of this poem is by William Holmes McGuffey (1800–73)

The original second stanza reads,

Shall birds, and bees, and ants, be wise,
While I my moments waste?
O let me with the morning rise,
And to my duty haste.

McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, newly rev., lesson 81, p. 54 (1849).

The transliteration of the Deseret Alphabet:

Deseret Alphabet

In the course of a study of Deseret as part of my MA in linguistics, I discovered that it had an added and unplanned benefit; reading the journals of Brigham Young, some of which had been transcribed into Deseret Alphabet during the days of enthusiasm for the project, I discovered that these manuscripts served as a window into the dialect and pronunciation of the scribes of the day. Since people transcribed the English they way they pronounced it, one could not only determine that various volumes were transcribed by different people, but also have a fair idea of what they sounded like when they spoke.

𐐜 𐐄𐐢𐐔 𐐚𐐃𐐢𐐙 𐐐𐐈𐐞 𐐝𐐑𐐄𐐗𐐤.

The Carousel of Progress

NOTE: This entry is a trip down memory lane, but be warned: At the end it gets political. As a result, I’ve disabled comments for this post. If you disagree with anything here, the Web is open – write your own blog. I have nothing against respectful dialog, but the Internet being what it is, I have no time for trolls.

progress

I first encountered this lovely exhibit when I attended the New York World’s Fair in 1965. Of all the presentations at the Expo (aside from the food – Belgian waffles, mmm) – along with the Picturephone demonstration, this is the one that stuck in my mind.

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After the fair closed, the ride was moved to Disneyland, where I experienced it again, and thereafter found a home in Disney World in Florida, which we visited just last week. It was lovely to reminisce.

Carousel 1

The 1900s. Life couldn’t be better with all the modern conveniences like gas lamps… and soon they’re supposed to have electric lights in the house!

As with anything, the ride did get a few updates over the years:

Carousel 2

Notice in this version it’s Valentine’s Day – and the model has had a bit of an update as well.

Carousel 3

The 1920’s. Electricity and gas are everywhere, and life couldn’t possibly be better. Happy 4th of July!

Carousel4

Hallowe’en in the 1940’s – this looks a lot like kitchens that I grew up with in the 50s.

Carousel 6

Christmas in the 1960s – this tableau has now been supplanted by a 21st-Century version – in the back is a view of Disney’s model city of the future, part of the original idea behind EPCOT (Experimental Planned Community of Tomorrow). Which, unfortunately, because our nation has been focused on flinging its precious human and material resources into unwinnable and futile conflict, has yet to become a reality – despite that dream.

Carousel 5

Another view of the 1960s.

Carousel 7

The 21st Century – (click for a larger view). Most of what you see here is now real, including much better graphics on Virtual Reality devices.

Carousel 8

If our 45th president and the climate-change deniers have their way, it might be necessary to replace the last tableau with one like this.

There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day
There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow’s just a dream away

Man has a dream and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a dream come true for you and me

The only dream of our current “leaders” seems to be to violate the planet, exterminate the poor and the different, and add to the bottom line of the wealthy. I do not support this, I will not support this, I will not be silent – or I will never be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye with honor.

Resist
The Old Wolf has spoken.

Images of the Middle East – Félix Bonfils

In the process of researching something else (this is how it usually works, and don’t even mention TVTropes)…

the_problem_with_wikipedia

… I encountered this lovely group of photos by Félix Bonfils, a French photographer who was active in the Middle East in the 1800s. They are available in many places on the Internet, but I found them captivating and felt like they were worth a share.

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Street vendors

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Western Wall of the Temple, or the Wailing Wall

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Group of Bedouin women

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Western Wall

image2

Western Wall

It looks as though some of these images may have been staged, others appear more or less candid – but they capture beautifully the feel of an age gone by.

To see more of Bonfils’ work, just do a Google image search for Felix Bonfils.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

“Indian Counting” – Een, teen, tether, fether, fip!

OK, caveat here: it’s may not be Native American counting, but that’s how it was presented to me by my math teacher (Mr. Sommerville, go ndéanai Dia trócaire air) in high school, around 1967. On the other hand, maybe it is.

The entire schema as he presented it was:

Een, teen, tether, fether, fip,
Satra, latra, co, tethery, dick,
Eendick, teendick, tetherdick, fetherdick, bump,
Eenbump, teenbump, tetherbump, fetherbump, didick!

Being testosterone-soaked boys, everyone laughed at hearing the word “dick” used as a number, and then life went on. I had heard it once, and remembered fragments of it forever.

