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the work of history

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    I usually don’t post silly things like this, but… help. 

    This is my new favorite version, by the way.

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    It would take many books, my life, and no one wants anyway to hear such stories.

    (I was taking pictures of the chapter illustrations for this comic book because my scanner broke (and then I cleaned them up, pictured above), and then I decided to recommend the book to everyone on tumblr, and then I accidentally history feels’d all over my blog. I disgust myself.)

    I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. a year or two ago. The museum itself was fantastic (there was a great propaganda exhibit up when I went). It was also chilling, and the image I remember best is a room full of shoes - just hundreds of shoes, taken from the camps, and then I realized these represented only a tiny, minuscule fraction of the millions of people who were affected by the Holocaust. There was also this quote from Deuteronomy that I read that day, which has stuck with me all this time:

    Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and to your children’s children. 

    At the end of the day, I picked up this graphic novel called Maus. I wasn’t sure what to expect, because the Holocaust is absolutely one of the hardest things to depict in any form of media, without a doubt. Most depictions are accused of being too sappy, or too detached. They show too many facts and not enough humanity. There’s too much sentimentality and not enough historical accuracy. These are legitimate critiques. Maus was different, though. My biggest complaint about the depictions I see are that victims are treated like victims before actual people, and Maus totally avoids this. The Holocaust victim (the author’s father) whose story is being told, is a huge jerk, and Spiegelman does nothing to paint his father in a better light; at the same time, Spiegelman admits that he has no real grasp of what his father went through - and how could he? How could anyone, if he’d never experienced it for himself, know? It’s ironic, I suppose, that a book that depicts all its characters as mice and pigs and cats tells one of the most human accounts of the Holocaust I’ve ever read.

    One other refreshing thing about Maus is that Art Spiegelman never forces any morals and messages down the reader’s throat. It is a semi-biographical memoir, and Spiegelman lets his readers interpret as much as they can for themselves. According to the comic, his father has racist tendencies himself, and, although he could easily have done so, Spiegelman doesn’t try to paint him as a pure flawless victim. Some people I know who’ve read the comic have complained about this, about how it was a writing mistake, and how it makes them less sympathetic towards the victim. I wonder, though - how much are these trifling human flaws worth in the face of evil? Should we really take a tragedy so enormous as the Holocaust and say that it should have taught Vladek Spiegelman a “lesson” about racism? 

    I won’t even begin to comment on what this work did for the comic book genre, either, but suffice it to say, the graphic novel was taken much more seriously afterwards (it was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer).

    At the end of the comic, Mr. Spiegelman provides some photographs of the human beings depicted in the comic, just in case by the end the reader has forgotten that the entire thing was not just a tragic piece of fiction about mice. And we do forget sometimes that the Holocaust (and genocide and war and slavery and all these seemingly far-off things) actually happened. I feel like we alienate historical events and figures, like they’re all part of particularly realistic pieces of fiction, or at least, I know I do. It’s things like the Holocaust that can’t be effectively captured in even the most high-quality black-and-white photographs; even Art Spiegelman, whose family went through the Holocaust, cannot even begin to fathom what it was like. We can try, though, but it takes more than words. Sometimes it takes a room full of discarded shoes or a poignant comic book. 

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    September 24, 1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald is born.

    You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. 

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    Elizabeth Eckford

    September 25, 1957: Little Rock Central High School is integrated.

    In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the monumental case Brown v. Board of Education that separate but equal facilities are “inherently unequal”, setting down the legal foundation for the end of de jure segregation. The actual integration of schools, however, would not be achieved by a simple court ruling. 

    Three years after the Brown v. Board decision, nine black students (a group known as the Little Rock Nine) attempted to enroll in Central High after the Little Rock School District completed its plan for the integration of its schools. Although the school board of Little Rock agreed to comply with the decisions of the federal courts, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, reportedly a moderate who adopted a more hardline position to win the support of staunch segregationists, ordered the state National Guard to block the students from entering the high school; they were accompanied by crowds of protesters, who jeered the students as they attempted to attend school. Elizabeth Eckford (pictured in the bottom photograph in one of many iconic images of the Civil Rights movement), who was fifteen at the time, recalls a moment from the chaos:

    I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.

    Grace Lorch, a white teacher who attempted to protect Eckford from the crowd, later faced bomb threats and harassment because of her actions. Lorch was one of the two white individuals who attempted to help Eckford, the other being Benjamin Fine, a reporter for The New York Times.  

