Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Historic Pensacola


This is old news, unfortunately.  However, aged news becomes history, and history is what I peddle.  The University Press of Florida recently published Historic Pensacola, co-authored by history professor Jay Clune and archaeology professor Margo Stringfield of the University of West Florida.  Dr. Clune and Prof. Stringfield did a book-signing at the T. T. Wentworth Museum in downtown Pensacola a month or so ago, for which I hastily leapt in line.  Support local history!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Recycling comes to Escambia County


The Escambia County Utilities Authority is finally offering curbside recycling services.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Deneen on transportation stimulus and road dependency

"It is either farce or tragedy that we will invest further in an economic model premised on permanently cheap and readily available energy sources at a time when we have had our first taste of the reality and experience of peak oil. We will sink more of our increasingly limited funds (or, increasingly limited ability to borrow funds that we can no longer create) in maintaining or expanding a transportation system that, for a few months at least in the last year, was decreasingly being used as the price of energy rose so high to be a disincentive to travel. We saw - and continue to see - the housing of the far-flung suburbs losing its value as people began to re-think the wisdom of purchasing more house at distances that not only entailed lengthy and deadening commutes, but which were becoming so cost prohibitive to force people - for the first time in decades - to consider distance to be a factor in considerations of where to live. And, we are likely to sink more money into a transportation system at just the moment we witness the collapse of America's automobile industry - the industry for which the massive investment in roads was largely built to support and expand."

-Patrick Deneen, "Road Dependency"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Favored beer of the moment


Terrapin Wake 'N' Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout.  Beer Advocate gives it an A.  C'mon, who doesn't love a turtle making cookies and drinking beer at dawn?  Terrapin combines several of my favorite treats into one bottle, and it does so in a complex, vibrant fashion.  This is a beer to sip and appreciate.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I love this word: kerfuffle.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Historical Resources in Pensacola


View Larger Map

I've begun work on this Google Map to trace historical resources (archives, museums, etc.) in Pensacola, specifically pertaining to Pensacola and Northwest Florida history.

Pensacola street view

Google Maps has finally created street views of Pensacola.  While we're at it, here's a travel map posted by jakbikesdc:



View Larger Map

It would be great to see the Pensacola Historical Society or Pensacola Historic Village create such a map of historic Pensacola.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Antonioni, eat your heart out!


Far East Mini Meet December 2008 from Joshua Clifton on Vimeo.

My brother Josh and his wife Sarah filmed and edited this recent excursion with the Far East Mini Club (their motto: "No compensation needed.") Josh writes: "This trip started out at NAF Atsugi with our club and Goonies@mini, a Tokyo based Japanese club. We worked our way out to Lake Miyagase and then ate at a wonderful restaurant. Lots of nice twisty roads and beautiful scenery." Killer soundtrack, of course. Who would expect anything less from the former leader of Daigaku?

A season in Hades

Nevermind the snow; it's been a hot and muggy winter in Pensacola. We've been running our air conditioner. So much for my sweater collection.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow on the Gulf Coast!


A true Christmas miracle! Michael Kunzelman of the Associated Press writes, "A rare snowfall blanketed south Louisiana and parts of Mississippi Thursday, closing schools, government offices and bridges, triggering crashes on major highways and leaving thousands of people without power." (Photo: Jackson Square in New Orleans. Full story here.) Can Pensacola look forward to such majestic wintry precipitation? It would be nice.
[Originally posted at ze life and ze times.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rosen on the Kindle and its kin

"We are so eager to explore what these new [electronic/digital] reading devices devices do—particularly what they do better than the printed book—that we ignore the more rudimentary but important human questions: the tactile pleasures of the printed page versus the screen; the new risks of distraction posed by a device with a wireless Internet connection; the difference between reading a book in two-page spreads and reading a story on one flashing screen-display after another. Kindle and other e-readers are marvelous technologies of convenience, but they are no replacement for the book."

- Christine Rosen, "People of the Screen," The New Atlantis, Fall 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pascal and the precipice

"We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it."

-Pascal, Pensees

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Currently listening to...


...and three cheers for unassuming, melancholy Pennsylvania bedroom pop on vinyl.

Favored beer of the moment


Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale - a Christmastime treat!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Chesterton on God's mirth

"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth."

- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On spiritual and literary pilgrimage

"A pilrimage is a journey undertaken in the light of a story. A great event has happened; the pilgrim hears the reports and goes in search of the evidence, aspiring to be an eyewitness. The pilgrim seeks not only to confirm the experience of others firsthand but to be changed by the experience."

- Paul Elie, The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday morning before work

Reading Waugh, listening to Chopin, sipping tea - perhaps I am living out a cliche, but it is an increasingly rare cliche, if such a thing is possible. A very fine moment, nonetheless. Reading Waugh? Yes, I'm a hundred pages into Men at Arms, first of the Sword of Honour trilogy. I still must provide a report on Kerouac's Town & City, which I finished a while ago. In the works, but don't expect anything profound. Alas, the holiday season of excess has kept us retailers in a whirlwind state, though it has yet to prove fatal in Pensacola as it has in New York. Is there any greater indication that our society needs to reevaluate its priorities? Yet, nothing new exists under the sun. I don't doubt that Mencken would find much familiar in our time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

- John James Audobon, 1830

- Robert Walter Weir, 1844

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reitan: Is God a Delusion?


This book looks remarkable, not least because it came out of Stillwater, Oklahoma! (Reitan is an associate professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University - a philosopher-cowboy?) Is God a Delusion, hot off the press from Wiley-Blackwell (a heady publisher if there ever was one), promises to be one of the more thoughtful responses to Richard Dawkins & Co.'s boorish broadsides against religious belief. Although it must be said that Dawkins will have to work much harder to match the withering vitriol and hellfire of a Chick tract. Christopher Hitchens, however, no mere novice when it comes to low-brow-blows, may find the goal attainable.
By the way, note Reitan's reference to Schleiermacher, early nineteenth-century German theologian and author of the classic work On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. Many credit Schleiermacher as the father of modern liberal theology. Does Reitan seek to make such a connection, grounding his critical response in Enlightenment thought, or is he simply making use of a catchy title? Since it may be a very long time before I get to Reitan's book, dear readers, perhaps you will have the opportunity to investigate this question more speedily.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Far East Mini Club

My brother Josh has started a Far East Mini Club in Fussa, Japan. Check it out at Sarah's blog.

Lunch the other day


Fried egg, sharp cheddar, oven-baked chicken, and steamed spinach on English muffins with Jack Daniels horseradish mustard. They really did taste better than they looked.

Favored chocolate of the moment


Friday, November 14, 2008

PHS Presentation: Palmetto Beach Amusement Park

Here's the announcement for my upcoming presentation on Palmetto Beach at the Pensacola Historical Society on Monday evening:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

am Dienstags und der Lusitania

My ultracool wife Wendy has started an intermittent blog: am Dienstags. I don't know what that means. She is so teutonic.

In other news, I read recently that Lusitania is the Latin name for Portugal. Here is a radical theory: Perhaps the Germans were trying to sink Portugal in WWI and accidentally hit an American ship instead?

