Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Growing Trend in South America

OK, so none of our classes have anything to do with South America so why an article about it? I saw this article in the IHT today about South America's growing trend of female Defense Ministers. Currently, four South American countries have named females to that post: Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay (the latter three also have female Presidents). Pretty good for a continent that tends to be on the macho side. Check it out. Sorry you will have to cut and paste the address. For some reason, the link doesn't work for me.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Up Close and Personal on Haifa Street, Baghdad

There's a lot of talk about the upcoming troop "surge" in Iraq. The theory is that more US troops in Baghdad will make the difference in rooting out sectarian militias and guaranteeing security for those residents unable or unwilling to abandon their old neighborhoods in the face of attacks and death threats. That's all fine and good, but what does this mean, in operational terms, for US forces carrying out this mission? The International Herald Tribune takes you on a search-and-destroy mission with a detachment of US troops here. They were supposed to be joined by Iraqi colleagues, but those Iraqis were nowhere to be found when the trouble started.

You have to wonder what these forays will accomplish, and how this fortifies our position in the war on terror. I find it very unlikely that these Sunni and Shiite antagonists, who are busy ethnically cleansing one another's neighborhoods, are going to take time out to come here and take us on in the streets of San Francisco.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A timely followup

As if to confirm what we just discussed, James Glanz's front-page story from tomorrow's NY Times begins,

"Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad outlined a plan to expand its economic and military ties with Iraq that will almost certainly bring more conflict with the U.S."

You didn't really expect good news from that front, did you?

What kind of a civil war?

The noted British historian Niall Ferguson, who likes grand, sweeping comparisons, has an interesting riff on civil wars in this month's Atlantic Monthly. He reviews the most vicious recent examples--Yugoslavia and Rwanda--and wonders where Iraq fits into the paradigm.

As bad as it was, Yugoslavia was a relatively benign civil conflict, because it did not spill over into neighboring states. The Serb-Croat feud that re-emerged after the death of Tito was confined to those groups and the Bosnian Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina. There were no Serbs, Croats or Bosnians in neighboring states, as there had been before World Wars I and II, and so the violence remained contained to Yugoslavia. By contrast, in Rwanda, extremists among the Hutu majority launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Tutsi minority, which brought on an invasion of Tutsis living in Uganda, who drove many Hutus into neighboring Congo. Most of Rwanda's neighbors ended up heavily involved and invested in that conflict. Some 3 million died in that long-running horror.

Iraq, Ferguson argues, belongs in the more lethal category, because all of its neighbors have players in the crux of that conflict, Sunni v. Shiia. Iran is predominantly Shiia, with a small minority of Sunnis, Syria has a significant Shiia minority amidst Sunnis, Saudi Arabia is mostly Sunni but has Shiia as well. Meanwhile, Turkey has a significant and troublesome Kurdish minority, as do Syria and Iran. None of these neighbors is disinterested; indeed, Saudi Arabia has threatened to intervene on behalf of the Sunni Iraqis if the situation worsens, Turkey has made noises about war if the Kurds declare independence, and it's the worst kept secret in the world that Iran has been aiding their fellow Shiia. Add to invested neighbors the strategic importance of the region, and there is a great potential for a wider war. I don't think President Bush is in a position to fight all these people, so maybe it's time for some jaw-jaw with the parties rather than war-war.

The most ominious part of Ferguson's article is his comparison of the Middle East, 2007, with Europe before June 28, l9l4. Even given Ferguson's penchant for overreaching, that's not a happy thought.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Watch for another edition of the American Experience this week on the Berlin airlift. One of the show's interviewees is pilot Gail Halvorsen, who became the "chocolate uncle" to the city's children for his targeted drops of candy. That's a great story within a greater story, a test of wills against the Soviet Union in which the US keeps the city of Berlin in food and supplies, while Stalin tries to starve the city into submission. We really ARE the good guys, plain, simple and unadulterated, in this one. In this area, it airs at 9 pm Monday.

