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 

Dear Tortoise...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Almost Pavement

My brother Josh and I were fortunate to catch Pavement on stage just before they broke up.  It goes without saying that they put on one of the best shows I'd ever seen.  They played the 40-Watt in Athens, Georgia.  Perfect.  We were crushed to hear that they broke up a couple months later.  However, it appears that most of the band got up on stage for an impromptu set at auxiliary man Bob Nastanovich's wedding in Nashville.  While I'm not too thrilled with the current reunion craze, I would love to see SM, Spiral Stairs, and gang bring back that slacker magic.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Pensacola Historical Society blogs!

Have I mentioned that the PHS now has a blog?  Check it out: Pensacola History Today.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Houston, we have a problem.

Just out of curiosity, where are all my blog posts?  ...  Ah, there they are.  Nevermind.

Touch and Went

Sad news: Touch and Go Records, home to such amazing bands as Slint, Polvo, and the Dirty Three,  is closing shop.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Veterinarians in short supply

Raising a rather urgent alarm, yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education cast light on a Government Accountability Office report which warns that a shortage of veterinarians may result in the collapse of our nation's food supply and the spread of animal-borne diseases.  

[Image: Dr. Laura Hall, East Hill Animal Clinic, Pensacola.]

Friday, February 13, 2009

A glimpse of the Old World

King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain are visiting Pensacola next week for the 450th anniversary of the city's initial (i.e. failed) settlement.  The royal couple will address the public at noon next Thursday, Feb. 19, from the steps of the T. T. Wentworth Museum in downtown Pensacola.  Finally, our chance to reestablish a monarchy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Journal of the History of Ideas 70.1 (January 2009)


Pliny's Natural History: Enkuklios Paideia and the Ancient Encyclopedia

Roman Law and Human Liberty: Marsilius of Padua on Property Rights

Samuel Clarke's Newtonian Soul

The German Hercules's Heir: Pierre Gassendi's Reception of Keplerian Ideas

Reading ''Sibylline Leaves'': J. G. Hamann in the History of Ideas

Was William Godwin a Utilitarian?

Interpreting the Religion of Thomas Hobbes: An Exchange
Hobbes's Erastianism and Interpretation

Interpreting Thomas Hobbes in Competing Contexts

Books Received

Florida Hiking Trails Month

As the Pensacola News Journal reports, Florida Governor Charlie Crist February designated February as Florida Hiking Trails Month.  I love hiking, but I do not get many opportunities these days.  However, with the governor's encouragement, Wendy and I may take a walk in the woods here soon.  A number of sylvan retreats lie within a short drive, including PJC-Milton's fabulous disc golf course.  Of course, it would be very fitting to actually hike to a good hiking spot, but not from our urban setting.  The Florida Trail Association is hosting a number of events statewide.  They even have an annual conference!  Are you required to walk?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

On walking

"Then the walks for miles around us were excellent, and we all became great walkers, for walking we found to be good.  Not merely stepping from shop to shop, or from neighbor to neighbor, but stretching away out into the country, to the freshest fields, the shadiest woods, the highest ridges, and the greenest lawns.  We found that however sullen the imagination may have been among its griefs at home, here it cheered up and smiled.  However listless the limbs may have been by steady toil, here they were braced up, and the lagging gait became buoyant again.  However stubborn the memory may be in presenting that only which was agonizing, and insisting on that which cannot be retrieved, on walking among the glowing fields it ceases to regard the former, and forgets the latter.  Indeed, we all came to esteem the mere breathing of the fresh wind upon the commonest highway to be rest and comfort, which must be felt to be believed."
- Edmund Morris, Ten Acres Enough (1864)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kelley on objectivity in methodology

I like that Kelley cites Barfield, a lost giant of the twentieth century:

“Owen Barfield has made an important point about natural science which seems even more pertinent to the study of human culture.  ‘Physical science has for a long time stressed the enormous difference between what it investigates as the actual structure of the universe, including the earth, and the phenomena or appearances which are presented to normal human consciousness.  In tune with this, most philosophy – at all events since Kant – has heavily emphasized the participation of man’s own mind in the creation, or evocation, of these phenomena.’  Too many historians, it seems to me, are still operating in a pre-Kantian world in search of an ‘actual structure’ discernible apart from human consciousness, their own as well as that of their subjects; to avoid such methodological hubris I have tried to eliminate surreptitious (and pseudo-) objectivity.  My explorations into past consciousness and society are indeed the reconstructions of a late-twentieth-century North American interested in social and cultural sciences as well as history.  Obviously I cannot see the hearts, minds and behavior of sixteenth-century humanity without distortion, cannot ask significant questions without disturbing the field of inquiry and reorganizing the data.”

- Donald R. Kelley, The Beginning of Ideology: Consciousness and Society in the French Reformation

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Florida folklife podcasts

Check out this great series of podcasts from the Florida Memory Project.  Podcasts cover Florida blues artists, Sacred Harp singers, alligator wrestlers, folk festival recordings, and old radio programs.  

[Photograph from Florida Memory collection: musicians playing at the Twilight Club on Barrancas Avenue, Pensacola, 1942.]

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Habana Coffee

Has Habana Coffee in downtown Pensacola closed business?  If so, this is truly a loss for Pensacola.  Habana Coffee at once reinforced Pensacola's regional identity while challenging the homogenizing force of Starbucks.  Pensacolians need to assert their local identity to recapture a more abundant and cohesive sense of community, but the same can be said for nearly every city in this nation.  We are truly suffering, in James Howard Kunstler's words, the "geography of nowhere."

The American Chesterton Society

By the way, for regular infusions of the wit and wisdom of G. K. Chesterton, check out the American Chesterton Society blog.  A wellspring of choice quotes and interesting information on all things Chesterton, you will surely slake your thirst here.  The occasional hagiographical boosterism by the bloggers can be unsettling, but nevermind.  Chesterton was a large man--the man himself was larger than his own legend.

Chesterton on the New Year

"The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
- G. K. Chesterton

I usually try to lift quotes from their original sources, but this one was so fitting, I had to use it.  Besides, it gives me another opportunity to talk about the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  I found this sparkling Chesterton gem in the latest CCEL newsletter, in which director Harry Plantinga discusses the wealth of Chesterton's writings to be found online at the CCEL.  Having just read a terribly tragic novel, The Book of Sorrows (beautiful and truthful, but bitterly sad), I think I may take up a work by Chesterton.  No, he did not write fluff.  He wrote with tragedy in his head, but comedy in his heart.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hello 2009

Happy New Year!  Wendy and I stayed at home, ate pizza, drank spumante, and watched Mars Attacks.  I always feel so apocalyptic at the new year, especially this year, when Pensacola's official holiday soundtrack seems to be the sound of emergency vehicles.