Me and Mike Magnusson

This summer, I had the pleasure of running into an old high school chum, Mike Magnusson. We hadn't seen each other since he and his family left England for the States in '93. I didn't know Mike really well. We played football together. His sister Amy was in my class. Still, it's always great to run into an acquaintance of old. It always fazes and amazes me how memories of another time and another place seem more like a story I read than my actual life in the past.

Anyway, I worked with Mike's wife Vanessa at Starbucks this summer. I mentioned that I grew up in England, she said her husband had attended high school there, and through a little elementary deduction, I was amazed to find that she was married to Mike. Quelle coincidence! He's in the Coast Guard and was training at NAS Pensacola. They finally got orders to their next duty station, somewhere near Houston. This suits Mike just fine, because their families are in Texas. And St. Arnold's Brewery is in Houston.

I got to hang out with Mike a couple nights ago before he left. We ate at the venerable Goatlips (a favorite haunt of Pensacola archaeologists and historians), picked up a couple of cigars from Cordova Cigars (handpicked by John D. Melvin III himself - and only $3!), and enjoyed some Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale while we discussed beer, England, and Albuquerque (another place we've both lived, though at different times).

Here's a blurry phone-camera pic at my pad:




It should be noted that Mike once wore a neutral-coloured wetsuit in a little cove in Ibiza (youth group trip - yes, to Ibiza) with black stitching down his backside that made him look entirely nude from a distance. I'm not sure he was aware of this at the time.

And here's high school Mike ('93):

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Illich on institutions and a life of action

"I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a life style which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a life style which only allows us to make and unmake, produce and consume - a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. We need a set of criteria which will permit us to recognize those institutions which support personal growth rather than addiction, as well as the will to invest our technological resources preferentially in such institutions of growth."

- Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pensacola book sale


I picked up C. S. Lewis' On Stories (big surprise, I know), C. Vann Woodward's Origins of the New South, 1877-1913, Norman Sherry's The Life of Graham Greene, Volume I: 1904-1939 (unfortunately terminating before Greene's espionage work in World War II), and Thomas Merton's Disputed Questions - all for $4.50. Not bad!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Plantinga online at CCEL

Amazingly, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library has published Alvin Plantinga's daunting and much lauded (and debated) philosophical work Warranted Christian Belief online at their website. Why is this amazing? It was published very recently - in 2000 - by Oxford University Press. Kudos to OUP for granting permission and to CCEL for making this significant addition to their already substantial online library. I hope CCEL will make many more recently published works of esoteric theological/philosophical inquiries available to grad students and other paupers with internet access.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Critical writings on C. S. Lewis

I picked up a volume from the library of critical writing (both positive and negative) on C. S. Lewis. It's the first in Scolar Press' Critical Thought Series, which includes such postmodern icons as Foucault. The series editor, George Watson, a former colleague of Lewis, makes a provocative case in the introductory essay that Lewis was much more modern - or postmodern, rather - in his critical thinking than most people recognize or appreciate (and he notes that Lewis certainly would not appreciate such a categorization). Watson suggests that Lewis was perhaps twenty years ahead of his time in certain aspects in his critical theory, such as de-emphasizing authorial intent and taking a formalist approach to fantasy. Though Watson admits that Lewis could never be lumped together with the likes of Derrida, he stresses that Lewis was still well ahead of his time with certain ideas and made very important and often unacknowledged contributions to intellectual history and critical theory. He surmises that the reason a school of thought did not develop around Lewis is primarily due to his contrarian nature and his efforts to play the devil's advocate to modern thinkers. In the collection, Lewis comes in for high praise from such esteemed historians as A.J.P. Taylor and E.M.W. Tillyard. Quite incredible given the current mainstream scholarly opinion of Lewis. I think his contributions to intellectual history are due for a reconsideration.

[Note: I originally emailed this to a professor and thought afterwards that it might make a nice post.]

Famous Cliftons: Big in Japan

My crazy little niece Rosemary is the star of a Japanese product catalog!

The Scriptorium

Wendy and I have yet to decide upon a name for our new apartment, but the place includes a nifty little den where I conduct my studies which we've dubbed The Scriptorium. Nice, huh? It's little more than a hole in the wall, but it contains that peculiar comfort that a place shut off from the rest of the world can sometimes provide - just enough comfort, but not too much; just enough to take your mind off the world outside and to let you focus. It's entirely different from my workspace at the Trailer of Paradise, our previous residence, where I sat at my table in front of a window with a view to our small backyard and the ruined wilderness beyond. Squirrels, cardinals, and bluejays often entertained me as I worked on papers, alighting on the fence and acting out the comedy of creation. No more of that. Now I am a cloistered scholar poring over obscure texts to contribute my own yet-more-obscure conclusions amid piles of books and papers, scattered knickknacks from around the world, and a steady flow of coffee and herbal teas.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography

Blackwell is publishing A Companion to the Philosophy of History and Historiography next month. The volume, edited by Aviezer Tucker of Queen's University, Belfast, promises to make an indispensable guide to the discipline (although it will require one to dispense with nearly $200). Here is the table of contents:

1. Introduction: Aviezer Tucker (Prague)
Part I Major Fields:
2. Philosophy of Historiography: Peter Kosso (Northern Arizona University)
3. Philosophy of History: Zdeněk Vašíček (Institute for Contemporary History, Prague)
4. Philosophical Issues in Natural History and Its Historiography: Carol E. Cleland (University of Colorado, Boulder)
5. Historians and Philosophy of Historiography: John Zammito (Rice University)
Part II: Basic Problems:
6. Historiographic Evidence and Confirmation: Mark Day (Nottingham-Trent University) and Gregory Radick (University of Leeds)
7. Causation in Historiography: Aviezer Tucker (Prague)
8. Historiographic Counterfactuals: Elazar Weinryb (Open University of Israel)
9. Historical Necessity and Contingency: Yemima Ben-Menahem (Hebrew University)
10. Explanation in Historiography: Graham Macdonald (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) and Cynthia Macdonald (Queen's University, Belfast)
11. Historiographic Understanding: Guiseppina D'Oro (Keele University)
12. Colligation: C. Behan McCullagh (La Trobe University)
13. The Laws of History: Stephan Berry (Berlin)
14. Historiographic Objectivity: Paul Newall (British Royal Navy)
15. Realism about the Past: Murray Murphey (University of Pennsylvania)
16. Anti-realism about the Past: Fabrice Pataut (Institut de l'Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences et des Techniques, Paris)
17. Narrative and Interpretation: F. R. Ankersmit (University of Groningen)
18. The Ontology of the Objects of Historiography: Lars Udehn (Stockholm University)
19. Origins: Common Causes in Historiographic Reasoning: Aviezer Tucker (Prague)
20. Phylogenetic Inference: Matt Haber (University of Utah)
21. Historicism: Robert D'Amico (University of Florida)
22. Ethics and the Writing of Historiography: Jonathan Gorman (Queen's University, Belfast)
23. Logical Fallacies of Historians: Paul Newall (British Royal Navy)
24. Historical Fallacies of Historians: Carlos Spoerhase (Humboldt University of Berlin) and Colin G. King (Humboldt University of Berlin)Part III: Philosophy and Sub-fields of Historiography:
25. Philosophy of History of Science: Nicholas Jardine (University of Cambridge)
26. Philosophies of Historiography and the Social Sciences: Harold Kincaid (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
27. The Philosophy of Evolutionary Theory: Michael Ruse (Florida State University)
28. The Philosophy of Geology: Rob Inkpen (University of Portsmouth)
29. Philosophy of Archaeology: Ben Jeffares (Australia National University)
30. Reductionism: Historiography and Psychology: Cynthia Macdonald (Queen's University, Belfast) and Graham Macdonald (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
31. Historiography and Myth: Mary Lefkowitz (Wellesley College)
32. Historiography and Memory: Marie-Claire Lavabre (CNRS, France)
33. Historiographic Schools: Christopher Lloyd (University of New England)
Part IV: Classical Schools and Philosophers of Historiography and History:
34. Leopold Ranke: Thomas Gil (Technical University of Berlin)
35. Scientific Historiography: Chris Lorenz (VU University of Amsterdam)
36. Darwin: John S. Wilkins (University of Queensland)
37. Logical Empiricism and Logical Positivism: Krzysztof Brzechczyn (Adam Mickiewitz University/Institute of National Remembrance, Poland)
38. Jewish and Christian Philosophy of History: Samuel Moyn (Columbia University)
39. Muslim Philosophy of History: Zaid Ahmad (Universiti Putra, Malaysia)
40. Vico: Joseph Mali (Tel Aviv University)
41. Kant and Herder: Sharon Anderson-Gold (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)
42. Hegel: Tom Rockmore (Duquesne University)
43. Neo-Kantianism: Charles Bambach (University of Dallas)
44. Marx: Tom Rockmore (Duquesne University)
45. Collingwood and Croce: Stein Helgeby (Melbourne)
46. Phenomenology: David Weberman (Central European University, Hungary)
47. Jan Patočka: Ivan Chvatik (Czech Academy of Science)
48. Hermeneutics: Rudolf A. Makkreel (Emory University)
49. Postmodernism: Beverley Southgate (University of Hertfordshire)
50. Philosophy of History at the End of the Cold War: Krishnan Kumar (University of Virginia)Index

