Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What happened to the UWF History Dept. website?

Looks like the website for the UWF history dept. has a new look.  Bummer.  Lots lost from the prior page, such as the newsletter.  I get the feeling this change was driven from above.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Maurice Cowling remembered

The American Conservative recently posted an entertaining article on combative 20th-c. British historian Maurice Cowling by Matthew Walther titled "Tory Nihilist."  While I take issue with the title, I thoroughly enjoyed the article.  I first heard of Cowling through David Bentley Hart's illuminating review of his final book in First Things (regrettably no longer available via the First Things website, but it can be read-and profitably-at this slightly creepy shrine to all things DBH).  Also see this excellent analysis of Cowling's oeurve by Richard Vinen at Reviews in History.  Vinen strikes a comparison between Cowling and post-punk band The Fall, which, in essence, means Fall frontman Mark E. Smith.  A most apt comparison.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nicholas Carr's good tastes in music

Do you know who Nicholas Carr is?  He wrote The Shallows, which I understand to be a monumental critique of the current state of the technological society (or at least the Internet).  I don't know, because I have not read it yet.  Yet.  It's on my list.  While I haven't read his books, I have read several articles and blog posts by Carr.  He blogs at Rough Type, which was recommended by one of my favorite writers, Alan Jacobs (who himself writes provocative blog posts at (among other places) Text Patterns, hosted by the site of the estimable journal The New Atlantis).

I noticed recently that Carr keeps another blog, Rougher Type, where he lets his personality hang out a little bit, including his tastes in pop music, which I find agreeable.  I haven't read all that far back, but so far he's touted Guided by Voices, My Bloody Valentine, the Zombies, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, notably.  GBV, MBV, et al - pretty cool.  Carr even made a Robert Pollard mix"tape" on Spotify!  Haven't listened to it yet, but looking forward to it.  (I haven't been able to keep up with Pollard for quite some time now, sadly.)

And back to Jacobs, he's professed admiration for Yo La Tengo and Ray Davies.  These guys are both smart and cool.  Maybe there's hope for me (in one direction or another).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tim Egan: Channeling the classic American mythos

Tim Egan is our new favorite author of children's books.  It all began with Serious Farm, which curiously is left off the list of books at Mr. Egan's website.  This cover has Grant Wood's "American Gothic" written all over it.  Even though the book is about farm animals acting goofy and doing silly things to overthrow their farmer's suffocating seriousness - even though it's about the importance of not being too serious - the mood is fastened by a bolt of stoicism that runs throughout, as it does in all his books that I've read so far.  It's something in the way he draws faces.  Yet, that itself is the joke that ultimately brings a smile to his readers' faces.  He populates his books with stoic animals that we can't take entirely seriously, and it's this very fact that subverts the stoicism with mirth.  (Fishing for a Chesterton quote here.)

Okay, okay, hold on a minute.  Just ignore the previous paragraph.  I'm thinking about it too much.  Look, the bottom line is that Tim Egan's books are a lot of fun, touching but not sentimental, silly but not frivolous, uniquely rendered.  My 3-year-old son loves them, as do my wife and I.  He does channel something distinctly American.  So far, we've read Serious Farm, Metropolitan Cow, Roasted Peanuts (probably our favorite so far), The Pink Refrigerator, and Dodsworth in New York.  They're all a joy.  Glad to see many more Egan books to read to my kids.  And to myself when no one's looking.  Tim Egan, please don't stop writing!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A fresh start

Well, I dusted the blog off, and I'm giving it another shot.  I've made some changes.  The biggest so far is that I've changed the name.  I loved the previous name - Legends of the Falls (since I live in Wichita Falls) - but I wanted to start a separate blog for local history.  That one I intended to name "Legends of the Falls."  Apparently, that blog name has already been taken!  So I ditched "Legends..." and chose instead "Texoma in Time."  Not stellar, but not bad.  Then I started a compost blog (yes, you read that right), Compostulations.  This blog, my personal, wide-ranging blog, is now called Cliftonia.

Let the games begin!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

R.I.P. Big Star Bassist Andy Hummel

Tough year for Big Star. Andy Hummel (second from right) played a central role in one of the outstanding and most notoriously unsung bands of the rock era. He did not contribute many songs, but "The India Song" is one of my favorite Big Star tunes.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The tragedy of mobility

"Mobility is the great sickness crippling America, withering its civic life and deadening its spirit. But it remains undiagnosed, its symptoms mis-ascribed, for only the mobile have microphones and cameras and printer's ink. You never hear about the millions of stay-at-home Americans; we play the unheard music."

-Bill Kauffman, Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On the road again.