PBS will also be doing a multi-part look at the Supreme Court, entitled "One Nation Under Law." The Supremes have been going public in a big way...Chief Justice John Roberts sat down for an interview with the New Yorker magazine's Jeffrey Rosen recently. I don't think his predecessor did that very often, or at all.

As always, Charlie Rose has the best guests of any talk show, if you can stay up past ll pm!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Independent Nation of Kosovo

I also saw today that the UN is working on a plan to make Kosovo an independent nation. Of course the 114,000 Serbs living in Kosovo are fighting independence and just like pre-WWI, Russia is supporting Serbia.

Interesting article.

OK, I'm about to murder my computer. The link won't work so here is the address to the article: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/26/news/kosovo.php

Changing times in Vietnam

From the International Herald Tribune, news of meetings between ranking Vietnamese government officials and Pope Benedict. That's not standard procedure for Communist nations, as History 386 students know...things are changing there. A "perestroika," maybe?

There's something happening here--what it is is pretty clear

Here it comes again, look out! Back in the day, during the Vietnam war, those who wanted to stop the war took to the streets, with both peaceful and not-so-peaceful(read: "Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids you kill today!")demonstrations. At that time, both Presidents Johnson and Nixon repeatedly admonished the demonstrators to cease and desist, because such protests gave the Communists the strength to fight on. I think that's true, because we know Ho Chi Minh was aware of the power of public opinion, having lived in France. At the same time, I always wondered what other alternatives there were if you really and truly believed the war had to stop? You could write letters, make phone calls, sure, but what did you do when these didn't work? You go into the streets and try to get the attention of your elected representatives. At least one American President acknowledged this when he told some visitors whose cause he backed privately, but could not support publicly, "Get out there and exert some pressure on me!"

Were you really supposed to just shut up and accept what you believed to be bad policy, not exercise your rights as an American citizen, just because it might hearten the enemy?

Now, today, Defense Secretary Gates declared that the Senate is "emboldening our enemies" in Iraq by passing a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop surge. I think he was channeling the ghosts of both Vietnam presidents in so doing. And these aren't even street protests! This is the Senate, exercising its constitutional responsiblity of advice and consent. Secretary Gates is out of line here.

I don't believe Presidents or any official people are correct in trying to silence protesters, or criticism. It is incumbent on them to avoid the kinds of ill-advised wars and conflicts that bring forth opposition, conflicts that are typically murky, drawn-out and costly. They are perfectly willing to concede the "genius of the people" when those "people" elect them. How about giving those geniuses a listen when they disagree?!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Remember how Seinfeld was a show about nothing? Well, today's posts are Seinfeldian in nature--basically about nothing. But there IS an entry in the "no vivid phrases, please" competition for today, courtesy of a resident of Cork City, Ireland. BBC readers were asked to comment on their favorite, and sometimes least favorite, city or cities. Jim delivered himself of this:

"I must speak up for London on the grounds of history and architecture alone plus the best underground system. Yes it's got too much traffic but that's improved. The most dis-improved capital is Dublin which is quickly turning from a quaint and lovely Georgian town into a huge grasping vomit dressed hen party centre...not the worst but certainly heading that way. The worst ? Cardiff, dour, grey dirty and with no redeeming features apart from not being Swansea which is the cess pit of Europe."

um, i don't think he cares for his capital...maybe that's just southern Irish pride talking, but there's a lot of hostility there!

Can you top this? What is your favorite, or least favorite city?

SRPs, Strictly Random Posts

I haven't been able to throw any thoughts up here in a couple of days, and I'm plagued with incoherence at the moment, but here are a couple things to chew on this morning:

It has occurred to me that Mrs. Clinton is leading in the creative acronym division of the embryonic Presidential campaign: She's trying to transition from FFLOTUS, Former First Lady of the United States, to POTUS, President of the United States. You go, girl! Way ahead of the pack on this one.