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Profile photograph explained

You may have noticed my new profile photo. Yes, that's a microwave. It was taken by Wes Taylor, singer and bassist for our band, Daigaku, at the First Assembly of God in Pensacola as we waited to take the floor. By the way, I either played keyboard or tambourine/cowbell/triangle, depending on when this took place. I can't remember off the top of my head. Could be something to do with the microwave.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crouch on American coziness

"So why am I hopeful? Because I believe the coming years are going to reveal some pernicious weeds in our culture for what they are. One of the characteristics of weeds is that they suck up resources from other plants. They are quick-growing, quick-spreading, invasive. They do not coexist with the other plants in the garden, they overtake them. Kudzu is a weed not because it is unattractive in its own way or even has no rightful place in the ecosystem, but because it grows over and chokes out other valuable and beautiful things. Weeds are, as every gardener knows, the easiest thing to grow.

"And I believe the fundamental weed in the American garden is, in fact, ease. Easy-ness. Effortlessness. Along with the incredible benefits of the rise of technology has been this terrible weed: the idea that things should be easy. The Staples office-supply chain has profited handsomely selling the ultimate symbol of our times: a plastic button that does absolutely nothing but is great fun to push, labeled "easy.""

- Andy Crouch, "Why I Am Hopeful," Books & Culture

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Favored tea of the moment




Lukacs on the development of modern historical consciousness

"To sum up, therefore: the evolution of historical consciousness ever since its first definite emergence about three centuries ago may have developed through the following phases:

Eighteenth century: History as literature; the narrated past.
Nineteenth century: History as science; the recorded past.
Twentieth century: a dual development: on the surface, history as a social science; the ascertained past. But, in a deeper and wider sense: history as a form of thought; the remembered past."

- John Lukacs, Historical Consciousness: The Remembered Past

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Megill on history as discourse

"History is indeed a discourse, but it is more than that, at least if its practitioners want their work to be more than a collection of diverse bardic responses to the pains of people's historical existence or multiple attempts to celebrate the glories of our nation's past, whichever nation or would-be nation that is. One can certainly imagine historians becoming bards, blog writers, or hired celebrators. But if history were to become a multiplicity of discourses it is likely that historians' variant voices would drown each other out or not be heard at all. Surely some measure of disciplinary auctoritas - and the quality control of that goes with it - is required."

- Allan Megill, "A Review of Manifestos for History," Historically Speaking July/August 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ratzinger on discipline and discovery

I lifted this remarkable Joseph Ratzinger quote from Mark Gavreau Judge's recent article at Books & Culture:

"Today an illusion is dangled before us: that a man can find himself without first conquering himself, without the patience of self-denial and the labor of self control; that there is no need to endure the discomfort of upholding tradition, or to continue suffering the tension between the ideal and the actual in our nature."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kerouac: WWII American youth

"...why are the youngsters living the way they do? With no sense of right and wrong, no feeling of responsibility, no sincere hopes or things like that. You might say on account of the war. But think of the poor kids who haven't got time to feel one way or another about it right now, the kids on the fronts - will they all be like that after the war? ... There's something missing somewhere."

- Jack Kerouac, The Town and the City

Kerouac and the legend of wartime America

"They had their picture taken. It was a picture that Joe was going to keep in his wallet throughout the war and years later. It was a picture that really contained the lovely image of Patricia's brooding devotion to him, as well as the whole legend of wartime America itself, a picture upon which was written the great story of wandering, sadness, parting, farewell, and war."

- Jack Kerouac, The Town and the City

Friday, October 10, 2008

Benton on the so-called "end of the book"

"The end of the book has, by now, been debunked. The electronic book is no substitute for the paperback, after all. Amazon's Kindle is apparently no more viable than the automated feeding system demonstrated in Chaplin's Modern Times. Besides, computer software and digital media change so fast that paper — for all its seeming fragility — remains the surest means of projecting a text into the distant future (except, perhaps, for clay tablets)."

-Thomas H. Benton, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Also, check out Mark Bauerlein's comments on the Kindle at The Chronicle's "Brainstorm" blog.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eliot inspires, worries people at Pensacola Starbucks

Our Starbucks clientele at the north end of Pensacola (the Ferry Pass area) received Friday's T. S. Eliot readings rather well, or at least better than I expected. We didn't have any screaming or bursting into tears, although I think one of my co-workers (we call each other "partners," which is almost a little creepy) came close. In fact, most of our customers cheerily accepted my somber orations with something approaching approval, and nearly all signs of bafflement or irritation were swept under the rug of courtesy. Pensacola, you made me proud!

I tried to avoid the morbid and macabre, but I discovered that this is not so easy with Eliot, or at least not with the sets of his poetry in my collection. The phrase "unreal city" kept catching my eye as I scanned the pages for more uplifting verse. Pensacola, anyone? Surely, Eliot is talking about Pensacola.

My, er, partners were slow to take up the mantle of the bard, leaving me the bulk of the recitation duties. However, despite some aversion to "The Wasteland," they were inspired to contribute their own poetic creations in the form of satirical haiku. Aha! Individual creativity unleashed in the corporate service industry. Who would have guessed? The Apocalypse must be nigh.

All in all, Friday night at Starbucks achieved a most lyrical and transcendent quality as patrons and partners alike felt their spirits lifted by the likes of "The Hollow Men." The following evening with Yeats, William Carlos Williams, and Solzhenitsyn did not fare so well. Evidently, this city has its limits.

