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the work of history

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    Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891.

    The Painter of Sunflowers, 1888.

    Self-Portrait, 1885.

    Les Alyscamps, 1888.

    The Swineherd, Brittany, 1888.

    Self-Portrait (Les Miserables), 1888.

    Tehamana Has Many Parents, 1893.

    Three Tahitian Women (detail), 1896.

    June 7, 1848: Paul Gauguin is born.

    This colorful (with regards to both his art and personality) French post-Impressionist was born in Paris, but he spent much of his early childhood in Lima, Peru, which undoubtedly influenced his later art. In 1888, he spent several months painting in Arles alongside Vincent Van Gogh, with whom he shared a volatile relationship. Like Van Gogh, he suffered from bouts of depression, and Gauguin’s domineering, arrogant personality contributed greatly to Van Gogh’s eventual mental deterioration. Van Gogh’s famous ear-cutting incident occurred after a desperate quarrel with Gauguin, and some even allege that Gauguin himself did the deed; despite this, Gauguin remained in contact with Vincent after leaving Arles. In the 1890s, Gauguin traveled (and eventually settled in) French Polynesia, and the philandering Frenchman found the local women to be worthy painting subjects (as well as worthy subjects for other activities).

    In the early years of his career, Gauguin painted with Pissarro and Cézanne and participated in Impressionist exhibitions, but his later works were also highly influential to artists like Matisse, Picasso, and Derain, and the artistic movements to which they belonged. He differed from Van Gogh in one particular (and vital) aspect - whereas Van Gogh’s great muse was nature and his surroundings, Gauguin believed that the artist “should not copy nature too much… Art is an abstraction.” 

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    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

    June 8, 1949: Nineteen Eighty-Four is published.

    George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel was the product of his abhorrence of both Communism and fascism - he claimed that the latter term was “almost entirely meaningless” and that Communism (as put in practice by the Russians) and fascism were two sides of the same coin. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, his personal warning against any and all forms of totalitarianism and extremism, Orwell has the main antagonist describe the Nazi and Russian Communist regimes as less successful, misled versions of Oceania and its ruling ideology “Ingsoc” (Read more about the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four here).

    Nineteen Eighty-four was an immediate success upon publication; apparently, even Winston Churchill (for whom the protagonist is named) claimed to have read it twice. At one time the most widely-translated English-language novel ever, Nineteen Eighty-Four brought terms like “Big Brother”, “Thoughtcrime” and “Thought Police”, “Doublethink”, and, of course, “Orwellian” into the popular lexicon of a post-war world wary of creeping totalitarianism.

    More quotes:

    Then the face of Big Brother faded away again and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:
                                                                 WAR IS PEACE
                                                         FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
                                                      IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

    All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers.


    Who controls the past… controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.

    Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship… The object of power is power.

    In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. 

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    Schiclegruber Doing the Lambeth Walk or A British Government Official Trolls Nazis with a 1940s-style Mash-up.

    In 1942, Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information created a short propaganda film that combined clips from the 1934 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will and “The Lambeth Walk” - a song from the musical Me and My Girl. 

    The clip mocked:

    1) the excessive militarism displayed in Triumph of the Will (which had already been mocked by many others as… overcompensating).

    2) Alois Hitler’s original surname, Schicklgruber. Some Three Stooges shorts also referred to the Führer by this name. I imagine that an “Adolf Schicklgruber” might not have been taken as seriously as an “Adolf Hitler”. 

    3) the Nazi ideology itself - in 1939, the Lambeth Walk (a popular dance in Europe and the United States) was denounced by a Nazi official as “bestial hopping” and a “Jewish enormity”. Also, referring to the “Gestapo ‘hep-cats’” subtitle - a hepcat (hip-cat) is a slang term that typically refers to “a performer or devotee of jazz, esp. swing”. Jazz music was banned in Nazi Germany in 1935 because of its African roots, and because many performers of jazz were Jewish. Like many other forms of art, jazz was denounced as “degenerate” … summed up in this poster, which depicts a performer of jazz as an African caricature wearing a Star of David.