It is not recommended to try to corral a hunting dog who's just caught himself a chicken. They tend to be so pleased at their catch, and so delighted with themselves, that they just keep dancing around just out of your reach. I tried for nearly an hour to apprehend a wirehaired chicken thief this morning in extremely cold temperatures, and had to give up until he consented to be coaxed back to jail. It wasn't exactly Ivan Turgenev in A Sportsman's Sketches...the scene looked much more like the Lucy show.

The STOU, State of the Union, was a little bit on the pedestrian side, and Jim Webb was laconic and straightforward, rather than combative. I guess I like the potential for sparks, just like my late, great graduate adviser Barbara Jelavich, who loved the idea of a hockey game NOT for the hockey, but for the possibility of flying bric-a-brac in the stands.

Over and out.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Similarities between Ho Chi Minh and Marshall Tito

As I was reading the Karnow book on Ho Chi Minh, some of his traits reminded me of Josip Tito of Yugoslavia. Both were multi-lingual, both used aliases at opportune moments, both ran coummunists governments and had to deal with Moscow, both sought to keep foreigners out of their respective countries (though Tito's foreign policy was broader than Ho's). I'm sure there are other leaders/dictators who are similar as well.

Off Topic, I remembered...King of Albania b/4 Nazi domination was king ZOG.

First, the bad news

I just heard on the NPR program "Day-to-Day" that today, January 22, 2007, is the most depressing day of the year, because of the dispiriting weather, your allegedly flagging New Year's resolutions(you skipped the gym this morning, didn't you?)and hefty credit card bills coming due. That's the bad news. When you've recovered from the abysmal depression that has just hit, you can take heart that the most INSPIRING day, the best day of the year is projected for June 22, 2007, a Friday. So snap out of it! You've only got half a year to go Before the Bliss!!

A psychologist from the University of Cardiff, Wales, assures us that this is all true. I always believe everything I hear from the Welsh, because they don't.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

State of the Union smackdown

Vietnam War students and everyone else who likes drama should at least watch the rebuttal to President Bush's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. The Democrats are putting up their new senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, over a lot of seasoned veterans and announced Presidential candidates. As you might imagine, there's a history here.

First, Jim Webb and President Bush had a little set-to in the White House at a party in December. Jim Webb has a son serving in the Marines in Iraq, and Bush asked him, "how's your boy doing?" Webb didn't answer directly--he told the President in no uncertain terms that his son and the others ought to be coming home. Bush retorted that this wasn't the question he had asked, he had just asked after Webb's boy. Both parties tried to make hay out of the incident, the Dems pointing to the President's nastiness and the Repubs to Webb's penchant for confrontation and rudeness. So it's going to be interesting who gets the last word, or laugh, or punch, on Tuesday. If I'm not mistaken, Webb was a boxer at the Naval Academy.

Webb has a most interesting background. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who routinely excoriated those who did not serve, like President Clinton, and the most prominent dissenters, like Jane Fonda. He once famously said he would not cross the street to watch Fonda slit her throat. He also opposed the design of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, couching his opposition in nasty, very personal terms. He vehemently condemned the idea of women in combat, ruffling a lot of feathers in DC, where they had already decided to admit women to the service academies. BUT, he wrote probably the finest work of fiction to emerge from the Vietnam War--Fields of Fire--and he opposed the Iraq war largely based on what he perceives as political and military bungling in the Vietnam War. In other words, he learned from his experiences and drew some different conclusions. There's another source of tension between him and President Bush--the decorated Vietnam veteran vs. the weekend warrior, the student of war vs. the stubborn stayer-of-course.

I'm going to be perched in front of the TV, maybe with popcorn in hand even, waiting to see the Tuesday night smackdown. I'm betting Webb "brings it on" to the viewers and the court of public opinion.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Blood and Iron, 2007

In its Sunday online edition, The London Times has just deemed history-making Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a Margaret Thatcher clone. Now you have an Iron Lady-in-Waiting on the campaign trail, headed for the White House.