Friday, September 26, 2008

T. S. Eliot at Starbucks


Today is Thomas Stearns Eliot's birthday. Does he care? No idea, but I sure do. That's why I'm taking "The Wasteland" to work with me tonight. I'll read passages to our customers and note how it affects their beverage selections. This should be interesting in Pensacola. Look for my report in a later post.

Bentley on modern historiography

This piece is obviously dated - indeed, the first half feels almost redundant from a post-9/11 perspective - but Bentley proves prescient. He provides a very insightful introduction to the shape of 21st-century historiography as it stands thus far.

"Postmodernism as an intellectual form is already provoking a backlash. The consequences for the writing of history of the crash of communism in 1989 have not yet begun to work themselves out, though we can certainly remain sceptical in face of arguments about the End of Ideology, the End of History and the Beginning of Post-History. The discipline has survived several political revolutions and two world wars: it ought to be able to cope with Mr Gorbachev. National identities still inform all versions of historiography, sometimes in indirect ways. Indeed we seem still to be using history as the early nineteenth century did, as a vehicle for locating groups and peoples and giving them a past that suits their present or encourages their sense of a future. All of these things may alter. But one development in the history of the present looks likely to be both permanent and valuable. Historians have never been so aware of what they are attempting as they have become over the past two decades. Always a reflective form of writing, history has become (as they say) 'reflexive': it is self-conscious to a degree and to a level of sophistication that no previous generation can match... Possibly historians will become morbid and self-destructive as a result. Not a few have already become self-important. Yet the move towards a deliberately constructed history gives critics of all persuasions the opportunity and the duty to keep their swords sharp against a moment when contingencies may threaten to destroy the discipline or subvert an interest in the past at all. We shall do well to remember that historiography forms the stone that whets the blade."

-Michael Bentley, "Introduction: Approaches to Modernity," Companion to Historiography (Routledge, 1997)

Bentley on modern historiography

"Historians have never been so aware of what they are attempting as they have become over the past two decades. Always a reflective form of writing, history has become (as they say) 'reflexive': it is self-conscious to a degree and to a level of sophistication that no previous generation can match... Possibly historians will become morbid and self-destructive as a result. Not a few have already become self-important. Yet the move towards a deliberately constructed history gives critics of all persuasions the opportunity and the duty to keep their swords sharp against a moment when contingencies may threaten to destroy the discipline or subvert an interest in the past at all. We shall do well to remember that historiography forms the stone that whets the blade."

-Michael Bentley, "Introduction: Approaches to Modernity," Companion to Historiography (Routledge, 1997)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writer's Almanac: literary culture in the mobile home

Half of me is utterly opposed to mornings. That's the sleeping half, of course. The half that is quickly becoming conscious looks forward a collection of delights that the morning brings: waking next to my wife Wendy, watching the sunlight filter through the remaining trees in our backyard and hearing birds sing, drinking strong coffee, making Wendy coffee, eating breakfast, and listening to Garrison Keillor describe the lives of writers famous and obscure on the morning NPR show "Writer's Almanac."

About 8:55am every weekday morning, the sparse piano tune announces the show. Keillor lives in Minnesota, or at least he used to (I don't keep up that well), and I always feel as though he is reading his script inside an iced-over hovel on a farm in the country. That's obviously not the case, of course, but Keillor crafts his cultural declamations in such an intimate fashion that I feel as though he, too, abides within and against a cultural wasteland. It's like an oasis in a desert. It's as if he is talking to me.

Keillor begins with a birthday or two of literary or otherwise notable figures. He shares facts about the birthday celebrant's life. Today is F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday. He was born in St. Paul (very near to Keillor's heart) in 1896. Keillor often shares a pithy quotation from the writer, though I can't remember Fitzgerald's quote. Ah, Fitzgerald. It has been a long time. I read The Great Gatsby in high school (11th grade, 1992 - egads!), and I have not touched him since. I suppose it's high time I do. Oh, the ever-expanding reading list. But I will appreciate Fitzgerald so much more now that I am more thoroughly acquainted with the time period.

Our host then shares other significant events that occurred on each day. This week, however, is a little different. This week, Keillor is reflecting upon the Norman invasion of England in 1066. William the Conqueror, my namesake... I mean, via my grandpa, Bill Clifton, sort of. Today, Keillor talked about ways in which Normans impacted our language. They hailed from the northern French coast, of course, though I remember learning somewhere along the line that the Normans were actually of Viking descent (is that true?). The Normans, in good French fashion, particularly affected the language of food. They introduced the words gourmet, supper, and dinner. They also added beef and mutton, although we continued to use the Old English words cow and sheep. Food and philology, two worthy subjects close to my heart.

Keillor also closes each program with a poem or two. Today, he read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "The Pennycandystore Beyond the El." I think this is correct. My attention trailed off a bit here. Ferlinghetti was a leading Beat poet. He opened City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, which I had the pleasure to visit ten years ago. It was like a pilgrimage. The other day, Keillor read a fantastic poem about coffeehouses in Seattle. I don't remember the name. I was driving.

It is such a brief program - five minutes? - like a shot in the arm to bolster our defenses against the soul-deadening effects of our modern world on the go, careless. Keillor ends with these famous words, "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." I stay mostly well, and I'm told I do good work. I guess I should write him.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kierkegaard on ideas for sale

"Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale."

- Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kamikaze hawk strikes the Trailer of Paradise

Wendy and I were treated to a spectacle of nature as we hurriedly got ready this morning. As we both walked through the living room in transit between the bedroom and the kitchen (the two poles of existence at the ToP), we heard a loud thud somewhere to the right of the backyard windows. My first thought was that a large book had fallen from some high place, which is always a distinct possibility in our abode. Falling books create an especially booming resonance, given the mobile home's infrastructure (or lack thereof). My second thought was that a loose tree limb fell onto our roof. Also always a distinct possibility, one that makes hurricane season particularly fraught with worry.


Wendy peered out the back windows onto our backyard and the large clearing that was once a magnificent wilderness beyond our back fence. I glanced that way as well when an immense flurry of wings suddenly darted into view from the side of the trailer, encompassing a large portion of the view from the window, and swiftly heaved itself to the top of the fence! There perched a hawk that had to be a foot long from head to tail. I've included a photo of it below, but I'm afraid it does not do the majestic creature justice. Nevertheless, there it is.



Evidently, this large aerial predator decided to fly smack into the side of the ToP. It seemed to have narrowly missed the window. If it had, would it have crashed through the glass? Imagine the chaos! That would be a story to tell. Well, the hawk perched on the fence long enough to have a good look around and for me to take the photo. Suddenly, it leapt up into a tree above, where, lo and behold, another hawk of the same size appeared out of nowhere. The first hawk chased the second one across the canopy of trees in our backyard and out of our view. What a rare glimpse! What a morning! On a cool, dark, and windy September morning that threatens rain and possibly storm, could one be tempted to perceive it as an omen? If so, what sort of omen would a kamikaze hawk be? And who could blame it for wanting to join Wendy and me for coffee? But we were on the run. Sorry, hawk.