It's been a long week on the blacktop.  I drove to Lawton,  Oklahoma, on Tuesday, drove to Wichita Falls, Texas, and back to Lawton on Wednesday, returned to Wichita Falls and spent the night with relatives in Flower Mound (a Dallas suburb) on Thursday, and drove back to Pensacola via Shreveport, Jackson, and Mobile on Friday.  The route from Wichita Falls to Flower Mound (a city name that I simply cannot take  seriously) proved precarious at times, as wildfires raged on either side of the highway for much of the trip.  Fortunately, the smoke only caused visibility problems for a brief stretch of road a little west (or east?) of Decatur.

Tati in Paris

The city of Paris is celebrating the work of legendary filmmaker Jacques Tati's work in special exibitions, walking tours, and other related events from April 8 until August 2.  Oh, how I wish I could fly to France on a whim!  Tati, whose work I discovered only within the last couple years (thanks to Martin Luther) and which I now count among my favorite films, shaped his comedies to cast light-hearted but clear-minded criticism upon the technological pretensions of modern life.  His influence on Terry Gilliam's films, particularly Time Bandits, Brazil, and 12 Monkeys, is obvious, though Gilliam, another of my favorites, admittedly works in darker tones.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Into Great Silence at UWF

The University of West Florida will feature the film Into Great Silence, a critically acclaimed documentary about Carthusian monks in the French Alps, at the UWF Commons Auditorium tomorrow evening.  The film begins at 6:00 PM.  It is part of the UWF Labyrinth Experience, which runs until Tuesday evening.  

Friday, March 20, 2009

...and Gabriel Byrne.

How could forget Gabriel Byrne!  He played Uther Pendragon in Excalibur.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Speaking of Round Tables...

As Wendy and I watched the delightful 1981 British b-movie Excalibur last night, we were surprised to discover Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, and Liam Neeson among the cast!  Excalibur is indeed a silly film, but it's fun, and it must have been a fun movie to make (despite carrying heavy armor around and so forth).  When Helen Mirren accepted her Oscar for The Queen, I wonder if she might have thought to herself, "Yes, this is the pinnacle of my acting achievement, but Excalibur was such a laugh!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pensacola Civil War Roundtable meeting tonight

[From the PCWRT press release]

The Pensacola Civil War Roundtable meets tonight at 7pm at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), located at 6031 Goodrich (Corner of Langley and Goodrich). The meeting is the final in a series of three talks about Gettysburg.

Robert E. Lee and George Gordan Meade shared a goal for the fight that must result from Lee's intrusion into Pennsylvania: Both wanted to assume a strong defensive tactical position and have the other destroy his force with senseless frontal assaults. Meade won, not just because Lee uncharacteristically abandoned manuever but also because Meade was thinking defensively and postioned his army accordingly.

Even though a battle at Gettysburg was not inevitable, the two armies moved inexorably toward that place as though guided by an invisible hand. Meade ordered his corps to move as follows on July 1st:
- The First Corps to Gettysburg with the Eleventh to follow within supporting distance
- The Second Corps to Taneytown or on to Gettysburg or Emmitsburg as circumstances might dictate
- The Third Corps to Emmitsburg
- The Fifth Corps to Hanover
- The Twelfth Corps to Two Taverns
- The Sixth Corps, the largest in the Army of the Potomac, would remain at Manchester, Maryland

Meade thus put two corps at Gettysburg, where Lee's forces seemed to be coming together, and four more in supporting distance, while maintaining the large Sixth Corps in a position to defend on the east as well as to support Meade's ultimate defensive line, the Pipe Creek Line. This proposed defensive line would be atop the 800-1000 foot Parr Ridge, above Pipe Creek, which was 15-20 miles south and southeast of Gettysburg. In his directive known as the Pipe Creek Circular, Meade gave some detail to his thinking on how the army would move to this line. It would be not only a strong defensive position, but would be close to his supply base at Westminster and would also block Lee from Baltimore and Washington.

What if, though, after day one of what would be known as the Battle of Gettysburg played out just as it did, what if, on day two, July 2nd, Lee reverted to the Lee of Second Manassas and Chancellorsville and maneuvered instead of assaulting the strong Union positions on Cemetery Ridge?

What if Lee listened to Longstreet's criticism of the assaults planned on the night of July 1st and boldly split his army, making the kind of move that could achieve what he so passionately desired, a decisive victory over the Army of the Potomac on northern soil?
What if Lee moved his corps quickly, distracting and confusing the Union generals as he had so often in the past?

You'll learn the answers to these questions Tuesday night, March 10th, as we look at the book Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War, by Newt Gingrich and Professor William R. Forstchen

Meetings are free and open to the public. Visitors are welcome.  For more information call (850) 968 6094 or email