As for the blood, well, it seems that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., is waiting in the wings to capture Mrs. Clinton's Senate seat, should she be successful. He might make dynastic history in his own right, since that is the seat his father occupied in the mid-l960s, and no one in the Kennedy family has ever run for and won his or her father's position in the Congress.

There is no American Bismarck, but there is plenty of blood and iron in this Presidential contest thus far.

You can access both stories at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2558085,00.html. I apologize for making you cut and paste, but I use Safari browser and there are no help icons, nor Explorer window for these posts, just a bunch of HTML code that Blogger continually tells me is not closed...o trials of Macintosh!

This week in HCTV

A heads-up on History and Culture TV offerings for the coming week:

PBS's "American Experience" returns with a look at the United States' first power couple, John and Abigail Adams. In this area, it airs Monday at 9; check your local listings. It's very topical, coming as it does after Mrs. Clinton's decision to enter the Presidential race. One of the more interesting questions there is what happens to Mr. Clinton? Do we still get two for the price of one, or is he going to be confined to a third-floor room in the White House for the duration?

Again on PBS, Great Performances is doing Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Opera isn't the same on TV as in person, obviously, but if you can't nip away to Gotham to catch the Met at midweek(if only!), this is an acceptable substitute. You can go on celebrating Mozart even after his big anniversary year, and you will get some good commentary from Beverly Sills, who usually introduces the GP series.

Am I missing anything?

Friday, January 19, 2007

New Publicans

Since this is the blogside inn, your virtual Irish pub, there will be at least a couple of people holding forth at any given time. In addition to myself, you will encounter Laika. Laika knows a lot abount about Russia, and quite a bit about the rest of the world, too, since she hails from among the immortals of Soviet space travelers. The Jodmeister is a geography whizkid with ambitions to take the virtual world by storm. You never know whom you might meet in these precincts, so belly up to the bar from time to time. As one of our visitors, La Popessa, puts it, you won't have to worry about being doused with real beer while you discuss whether or not permanent revolution could ever have become reality in Russia.

Speaking of geography, if you've got a minute, go to The World--you should see the link at right--and take their daily geo quiz.

Russia's General Winter?

I've read on several news websites that Europe, especially Russia, is experiencing one of the warmest, snow-free years on record. This led me to wonder what if General Winter had not appeared in June 1812 and June 1942 when Napoleon and Hitler respectively invaded Russia. How different would the maps of Europe and perhaps the world look today? Would Russia had still prevailed in both battles?


I was just reading Martin Kettle's meditation on Bob Kennedy in Saturday's Guardian. I'm always a little bit impatient with nostalgia pieces like that, because they always veer into hagiography and therefore tend to leave the facts behind, e.g. Bob Kennedy would've captured the Democratic nomination and then the Presidency without looking back. With a sitting Vice President in the race, a sitting Vice President who had the support of most of the kingmakers and the formidable apparatus of the Presidency behind him? I doubt it. But Martin Kettle gives us--or rather, Garrison Keillor gives us-- the following near-perfect phrase:

"Most of the things that Bobby said in those final months told you the same thing as Garrison Keillor says about hearing his brother Jack speak in Minneapolis in 1960 - that here was a man with more keys than usual on his piano, black ones as well as white ones."

Just think about that piano analogy... white keys AND the black keys, through which you introduce nuance and change into music...and most pols are all about the white, the bland, the happy, the studied avoidance of the minor key, all of it.

Wouldn't you love it if that had been said about you!? I'm stupefied. What a wordsmith Kellior is!

The past isn't past...

Some distinguished individual once said of history, "the past isn't prologue--it isn't even past." I was reminded of that just now in learning of the murder of a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, in Istanbul.

Probably a lot of people already know that a million Armenians died in Turkey in l9l5 in a series of attacks by Turkish troops and police. Sometimes these were mass killings, other times women and children were driven out into the wilderness with no food or water, a death sentence. In any event, there is plenty of evidence that all of this happened, and that it was a deliberate attempt to get rid of a perenially successful and assertive(read: troublesome) minority. But the Turkish government denies to this day that it had any role in these events, or if they did happen, "rogue elements" were responsible.