This was my second glimpse of hawks at the ToP. The first occurred a couple months ago. One of the hawks perched majestically atop a wire across our neighbor's driveway. It was also about a foot tall. Same hawk? Who knows? To put it's size into perspective, here's a photo of a cardinal on our back porch:


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lewis on the reading of old books

Here begins a new series of provocative quotations from various readings.

"It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period."

- C. S. Lewis, "On the Reading of Old Books," God in the Dock

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sickness and suffragettes (this week has flown)


It has been such a while since I last wrote, or at least it seems so. I feel like a bad parent (in which case my other two blogs are red-headed stepchildren). So it goes in the age of instant technology and increased expectations.

Has it only been a week? What a week! It has been both a ridiculous and a resounding week. The great shining moment came this past Tuesday, the 16th, when Dr. Patricia Harrison, chair of history at Spring Hill College in Mobile, visited the University of West Florida and presented a lecture at the Pensacola Historical Society. I led a group of students in coordinating this event, which consumed a lot of time and effort. However, it was a clear success. Dr. Harrison is a wonderfully pleasant woman, and it was a pleasure to show her around town and to arrange the event for her.

It was a very rewarding experience, but this shining moment was punctuated by clouds of gloom, particularly in the form of utter, miserable congestion. I was struck down by the back-to-school bug last Tuesday, the 9th, and I am still battling it. Sickness has a way of slowing down time and everyday reality into a fuzzy, dreamlike vision. The Nyquil doesn't help. My waking moments were largely gobbled up by my barista duties at Starbucks (if only those only consisted of making drinks, but the cleaning and maintenance of store and stock fill most of my time), and I devoted what little time was left over to tidying up all the last details of Dr. Harrison's visit.

Yes, a dark and crazy week, but Dr. Harrison's visit went wonderfully, and all's well that ends well. By the way, you'll notice the flyer at the beginning of this post. That is a Tim Roberts special. He designed most of the flyers for Phi Alpha Theta during my stint as president and beyond. Tuesday's lecture was my last hurrah. Now to focus on actually graduating.


Did I mention that last Wednesday was my birthday? I spent the majority of the day in bed, attempting to ward off the evil spirits that clogged my respiratory system (little success), but it was still a fine day filled with cards and gifts from family members and reminders of the love we have for each other. Wendy bought me two especially wonderful gifts: Criterion Collection's edition of Withnail and I, the cult classic 80's British film of two down-and-out actors in late 60's Britain who try to escape from it all (with hilarious results), and one of my favorite novels (in my favorite edition, the Modern Library), The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. I will read it again soon.

Yesterday was the first cool day of the autumn season in Pensacola. Correction: it was the first cool morning and evening. That's close enough for us denizens of this sultry swampland. Shusaku Endo describes 16th-century Japan in his novel Silence as a spiritual swamp in which Christianity simply cannot take root. I wonder if northwest Florida constitutes a similarly swampy spiritual landscape, for though there exists a church on nearly every corner, the waters have long lain stagnant. A pervasive attitude of atrophy seems to blanket this place, but perhaps I am merely being negative. Perhaps Pensacola will see its day yet.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book #9: Guards! Guards!


Guards! Guards! is the second Terry Pratchett Discworld novel to land on this blog. In this story, Pratchett introduces Sam Vimes and the rest of the intrepid Ankh-Morpork City Watch to readers. Those who have read other Discworld stories featuring Watch Commander Vimes, may be surprised at first by Vimes' trepidation. The Watch has fallen on hard times. It has been made nearly redundant by the regulation of crime through the creation of the Thieves Guild, and its few remaining watchmen are bullied by the city's tough residents. However, the arrival of Carrot, the 6'6" man raised by dwarves whose unswerving dedication to uphold the law and a madman's cunning plot to overthrow the city government by summoning a dragon bring the Vimes' latent heroism to the fore.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Beer #1: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron


This is not my first beer, of course, but the first I will chronicle on my blog. Of all my little hobbies, I probably know least about beer. I really cannot tell you anything about the Palo Santo Marron that is not on the Dogfish Head website except that it is really, really good. It goes well with sirloin steak soup and an episode of Three Sheets.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Book #8: Prince Caspian

I actually finished Prince Caspian about three months ago, just in time for the baleful movie adaptation. I attempted to write a withering comparative analysis of the book and the film to demonstrate the poverty of the film version, snatching what time I could on breaks at Starbucks and so forth, but other responsibilities claimed my time, and I never finished. Now that the film is all but forgotten, it seems rather silly to proceed with such an invective. So I will leave a quick post on the book itself.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to give the book form of Prince Caspian its full due in this post. I hope it will suffice to make one small but crucial point. This book is about war. According to Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, its theme and mood are governed by the characteristics of Mars, the god of war, in accordance with medieval cosmology (another example of the subtle and erudite genius of Lewis). The Telmarines oppress the Narnians, and the Narnians rise up to cast off their oppression through force. However, such a reading (which is the version presented in the film) ignores Lewis' powerful subtext and the most important point in this book: it is not through force, power, and war that we are truly liberated, but through joy. A close reading of the story reveals that the Narnians are fighting for survival, not out of some sort of nationalistic or revolutionary fervor. However, as the battle rages, Aslan and the girls accompany Greek mythological figures Bacchus and Silenus, who represent joy, as they engage in a campaign of true liberation against the superstition, fear, and hatred which grip both the Telmarines and the Narnians, ultimately uniting both groups under a truce of love.

It is joy, not war, that truly liberates. Lewis, a wounded veteran of the trenches of World War I and witness to the ensuing spiritual atrophy across Europe, knew this lesson well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A wedding and a hurricane

It has been a whirlwind two weeks, almost literally!

Wendy and I left for the flatlands of Oklahoma City at 12:30am two Thursdays ago. Yes, it was a bit early. Wendy had to close her store at 10pm the night before. Of course, the idea was that I would get plenty of sleep in the early evening in order to be fit to drive the rest of the night and early morning. I ended up staring at the ceiling for several hours, and I drove out from Pensacola on three hours of sleep earlier that day with Wendy snoozing in the passenger seat. However, I was fueled by Whataburger's tasty breakfast menu and a bountiful supply of coffee (not from Whataburger, but from yours truly). Lack of sleep didn't really become a problem until about an hour before Jackson (or an hour after?), when I had to sing along to the Rushmore soundtrack to stay awake. I replaced "Yoko" with "Wendy."


We rolled into Jackson by dawn, where I doubled my weight with a Whataburger patty melt, and Wendy and I made a Starbucks stop in Ridgeland - my third visit to that store, trusty ol' Ridgeland Starbucks. I succumbed somewhere past Memphis, and Wendy drove through most of Arkansas. Then I took the wheel again, refreshed, taking us to Edmond, OK. No rest for the weary, though. We arrived at the rehearsal dinner, quite hungry, just in time to find everyone leaving (curses!), and we followed the caravan to the Tres Suenos vineyard for the wedding rehearsal.

I made a curious discovery on this latest trip to my Oklahoma homeland (from which I've lived nearly my entire life in exile), that there seem to be as many vineyards now in the former Indian Territory as there are oil fields. How unexpected! The 21st century sees the state entering a new era of sophistication, or so it seems.