    Very subtle.

    Oops, I sort of went off on a little tangent again. Seriously, though, look at that poster.

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    Man with a Pipe, 1848-1849.

    Man with Leather Belt, 1845-1846.

    The Desperate Man, 1844-1845.

    The Wounded Man, 1854.

    The Cellist, 1847.

    June 10, 1819: Gustave Courbet is born.

    Beauty, like truth, is relative to the time when one lives and to the individual who can grasp it. 

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    How to Spot a Communist

    In recognizing a communist, physical appearance counts for nothing. If he openly declares himself a communist, we take his word for it. 

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    June 11, 1864: Richard Strauss is born.

    … my principle is simply that you should let deeds and works speak for you, not words.

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    Um, I don’t know how I would describe my own political views, but according to that political compass website…

    I’m not a political person at all, though, so please don’t read too much into that. This is not a politics blog.

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    World War II-Era Kodachromes

    These images are stunning. Not only do they showcase a few of the millions of “Rosie the Riveters” who worked in the defense industry during this time, but they do so in such brilliant quality. Kodachrome film was first sold in 1935, but it was discontinued in 2009, though its legacy through photos like these (plus iconic images like “the Afghan Girl”) still lives.

    Most of the images are from Shorpy, but they were compiled here, where many other lovely images of 1940s America can be found.

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    June 12, 1967: The Supreme Court declares anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. 

    For forty-three years prior to this landmark civil rights case, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act made marriage between white and non-whites a crime punishable by law. To circumvent this law, Mildred Dolores Jeter (a woman of Native American and African descent) and Richard Loving traveled in 1958 to Washington, D.C., where they were able to marry legally (though technically this was also a violation of the Virginia Code). Upon returning to Virginia, however, the Lovings were arrested and charged with “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth”, to which they pled guilty. 

    Fortunately, with the help of the ACLU, the Loving case made it to the state court and then to the Supreme Court as Loving v. Virginia. By this time, several mainstream American churches had even affirmed their support for interracial marriage. Finally, in, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that, under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Racial Integrity Act and any other anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional:

    To deny [marriage] on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

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    Self-Portrait with Hands on Chest, 1910.

    Portrait of Gerti Schiele, 1909.

    Man with a Floppy Hat, 1910.

    Death and the Maiden, 1915.

    Self-Portrait, 1911.

    Woman's Back.

    Portrait of Arthur Roessler, 1910.

    The Dancer, 1913.

    June 12, 1890: Egon Schiele is born.

    I must see new things and investigate them. I want to taste dark water and see crackling trees and wild winds.

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    June 13, 1934: Hitler and Mussolini meet in Venice for the first time.

    The first meeting between Europe’s two new fascist leaders was not successful and, in retrospect, a little amusing. Mussolini had led Italy as Il Duce for nearly nine years, and Hitler had barely held power for one; Mussolini was decked out in ceremonial dress fit for a general - riding boots and all, while Hitler had come in plain civilian clothing; the boisterous Italian leader also found Hitler’s constant quoting of Mein Kampf boring, and he later referred to him as “a silly little monkey”. 

    Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt (of V-J Day in Times Square fame), who snapped a photo of the two leaders shaking hands, later said that “[Mussolini] didn’t think much of Hitler” and “when Hitler and Mussolini met on June 13, 1934, in Venice, Mussolini was the big shot”. It was true. Hitler’s first coup (the “Beer Hall Putsch”) was an attempt to emulate Mussolini’s successful March on Rome, and Hitler’s paramilitary “brownshirts” were directly inspired by the Italian “Blackshirts”. 

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    Washington crosses the Delaware, 1776.

    The flag over Ft. McHenry, 1814.

    Lincoln and McClellan, 1862.

    TR and the Rough Riders, 1898.

    The Pledge of Allegiance (Lange), 1940s.

    Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, 1945.

    Flag on the moon, 1969.

    The Soiling of Old Glory, 1976.

    Raising the Flag at Ground Zero, 2001.

    June 14, 1777: The United States adopts the “Stars and Stripes” as its national flag.