This journalist and many others have refused to be silent on the issue. The Turkish government has responded by harassing and/or trying them under a catch-all criminal statute called "insulting Turkishness." They have promised to stop doing this, because they want admission to the EU and persecuting writers for their beliefs isn't acceptable in Europe. But the Turkish government still hasn't admitted any culpability, and the genocide issue remains a flashpoint in Turkish politics, so individuals inclined to take action against "unpatriotic" people are emboldened. That seems to be what happened in this case.

The past isn't past, just in case you had forgotten...read the full story at http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/01/19/europe/EU-GEN-Turkey-Journalist-Killed.php

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Henry Kissinger weighs in

All the Vietnam students and everyone else reading these lines should go on over to the International Herald Tribune and read Henry Kissinger's op ed, in which he declares, "Withdrawal is not an option." I found some food for thought there, especially in his calls for repositioning of US forces, taking them out of the sectarian warfare in Baghdad and putting them on duty along the borders with the neighbors, preventing mischiefmakers from crossing back and forth so easily. He's also a grownup on talking to those neighbors, no matter how ideologically distasteful that might be, dusting off the old Realpolitik. Even if you violently disagree with the entire concept of Henry Kissinger, he's still worth reading.


Furrin' news and culture

A couple great sites that should be on your list: The Moscow Times, www.themoscowtimes.com. This is the main English-language newspaper of Moscow, the Russian capital. It has excellent hard news and commentary, plus great coverage of the arts, the one facet of life in Putin's Russia that really shines brightly, and historical travel. Laika recommended the article on Borovsk earlier today. One caveat on the MOW Times: there is no registration requirement, but if you see an article you would like to keep, you should print it then, because after about 24 hours, most items disappear into the subscribers' archive and you will have either to subscribe or pay for them. They are sneaky that way...

The second is Irish Radio and TV, www.rte.ie. There you can find news of Ireland, travel information and a link to their transcendently wonderful Lyric fm, a classical music station that is diligent about interacting with listeners from all over the globe. They have many request hours, often themed, e.g. your favorite Baroque, and you can email your requests. It's not unusual for the deejay to announce, for example, that Christian from Copenhagen loves Vivaldi, and we are going to play "Winter" from the "Four seasons" for him. You actually feel more civilized when Lyric FM is your background noise.

Today's Travel Destination: Borovsk

For your journey away from home today, try Borovsk, a little town southwest of Moscow with historical associations connected to every square inch. Go to www.themoscowtimes.com and click on "Where Tradition Meets Futurism." There is a lovely Old Believer church, dedicated in 1912 to commemorate the original Patriotic War; there is a house with a plaque proclaiming "Napoleon Slept Here"; there are Lenin statues; and there is the Pafnut'ev Monastery, now open for tours, where women can even borrow wrap-around skirts and headscarves at the gates. And there is the pit where Lady Morozova spent her exile. Have fun!

Remembering Art Buchwald

I just learned that the humorist Art Buchwald died this morning. Some of you who are younger probably won't remember him, because he hasn't written that much in recent years due to ill health. He's enshrined in my memory, though, as my undergrad commencement speaker.

Usually Georgetown University has someone Serious, August and Sober to address its graduating classes--like George Will. However, in l979, they tapped Art Buchwald, who conveniently lived just across the Potomac from the G-town campus. He came over and brought the house down with a comedic monologue for the ages. I don't remember too much of the speech, because the tradition at that time among the distinguished graduates was to drink Champagne before, during and after the service(i think that is, um, frowned upon and Not Done today). I do remember him telling us that we should look forward to the future, blah, blah, blah, but if we didn't want to do that, just go out and pretend today is yesterday and have yourself a hell of a good time. That was pretty neat...you usually don't remember much of what was said on days like that, but it's always a great thing to know that you laughed.