Christa and Joe's wedding was the next day, of course. The wedding was marvelous! It took place outside in perfect weather, and only one giant hornet attempted to take my head off. We stood in the dusk amidst a small grove of pines. The vineyard contained a great hall with pleasant south-midwestern decor for the reception, where we enjoyed a fantastic dinner and an amazing array of cheeses that my parents brought from Germany. The greatest part of it all, of course, was seeing my sister enter into holy matrimony, but seeing family and old friends was a close second. All in all, a most pleasant experience. I'm sure the toxic train wreck that occurred in the vicinity the day before was a complete coincidence.


Tres Suenos sits a little north of Luther, Oklahoma, a historic town straddling Route 66. Just west of Luther, one encounters the Valhalla of rest stops: Pops! The weary traveler first spies - could it be? - an immense soda bottle promising limitless refreshment! A bottle that lights up like Joseph's resplendent coat in the night! To the right of this monument to quenching thirst, one sees a crystalline, strangely modern steel, glass, and stone building housing several gas pumps and a gleaming white restaurant and convenience store that makes you wonder if you're not actually on the Starship Enterprises' holodeck. But this is no mere convenience store. Oh no. This is soda pop heaven. It contains soda drinks from all over the world, including my favorite, Manhattan Special's Pure Espresso Coffee Soda. Yum! The pizza place on Palafox in downtown Pensacola also serves this drink of the gods, thankfully.

Wendy had difficulty parting ways with Pops. Don't worry, honey, we'll return someday.



Wendy and I loved spending time with family and friends of family, and we had a hard time leaving. Alas, Pensacola called. We set out the following Tuesday, exploring the fabled Route 66 to Chandler. We headed south to the I-40, encountering several vineyards on the way (though we did not stop to taste their fruits - maybe next time), drove east on 40 (a bumpy ride), took the Indian Nations Turnpike south from Henryetta (beautiful country with the worst rest stops ever), enjoyed a peak around Paris, TX (with the nicest Methodist church I've ever seen), drove east to Texarkana (not terribly exciting, but the R.E.M. connection was irresistable - but no Braum's!), south to Shreveport, and across Louisiana on the dreary I-49 to Lafayette, where we turned east and spent the night outside Hammond.





The next day, Wendy and I enjoyed coffee and breakfast at St. John's Coffeehouse in Covington, Louisiana. I wanted to introduce Wendy to this neat little town, home to Walker Percy, one of my favorite authors. Cafes, art galleries, English tea shop - the works. We walked down to the landing. It was a refreshing stop.


We arrived back at the Trailer of Former Paradise last Wednesday morning just in time to go to work. Reality strikes. Then came Gustav, making landfall on Monday, our one year anniversary. Inauspicious? Mais non! Wendy and I spent the day watching the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings and enjoyed a nice quiet day at home. Our cake tasted as soft and fresh as it did one year ago. Gustav was kind to us as well as the rest of the Gulf Coast. It could have been much, much worse.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Christa to take plunge, bungee cord left at home.

My little sister's getting married!



But she's not in grade school anymore. Wendy and I are driving up to Oklahoma for the shindig. We're looking forward to seeing family gathered from the ends of the earth. And we are especially excited for Christa and Joe!

There will be veritable mountains of cake, right?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Backyard possum

I noticed a possum rooting around in our backyard when I got up this morning. They are nocturnal creatures, and the sun was just beginning to peek over the eastern horizon. Wendy thinks they're ugly, but I have a soft spot for possums. A sixth-grade substitute teacher brought his pet possum to our science class. I decided it was one of the coolest possums I had ever seen. Nevermind that a possum once stood and hissed at me when I caught it scrounging through the trash on our back porch at the B-Side in Valparaiso. I told it to shove off and placed the lid firmly back on the trash can. It stayed right where it was. (There was always great potential for confrontation with nature at the B-Side.)

I left the window to find Wendy's digital camera, and the possum left. I should have stayed to see where it went. I have a sneaky suspicion it's living under the trailer. Here's a photo of a very similar possum courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden:




My friend Tim Roberts told me about a time his mom and dad, newly wed, were living in a trailer over in Seminole. A possum had taken up residence under their domicile, and they decided they had to get rid of it (can't remember why). In the middle of a Florida summer, they cranked the heat of the mobile home to exorcise the beast. As it fled its sweltering confines and sprinted out from under the trailer, Tim's dad slew it with a fake tourist's sword. Something like that. Welcome to life in northwest Florida.

Fortunately, I won't ever have to dispatch an unwelcome creature (at least of that size) with a heavy, blunt object meant for displaying on your mantel. At least, not at the Trailer of Paradise. That's the beauty of renting. That's the landlady's job.

Whatever happened to the silent "o" at the front of possum? You know, "opossum." Obviously, possum is short of opposum. Not sure who decided that one. According to the 2006 Random House Unabridged Dictionary (that is, according to dictionary.com - yes, I cheat for backyard fauna), opossum is Virginia Algonquin for "white dog."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Post-rock bedtime stories


I've always thought Slint's post-rock masterpiece Spiderland would make a fantastic horror film soundtrack. But a kid's book? You're kidding me! The stuff of nightmares, I'm sure. Still, you'd be the coolest parents on the block if you read this stuff to your kids. Could this be the birth of a new genre: ga-ga-gothic?

History of Intellectual Culture e-journal

The University of Calgary provides a great internet resource for intellectual history with its electronic journal History of Intellectual Culture. See U.S. Intellectual History for a good summary.

Worst theologian ever

I rarely read comments on other blogs (except for my family members' blogs - I love you guys!). They tend to act as a forum for unending exhibitions of vituperation and ignorance, though I suppose I have been known to contribute in my day. (Wheaton professor Alan Jacobs made some insightful observations on the nature of blogging in a 2006 Books & Culture article, calling it "the friend of information but the enemy of thought." Not one to toss the baby with the bath water, Jacobs blogs at more than 95 theses and contributes to The American Scene.)

However, I found myself completely absorbed by the comments on a recent post at Inhabitatio Dei, provocatively titled "The Worst Theologian Ever?" I fully expected the comments to descend into a firestorm of name-calling... which they did, but not necessarily in a bad way. The commentors provided a fascinating gallery of controversial theologians, who are also often the most interesting.

I think the aforementioned "firestorm" began in the best possible way with a commentor named Andrew replying simply, "me." (As another commentor pointed out, "Very Chesterton-esque.") Dan Belcher brought some much-needed gravitas to the discussion:

"Doesn’t this just play to our already bent prone toward scapegoating?... Isn’t this simply a clever ruse on our part to divert attention away from our own complicity with and to the destruction of “the church,” or perhaps of faithfulness to the community that professes obedience to the Word of God? It also seems to be a way for people to prop up or repristinate their already entrenched biases."

Wise words. All in all, a bracing discussion. I even read the comments all the way to the end. I, of course, know next to nothing about the esoteric end of theology (which contains the vast majority of theological thought), nor of the vast panoply of theologians throughout history. However, if pressed, I would cast my vote for Charles Finney. Then me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Notes on the Kinks, Britishness, and nostalgia

The Kinks' magnum opus Village Green Preservation Society displays a certain irony toward the idea of Britishness (Englishness?), slyly unmasking nostalgia as something not quite real, yet acknowledging something very real (an ideal? a virtue?) lying behind the nostalgia. Muswell Hillbillies does not maintain this ironic distance, idealizing the lost values of pre-industrial England with little hint of skeptism. Arthur, however, is highly critical of Great Britain's legacy. Note the subtitle: Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. Arthur, from what I understand, was largely influenced by the Davies' sister's move to Australia.


Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round is an oddity couched between Arthur and Muswell Hillibillies. Though mostly known for spawning the goofy transvestite song "Lola," the album is largely a bitter fusillade against the recording industry (and one should not ignore the accusatory subtext roiling beneath "Lola's" veneer of absurdity). This is a very personal album in a different way than the preceding Kinks' albums in that it explicitly confronts immediate difficulties in the life of the band. The grand, abstract theme of Britishness has receded, although Ray Davies still anchors many of the album's songs to concrete references to British life (names, places, etc.). Lola's songs about the recording industry level a direct charge of greed and casuistry at anyone with whom the Kinks had to share their profits.


The other songs on Lola are more abstract and generally deal with a longing for escape. "Apeman," the first truly regrettable Kinks song, prefigures the primitivism of the following album, Muswell Hillbillies, which constitutes a full-fledged retreat from modern industrial society and handles the theme with infinitely greater charm and intelligence. "Lola" seems to summarize the confusion at the heart of the album.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stone on Georgia conflict at HNN

"There is a great deal of blame to go around for the disastrous war over South Ossetia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves the greatest share, for starting a war to reassert control over South Ossetia that Russia can now finish on its own terms."

This from David Stone at History News Network. I have to agree. Saakashvili has demonstrated an uncanny ability to unhinge diplomacy with rash statements and actions. Nevertheless, as Stone then states, Russia has taken the opportunity to exercise the utmost tyranny. He goes on to note the role of precedents set by American actions in Kosovo. Ah, that fateful law of unintended consequences!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russia without honor

Russia has clearly violated the Olympic Truce (among others). Should not the Russian Olympic athletes be stripped of their medals and banned from the Beijing games?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gulf South Conference 2008 presentation

Here is the abstract for my paper presentation at the upcoming 2008 Gulf South History & Humanities Conference in Galveston, Texas, in October:

Paper Title: Palmetto Beach: Pensacola’s Electric Park

Abstract: As the use of electricity swept across the American urban landscape at the turn of the twentieth century, many trolley companies established amusement parks – illuminated wonderlands powered by electricity – as getaways from the drudgery of urban life. Pensacola was no exception. The Pensacola Electric Company, which ran a trolley line from downtown Pensacola to nearby Fort Barrancas, established Electric Park at nearby Palmetto Beach in 1905, followed by Palmetto Beach Amusement Park in 1909. While each park proved popular with Pensacola residents, both ventures were short-lived. Drawing upon contemporary accounts and documents, this paper explores the story of Palmetto Beach’s amusement attractions within the broader socio-economic context of turn-of-the-century Pensacola as it transformed into a modern city. This work also seeks to locate the place of Palmetto Beach within the national amusement park trend. While relying heavily upon primary sources such as legal documents, newspaper reports, and other eyewitness accounts, this paper also engages current scholarly work on both turn-of-the-century Pensacola and the history of American amusement parks.

Bereft of bossa nova

I knew this dreary moment would arrive sooner or later. My wife Wendy has tired of bossa nova. How can anyone find "Vivo Sonhando" or "Agua de Beber" wearisome? Even when I play it all day everyday? Well, I guess "Girl from Ipanema" gets pretty old (thanks for ruining it, Sinatra). Gilberto, Getz, and Jobim will have to take a break on the shelf for a while. But they shall return. Oh yes. (Don't tell Wendy.)

Thankfully, there's always some Berlin IDM (does anyone still use that term?) to fill the void.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Theopolitical thoughts on Walker Percy

Davey Henrickson at Theopolitical makes a great case for reading of Walker Percy, one of my favorite novelists, theologically. (Be sure to read parts 2 and 3.) For a jaunty discussion of Percy's classic first novel, The Moviegoer, check out the NYT Reading Room.



In other news, my favorite tea of the moment, Stash Acai Berry.

Whigs and teleology

In his essay "The Writing of Early Modern European Intellectual History, 1945-1995," (in Routledge's wonderful 1997 Companion to Historiography, edited by Michael Bentley), Daniel Woolf notes that much 20th-century intellectual history exhibits a certain teleology, or a temptation to interpret the history of scholarship as "inherently progressive, marching towards the modern system of critical research and evaluation of evidence." It seems that he refers to the same fallacy as Butterfield's Whig interpretation of history. If so, teleology seems a much more fitting term, or at least more universal. Is "teleology" now the common parlance, and at what point did it supersede "Whig interpretation?"

So long, Pauline Baynes

The Eerdmans August newsletter reports:

Children’s book illustrator Pauline Baynes passed away on August 1, 2008, at the age of 85. Baynes drew the original line illustrations for J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Her portrayals of Middle-earth and Narnia helped transform the books into towering classics which, in 2000, were voted Book of the Millennium and Children’s Book of the Millennium respectively by the Library Association in Great Britain. Baynes was also awarded a Kate Greenaway Medal for the Dictionary of Chivalry.

I first encountered Pauline Baynes when I first noticed the Narnia Chronicles sitting on Pastor Wine's (yes, funny name for a Baptist, but Stewart Wine is a funny guy) desk in the study of our wonderfully creepy nineteenth-century English church building - a great setting for an introduction to Ms. Baynes. Her work possesses a style that struck me as peculiar even as a third-grader - otherworldly, yet quite welcoming; playful, yet most serious (not unlike the effect of medieval art). Perhaps I'm making too much weather out of her work. Regardless, her illustrations are infinitely superior to the melodramatic teen-romance schlock, completely lacking in mythic quality, that currently disgrace the covers of Lewis' classic series.

Read Baynes' obituaries in The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph. You can spy samples of her classic work at the Tolkien Library. I wonder if Ms. Baynes may have provided some inspiration for Tolkien's exultant short story "Leaf by Niggle."

EXTRA: Be sure to check out Brian Sibley's post on Pauline Baynes, complete with cool photo.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

History habits + Jack Boykin

While this blog chronicles general aspects of my life and thought that I feel worth mentioning, I will be funneling my writings on history into my Historiographically Speaking blog. Be on the lookout for more frequent posts on history and historians by the end of the month.

In other news, congratulations to Brad and Jordan Boykin on their new baby boy, Jack!

Yikes! I'm honored: Notes... joins the coveted Cliopatria blogrolll

The pleasantly unexpected happened today (always a welcome experience). I scrolled down the History News Network's esteemed pantheon of history blogs, the Cliopatria blogroll, and a very familiar title caught my eye: Notes from the Front Porch. This little corner of the mobile home has caught the attention of powers on high! How did that happen? I am honored, perplexed, and very glad to be included. But does this mean I'll have to behave?

I never imagined this blog would end up there. It began as a chronicle of my reading habits and has since become a chronicle of my habits in general (at least those that don't embarrass Wendy). Notes... does not strike me as a very historical blog. Perhpas that is why it has been assigned to the Academic Lives section. In that case, it does seem fitting. I am academic... I live... ergo... Thanks, Cliopatria! I guess I'll have to tone down my anti-Adamson screeds.

History News Network is a great website. I may or may not be an addict.