    In 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that stated:

    Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.

    The new naval ensign (replacing the first, which still incorporated the Union Jack into its design) eventually became the national flag of the new United States. In honor of the 140th anniversary of this event, President Woodrow Wilson declared in 1916 that June 14th would henceforth be celebrated as Flag Day.

    Other facts about the American flag:

    • The first change to the number of stars came in 1795, when two were added to the original thirteen for Vermont and Kentucky. Two stripes were also added, but it was decided in 1818 that the number of stripes should thereafter remain at thirteen.
    • The flag design longest in use is the current fifty-star design. The flag was last changed in 1960, after Hawaii gained statehood in 1959. 
    • The flag has been modified twenty-six times since its adoption.
    • The designer of the 50-star flag was Robert Heft, who was in high school at the time. His design was for a school project, which he received a B- on… until the U.S. government officially adopted his design.
    • Six American flags were placed on the moon (by Apollo astronauts). The first was planted by, of course, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
    • The National Flag Code.

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    Destination Moon (1950).

    The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

    Star Trek (1968).

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

    Alien (1979), badass Ripley style.

    Alien (1979)

    Star Trek: First Contact (1996).

    Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005).

    Prometheus (2012).

    Spacesuits in Film (and Television):  1950-2012.

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    Thanks so much! :D

    (And I really love your avatar. And your background. And your Bob Dylan tag.)

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    Ohh, I get you. Yeah, I don’t know a lot of text-based history blogs centered around that time period, unfortunately… Actually, I’ve been looking for more blogs like this (versus the photograph-heavy ones), too… so if anybody has any suggestions, please do tell.

    I’m feeling really unhelpful right now. I’m sorry!

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    June 22, 1964: Dan Brown is born.

    Dan Brown’s thriller novels, the most famous of which is probably The Da Vinci Code, are entertaining for what they should be read as - which is light airport fiction. But for whatever reason, the author has continuously insisted that his books should actually be taken seriously in terms of the historical content; to quote Mr. Brown, after being asked how much of The Da Vinci Code is true:

    Absolutely all of it. Obviously, there are—Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact.

    No more can be said (except that I’m glad Robert Langdon is not a real “symbologist”. He would be the worst teacher ever). 

    Historical Inaccuracies in Dan Brown’s Books or I Don’t Even Think He Tries At All:

    • It is, of course, inaccurate to refer to Leonardo da Vinci as “da Vinci”, since Vinci is the town he was born in. It would be like calling Raphael “Urbino”.
    • One of the main antagonists in The Da Vinci Code is an “Opus Dei monk”. Naturally, they don’t exist, though only the misinformed protagonists refer to him as such. Read Opus Dei’s agitated response to the claims made in the book.
    • According to Dan Brown, Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. His Edict of Milan legalized Christian worship, but it was through Theodosius I (decades later) that Christianity became the state religion.
    • The book states that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1950s. They were actually discovered in 1947 and, also contrary to what the book states, none of the texts were Christian texts.
    • Paris was not founded by the Merovingians, as the book claims. It was founded by a Celtic tribe in the third century B.C., centuries before the Franks made the city their capital.
    • The claim that the Priory of Sion was a real ancient organization is ludicrous and Brown knows it; the group and its fictitious history were created in the 1950s and 60s. The entire basis of The Da Vinci Code centers around the existence of this organization, so to suggest that “absolutely all of it” is true is actually ridiculous.
    • Many of Brown’s claims about early Christianity are disputed or just plain inaccurate. See here and here.
    • The Egyptian goddess Isis is described as the wife of Amun; she is actually the wife of Osiris. Seriously, Brown, would it killed you to have done one Google search?
    • In Angels and Demons, the director of CERN claims that Copernicus was murdered by the Church for his discoveries. There is no proof of this. Copernicus died at age seventy from complications from a stroke.
    • Robert Langdon, our Harvard symbologist (a fictional field, unsurprisingly) expert, once lectured that the practice of Holy Communion was borrowed from the Aztecs. This is impossible, because the practice predates the rise of the Aztecs. So, unless there is proof that the Aztecs built a time machine, went back in time a millennium, and flew across the ocean, Brown’s claim is laughable. 
    • Brown also claims that Winston Churchill was a Roman Catholic. He belonged to the Church of England. 
    • According to another Angels and Demons character, Rhodes Scholarships were set up “centuries ago” to recruit Illuminati members. The scholarships, named after Cecil Rhodes, were first handed out in 1902, so unless “centuries ago” means “less than a century ago” in Dan Brown-speak, this is also inaccurate.
    • Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers does not represent the “four major rivers of the Old World” (the Rio de la Plata is in South America) but rather four rivers from four continents.
    • Brown also gets the general placement of locations (Versailles to Paris; many, many places in Rome) completely wrong.
    • In Digital Fortress, Spain is portrayed as a miserable country with no functioning hospitals. 
    • From the same book, the United States National Security Agency confuses Kanji with Mandarin, referring to the former as a language and the latter as a script (it’s the other way around). Either Brown thinks the Department of Defense is actually that stupid, or he himself doesn’t know the difference.