If I remember correctly, the next class--l980--had as their speaker a fellow graduate and Rhodes Scholar(G-town '65, I think) who had just launched a political career in Arkansas, his home state. His name was Bill Cllinton.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Peter and Igor

All lovers of Russian and/or classical music should note that BBC radio 3 will broadcast the collected works of Peter Tchaikovsky and Igor' Stravinsky beginning February 10 and continuing through the l7th. Some of the immortals of Russian and Soviet music will be in the spotlight, notably David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter and the conductor Evgenii Mravinsky.

I don't know how we can access BBC3 on the internet, but I am going to try to find out.

For more information, go to the Guardian site(www.guardian.co.uk) and look for the article "Pyotr the Great" by Tom Service.

Update: Radio 3 has its own web page offering you the ability to listen live. Go to the bbc site(bbc.co.uk)and look at the top for the links to radio. You will find the Radio 3 page listed there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mapping the world

For Great War students and geography afficionados, there is a great link out there showing then-and-now maps of the Balkans, Central and Western Europe, the near East and Germany between l9l3 and l938. If you are living within the territory of the United States of America, your geographic literacy is in grave doubt, so you should go look at these, in fact ANY, maps early and often.


Bookworld Tuesday: Alastair Horne

In his 60 Minutes interview this past Sunday, President Bush told Scott Pelley he was reading a book about the French campaign against insurgents in Algeria in the late l950s. If so, he's made a good choice, because chances are he's talking about Alastair Horne's study, "A Savage War of Peace." That came out several years ago, but it's been the hottest read among American military personnel dealing with Iraq for as long as the war has been with us. I have read parts of it and can recommend it with high praise. There are lots of useful parallels between the two wars--a pity the President didn't read it earlier.

Alastair Horne is probably the leading historian of France in our time. He is a gifted writer, too--there is seldom a temptation to put down one of his books because the writing is difficult or unclear. Almost anyone interested in modern history can find a Horne offering to his liking. Students of insurgencies will find "A Savage War of Peace" useful. Those interested in World War I, especially its course and nature, should pick up his "The Price of Victory: Verdun l9l6." There will never be any further doubt in your mind as to why France was unwilling and unable to undertake any more significant military campaigns after that. People who love France will enjoy his recent "Seven Ages of Paris," an impressionistic look at the French capital at seven key moments in its long history. No one interested in history can fail to enjoy his books. They are a treat.

Horne has quit France temporarily for work on a biography of...Henry Kissenger. It's hard to see how that will be pleasant duty, but if he can take on and explain France and the French, he's got a fighting chance to do the same with Henry the K.

Monday, January 15, 2007

How ya gonna keep'em down on the farm...

...after they've seen the World War I museum in Kansas City? All 395 students should visit here, since it's the only museum of the Great War in the United States. It's just a click or two away at http://www.libertymemorialmuseum.org/.

Dreaming on MLK/Dream Day:

I have my own MLK dream today: I dream that sometime in the future, the country will make it possible for every high school student to spend at least six months in a country outside the United States, preferably on another continent. Robert Kaiser wrote yesterday in the WaPo that Americans get into trouble--read, Iraq and Vietnam--because they are ethnocentric, somewhat unreflective and strong in the belief that everyone sees things and wants to live like they do. I think that's largely true--I always remember Frank Burns in one of those classic episodes of MASH telling Hawkeye Pierce that we were in Korea to make sure all citizens of the north and south had American plumbing and toilets. It is also perfectly understandable, since Americans live on an island with relatively friendly neighbors. It takes work to get out and mingle with Europeans, Asians and Africans.

If you live abroad for any length of time, you learn that not everyone views the United States as a beacon of liberty, hope and human rights. Whether they have been conditioned by their governments to focus on the negative aspects of US history or they are close readers of the news, a lot of people abroad see us as an opportunistic, self-serving, often hypocritical great power. That's both true and untrue, but that is the way they see things. Secondly, you get a sense that people are the products of their historical experience. Russians, for example, are mistrustful of foreigners in part because foreigners--read, French, Germans, Poles, Swedes and a host of other invaders--have brought them a lot of grief and death. The French and most continental Europeans will do virtually anything to avoid war, not because they are cowards but because of the two wars that devastated their countries not so long ago. Third, you learn to live with ambiguity--you can be friends and have a dialogue with someone else even if you don't share his or her world view. It seems to me that's the beginning of perspective and wisdom.