Tudor antiquaries for the 21st century

Somebody needs to publish a critical edition of Camden's Britannia. Sounds like a job for Boydell Press. (By the way, I used to live in Woodbridge. Right down the road from Sutton Hoo.) While they're at it, let's have new critical editions of Leland's Itineraries, Lambarde's Perambulation of Kent, and Stow's Survey of London. I think it's time for some fresh readings of these classic antiquarian texts.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Butterfield on history

"History is not the study of origins; rather it is the analysis of all the mediations by which the past was turned into our present."
-Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Goodbye Solzhenitsyn

A hero fell today: Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, prophetic scourge of the late Soviet Empire (and, in many ways, of the waning American Empire), died today at the age of 89. He burst upon the international literary scene in 1962 with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a book about life in the Siberian gulag. I read it years ago, but as I recall, it's a strangely optimistic book in the sense that grace, brotherhood, and love of life thrive even amidst horrible political oppression. It's also one of the few (only?) classics of 20th-century literature that portrays a Baptist in a positive light.

After publishing One Day in the Life in the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn defected to the United States and exposed the horrific conditions behind the Iron Curtain. Though it's hard to believe today, many Western intellectuals embraced the Soviet experiment even up to that time. However, Solzhenitsyn's courage to tell the truth of the ill-fated Russian communist experiment played a key role in the thaw of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Be sure to read his 1978 Harvard address. Also check out the Solzhenitsyn Reader. And here is a lengthy eulogy from the New York Times.
(I received the news via telephone from Tokyo - thanks for the tip, Josh.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Historiographically speaking...

You may have noticed that I have foreshortened my Blogarium considerably. I've moved the history blog links to my new blog, Historiographically Speaking, where you can catch all the history action. For all things Alconbury (my high school alma mater), see the Alconbury Digital Archive. For everything else involving the world of Bill Clifton, you're right where you need to be.

Bibliography: "Historical Revolution Revisited"

I intend to revisit my revisitation and expand it into an article for publication within the year. In the meantime, here is a working bibliography:

Books
Baker, Herschel. The Race of Time: Three Lectures on Renaissance Historiography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.

Bentley, Michael, ed. Companion to Historiography. London: Routledge, 1997.

Butterfield, Herbert. The Whig Interpretation of History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1965.

Ferguson, Arthur B. The Articulate Citizen and the English Renaissance. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1965.

Ferguson, Arthur B. Clio Unbound: Perception of the social and cultural past in Renaissance England. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1979.

Fussner, F. Smith. The Historical Revolution: English Historical Writing and Thought 1580-1640. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962.

Fussner, F. Smith. Tudor History and the Historians. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1970.

Gransden, Antonia. Historical Writing in England, c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982.

Hay, Denys. Annalists and Historians: Western Historiography from the Eighth to the Eighteenth Centuries. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1977.

Herendeen, Wyman H. William Camden: A Life in Context. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press, 2007.

Hill, Christopher. Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Kelley, Donald R. Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship: Language, Law, and History in the French Renaissance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

Kelley, Donald R. Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.

Levine, Joseph M. Humanism and History: Origins of Modern English Historiography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Levy F. J. Tudor Historical Thought. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004.

McKisack, May. Medieval History in the Tudor Age. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

Patterson, Annabel. Nobody’s Perfect: A New Whig Interpretation of History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Pocock, J. G. A. The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law: English Historical Thought in the Seventeenth Century. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967.

Woolf, D. R. The Idea of History in Early Stuart England: Erudition, Ideology, and ‘The Light of Truth’ from the Accession of James I to the Civil War. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.

Woolf, D. R. Reading History in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


Articles
Clark, Stuart, “Bacon’s Henry VII: A Case-Study in the Science of Man.” History and Theory (May 1974).

Colie, R. L., “Review of The Historical Revolution by F. Smith Fussner.” Political Science Quarterly (June 1963).

Douglas, David, “Review of The Historical Revolution by F. Smith Fussner.” The English Historical Review (April 1964).

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L., “The Advent of Printing and the Problem of the Renaissance.” Past and Present (November 1969).

Elton, G. R., “Review of Tudor History and the Historians by F. Smith Fussner.” History and Theory (1971).

Elton, G. R., “Review of Clio Unbound by Arthur B. Ferguson.” History and Theory (1981).

Farnell, James E., “The Social and Intellectual Basis of London’s Role in the English Civil Wars.” The Journal of Modern History (December 1977).

Ferguson, Arthur B., “Review of Tudor History and the Historians by F. Smith Fussner.” Renaissance Quarterly (Winter 1971).

Finlayson, Michael, “Clarendon, Providence and the Historical Revolution.” Albion (Winter 1990).

Fussner, F. Smith, “Review of Tudor Historical Thought by F. J. Levy.” History and Theory, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1969), pp. 371-387.

Kelley, Donald R., “History, English Law and the Renaissance.” Past and Present (November 1974).

Lewin, Joan, “Review of The Historical Revolution by F. Smith Fussner.” British Journal of Educational Studies (May 1963).

MacCaffrey, Wallace T., “Review of Medieval History in the Tudor Age by May McKisack.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History (1972).

MacCaffrey, Wallace T., “Review of Tudor History and the Historians by F. Smith Fussner, Political History: Principles and Practices by G. R. Elton.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History (Winter 1972).

Mendyk, Stan, “Early British Chorography.” Sixteenth Century Journal (Winter 1986).

Nadel, George H. “Review of The Historical Revolution by F. Smith Fussner.” History and Thought (1963).

Preston, Joseph H., “Was there an Historical Revolution?” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 38, No. 2, (April – June, 1977): pp. 353-364.

Schiffman, Zachary Sayre, “An Anatomy of the Historical Revolution in Renaissance France.” Renaissance Quarterly (Autumn 1989).

Southgate, W. M., “Review of Tudor Historical Thought by F. J. Levy.” The Journal of Modern History (March 1964).

Stearns, Raymond P., “Review of The Historical Revolution by F. Smith Fussner.” History and Theory (1963).

Sypher, G. Wylie, “Similarities between the Scientific and the Historical Revolutions at the end of the Renaissance.” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 26, No. 3 (July – September, 1965), pp. 353-368.

Thomas, Keith, “Review of Tudor Historical Thought by F. J. Levy.” The Review of English Studies (February 1969).

Tinkler, John F., “The Rhetorical Method of Francis Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII.” History and Theory (February 1987).

Trevor-Roper, H. R., “Review of Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution by Christopher Hill.” History and Theory (1966).

Woolf, Daniel R., “Speech, Text, and Time: The Sense of Hearing and the Sense of the Past in Renaissance England.” Albion (Summer 1986).

Woolf, Daniel R., “Erudition and the Idea of History in Renaissance England.” Renaissance Quarterly (Spring 1987).

Woolf, Daniel R., “Review of Humanism and History by Joseph M. Levine.” Albion (Autumn 1987).

Woolf, Daniel R., “The ‘Common Voice:’ History, Folklore and Oral Tradition in Early Modern England.” Past and Present (August 1988).

Woolf, Daniel R., “Review of Utter Antiquity by Arthur B. Ferguson.” Albion (Winter 1993).

Woolf, Daniel R., “The Writing of Early Modern European Intellectual History, 1945-1995.” Companion to Historiography. London: Routledge, 1997.