    … the list goes on and on and on. The man even has a TVtrope named after him. In short, read his books, have fun, but don’t believe anything he says or writes. Ever.

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    German infantrymen, July 1941.

    Red Army machine gunners, 1941.

    June 22, 1941: The German invasion of the Soviet Union begins.

    Since the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the two countries maintained a shaky neutrality that allowed them to divide up Central and Eastern Europe. However, there was a feeling of mutual distrust between the countries from the very beginning, and only months after the Treaty of Non-Aggression was signed, Hitler called for preparations for the inevitable “showdown with Bolshevism”. Besides the regular old “destroy Judeo-Bolshevism” deal, other reasons for attack were probably the need for a labor force and supplies (particularly oil). And in 1944, Hitler reinforced the ideological reasoning behind his invasion:

    It is eastwards, only and always eastwards, that the veins of our race must expand. It is the direction which Nature herself has decreed for the expansion of the German peoples.

    On the morning of June 22, 1941, over three million German troops poured across the front in three groups as part of the invasion, codenamed “Operation  Barbarossa” after Frederick Barbarossa, the twelfth-century Holy Roman Emperor. The invasion was not exactly a surprise (it is said that Stalin even ignored warnings of a German attack), but the Soviet forces and leadership were still ill-prepared for such a massive strike. Within a few days, the Germans had penetrated hundreds of miles into Russian territory, but it would eventually become clear that they had greatly underestimated the capabilities of their foe. Like Napoleon’s invasion 129 years earlier, the German attack ended in failure; however, by the end of the Russian Campaign, both sides had suffered beyond belief. Something like 30 million people, both soldiers and civilians, died in those four years. 

    Other Links:

    The Atlantic’s compilation of Operation Barbarossa photographs.

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    Thanks! I’m glad that you guys enjoy this blog.

    But yeah, on Dan Brown - I mean, I don’t hate his books or anything, because they’re very entertaining, but here’s an actual (paraphrased) statement I heard someone make in a restaurant once:

    “Oh my gosh I love Dan Brown! His books are like… National Treasure, but smarter. Deep stuff.”

    Good joke. It’s things like this that worry me about Dan Brown - because there are people who will take anything in print seriously, especially if the author himself straight-up says “YES IT’S ALL TRUE.” 

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    June 23, 1982: Vincent Chin dies.

    On June 19, thirty years ago, a Chinese-American man named Vincent Chin was confronted by two white autoworkers in a strip club (where Chin was celebrating his bachelor party). The two men, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, blamed Chin for continuing unemployment; Ebens reportedly yelled “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work!”, in reference to the competing American and Japanese auto industries.

    Later that day, the two men cornered Chin outside a McDonald’s, where they beat him with a baseball bat. Chin was knocked unconscious; he died four days later in a hospital, at age twenty-seven. Ebens and Nitz pled guilty to second-degree murder. They were fined $3,000 dollars and sentenced to three years probation. 

    Other links: 

    Why Vincent Chin Matters - The New York Times

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