I would not trade my time abroad for any amount of money. I dream that someday, our people will have the tools to break out of their isolation and exceptionalism, so that they can avoid delusions like those that landed us in Vietnam and Iraq. In the meantime, YOU should "cultivate your own garden," that is, investigate opportunities to travel and engage "furriners." It will change and enrich your life, as well as those of the people lucky enough to meet you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

This Day in History...

After floating for a time in the circles of name/password hell, I have emerged to remind everyone to visit the bbc's "this day" page: www.bbc.co.uk/onthisday. Over and out...kind of a slow news day globally and locally.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday virtual touristing

A propos of absolutely nothing this morning, surf on over to http://www.bbc.co.uk/cambridgeshire/. That's the homepage for Cambridge, the greatest university town in all the world and(this is a Grant's Tomb moment)home of the venerable Cambridge University. It's one of my favorite places ever and should be on your itinerary for your next trip, or your first trip, to Europe. It's a place where you READ history, rather than major in history, where you spend your entire university career in one residential college(Trinity, Jesus, King's, Fitzwilliam, Pembroke...), where everyone runs around in what we would call graduation gowns, where you can find top choral talent, especially affiliated with King's College. You should go in spring, when all those famous English flowers are in bloom.

Just one highlight among many in England's "green and pleasant land."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pop and protest

One of the memorable features of the Vietnam war was its impact on pop music. Almost everyone wrote a song in protest of the war, from Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" to Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Four Dead in Ohio...," which has the immortal line, "what if you knew her and...saw her dead on the ground?" You can chart the course of the war on the pop charts--it's really remarkable.

I was wondering today about pop music and the Iraq war, and lo and behold, music critic Jon Pareles of the New York Times wrote about this recently. You can still access his article in the International Herald Tribune(www.iht.com)and putting his name into the search engine, or looking for his byline on the left-hand side of the page as you scroll down.

Incidentally, the Herald Tribune print version is usually only available abroad. It's a compendium of articles from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Moscow Times and other worldwide newspapers. Mostly expats read it, but you can access it as an armchair tourist at www.iht.com. It's particularly good on culture...take a minute and surf on over there and you can plan your trips to Europe around what's playing in London and Paris.

Hello and welcome!

Well, I've gone and done it--finally created the Blogside Inn, a place for discussion, information, contemplation, a cyber-pint or two, or just some good craic. It's a tribute to my favorite Irish pub, the Bogside Inn, in the Catholic neighborhood of Londonderry called Bogside. It's known to the world as the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre, but it's also a treasure trove of history and culture. If you visit the Bogside Inn, you will get a liberal dose of history, a lot of good conversation, gossip, neighborhood legend and lore, and some good information...I wanted to re-create that feeling in the Blogside Inn. The only difference is that the pints will be cyber-pints...I haven't figured out how to serve alcohol in cyberspace, and some of you are too young to drink, heh, heh...

I want to remind everyone in this first post that you have a day off class on Monday, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. I hope this isn't just a day off for you...take some time to remember Martin, because he forced the country to live up to the statements it made in its founding documents, mainly "All men are created equal." For a couple of hundred years, there was an asterisk by that statement, indicating that it really only applied to white people, because the southern states of the ex-Confederacy practiced open discrimination against African Americans. Martin King's non-violent campaign for full civil rights for African-Americans closed the chasm between rhetoric and reality in American history and politics...you can't believe the number of people all over the world who brought that up repeatedly, e.g. "you say everyone is equal, yet you allow discrimination and racism against black people." Martin King didn't end racism and segregation, but his efforts ultimately made them illegal and subject to legal action when they occur. That was a huge gift to the nation. So please, remember Martin King and all he meant to the country on Monday.