Then came the Internet, where almost everything arcane has a tendency to show up if you wait long enough. I would search occasionally, and over time, bits and pieces appeared; now there is a full-blown Wikipedia article entitled “Yan tan tethera,” and the real story becomes quite complicated.

Over at Wovember Words, the matter is treated thusly (the whole page is worth a read):

The only reference we could find anywhere confirming connections between the counting words of Native Americans with those used in the North of England is in a musical written in 1957, called The Music Man. There is a scene in this play where the wife of the Mayor exclaims “I will now count to twenty in the Indian tongue! Een teen tuther featherfip!” Is this line in the play responsible for the idea that Native American peoples were using these old counting words with their Gaelic origins, or does it reflect that through the dark mechanisms of Imperialism the counting words were imposed onto Native American culture by the time the play was written?

Lincolnshire Shepherds counted:
Yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pinp,
Sethera, lethera, hovera, covera, di,
Yen-a-dik, tan-a-dick, tethera-dik, pethera-dik, bumfit,
Yan-a-bumfit, tan-a-bumfit, tuthera-bumfit, pethera-bumfit, figgit.

At the same time, around 1890, Native Americans were also using:
Een, teen, thuther, futher, fipps,
Suther, luther, uther, duther, dix,
Een-dix, teen-dix, tuther-dix, futher-dix, bumpit,
Anny-bumpit, tanny-bumpit, tuther-bumpit, futher-bumpit, giggit, Anny-gigit.

If you listen to the soundtrack of the movie version of “The Music Man” carefully, there’s a bit more:

Eulalie begins: Een teen tuther feather fip!
The chorus chants: Sakey, Lakey, Corey Ippy Gip (This may not be 100% accurate as these words do not appear in the screenplay)
Eulalie continues: Eendik Teendik Tetherdik Fethertik … (she is interrupted by a firecracker)

So we can see that it’s entirely possible that these counters, very similar to the Brythonic counting systems – too close to be coincidental – may have been transmitted very early by some oral channel to Native Americans, and that by folklore tradition a knowledge of these counters worked their way down cultural pathways to be included in the play and movie.

Language and its history are curious things, with enough puzzles and questions for lifetimes of study – even the whimsical bits.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Carpenter’s Sandwiches, 1932

West Sunset Boulevard & Vine Street, Los Angeles, California.

(Click image for full-size version. Just look at those prices…)
Carpenter's Drive In

A wonderful memory of early Los Angeles – before my time, certainly, but along the same lines as some other unusual LA restaurants that I do remember.

Hoot-Hoot-Ice-Cream

I’ve mentioned Hoot Hoot I Scream before; another great collection of ephemera from Los Angeles can be found at Shelter From the Storm, including the coffee pot restaurant seen below.

Coffee Pot Restaurant

Most of these unusual eateries are gone, replaced by restaurants whose gimmick is found inside rather than outside. As for me, I miss places like this. I still grin when I drive along the freeway on a road trip and see a huge Sapp Bros. water tank decked out to look like a coffee pot.

Sapp

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Trading Stamp Era

In a previous entry about things gone but not forgotten (by me and my generation, anyway,) I mentioned S&H green stamps.

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Trading stamps were incentives given out by grocery stores and gas stations in the same way as stores do with coupons, reward-cards, and other come-ons today. You’d collect the stamps, paste them in books, and then take your books to a redemption center somewhere and exchange them for consumer goods.

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Based on the amount of your purchase, the checker would dial up the amount you spent on a machine like the one above, and the thing would dispense stamps in 1, 10, and the coveted 50 variety. The last one was great because you could fill up an entire page in the book with just one lick.

SandHStamps

Depending on the area of the country you lived in, there were different varieties of stamps available. The ones I recall in addition to the S&H Green Stamps were:

original

Gold strike stamps

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Page from a Gold Strike Stamp Catalog. This was not cheap slum; the premiums had significant value if you were willing to collect enough books.

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Blue Chip Stamps. If you’re curious about that “cash value one mill” (equivalent to 1/10 ¢) thing, have a gander at this article over at Mental Floss.

1967-blue-chip-stamps-coupons

Blue Chip Promotional Ad

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Plaid Stamps, particular to A&P.

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Pages from a Plaid Stamp catalog.

I remember helping my mother gather and lick and apply these things and looked forward to her regular trips to the grocery store. I can’t recall what, if anything, she ever redeemed her books for, but the memory of the collecting is very clear. While the craze faded shortly after, I’m glad I was able to live through this interesting bit of cultural history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.