    Governor Faubus, when asked about the conflict between the state and Federal authorities, replied that he was not defying Federal court orders but merely “carrying out [his] obligation to preserve the peace”. The school remained blocked by troops until the mayor of Little Rock requested assistance from President Eisenhower, who placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent Army troops to escort the students to school (Executive Order 10730). On September 25, the Little Rock Nine were admitted to the high school. But even after their admittance, they faced a constant stream of verbal and even physical abuse - one girl had acid thrown in her face; another was expelled after fighting back against her abusers. 

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    It’s another Turner painting; it’s Fishermen at Sea. I think I’ll be changing it every few weeks or something, though, because there are a lot of paintings I’d like to use.

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    Thick at the schoolgate are the ones 
    Rage has twisted 
    Into minotaurs, harpies 
    Relentlessly swift; 
    So you must walk past the pincers, 
    The swaying horns, 
    Sister, sister, 
    Straight through the gusts 
    Of fear and fury, 
    Straight through; 
    Where are you going? 

    I’m just going to school. 

    Here we go to meet 
    The hydra-headed day, 
    Here we go to meet 
    The maelstrom - 

    Can my voice be an angel-on-the-spot, 
    An Amen corner? 
    Can my voice take you there, 
    Gallant girl with a notebook, 
    Up, up from the shadows of gallows trees 
    To the other shore: 
    A globe bathed in light, 
    A chalkboard blooming with equations - 

    I have never seen the likes of you, 
    Pioneer in dark glasses: 
    You won’t show the mob your eyes, 
    But I know your gaze, 
    Steady-on-the-North-Star, burning - 

    With their jerry-rigged faith, 
    Their spear of the American flag, 
    How could they dare to believe 
    You’re someone sacred?: 
    Nigger, burr-headed girl, 
    Where are you going? 

    I’m just going to school.

    - “Soul Make a Path through Shouting
    for Elizabeth Eckford
    Little Rock Arkansas, 1957”

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    September 26, 1888: T.S. Eliot is born.

    Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis to the old and distinguished Eliot family of Boston. Later in his life, Eliot listed his birthplace and native state as factors that helped bring about his childhood fascination with literature, saying “it is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done… I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not.” Despite the profound influence St. Louis had on him as a reader and author, Eliot moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and remained there, eventually becoming a naturalized British subject and an Anglican. 

    Eliot’s career as a poet arguably began with the publication of his very loaded (a “drama of literary anguish”) stream of consciousness poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, which he began writing in 1910 and completed in 1915. His oft-quoted poem The Waste Land was published in 1922. Other famous works published during his career (which spanned several decades) include The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets (after which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature). Later in his career Eliot focused much of his effort on plays rather than pure poetry. He was also a prominent and influential literary critic.

    While he is regarded as one of the most important English-language poets of the century, his reputation slipped after World War II, and it slipped even further after his death in 1965. To his critics, Eliot’s poetry was unnecessarily complex, even incomprehensible, and lacking any real structure. To his admirers, it was refreshingly experimental, and even some of his critics had to acknowledge his mastery of the language. 

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    Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

    September 27, 1962: Silent Spring is published. 

    Fifty years ago, a marine biologist named Rachel Carson published a controversial book on the harmful nature of pesticides, especially DDT, on the environment, animals, and humans. Like Common Sense and Uncle Tom’s CabinSilent Spring was of that particular class of publication that arguably changed the attitude of a nation; what the former two did for the American Revolution and abolition, respectively, Silent Spring did for the environmental movement.

    The insecticide DDT was introduced as such in the late 1930s; the man who discovered its insecticidal properties, Paul Hermann Müller, was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. During this period, DDT played a key role in eliminating or at least controlling insect-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria around the world. Throughout the 40s and 50s, pressure mounted for more restrictions to regulate its use, but it was not until Silent Spring that this cause received national attention. The book has been and continues to be criticized, however; DDT is now banned for agricultural use in many countries (including the United States, since 1972), but some argue that its banning has indirectly caused millions of deaths from malaria (read a refutation of this claim here). Contrary to the belief of some of her critics, Carson did not advocate the complete banning of pesticides but for more responsible use.

    The title Silent Spring is derived from the famous first chapter (A Fable for Tomorrow), which describes an American town affected by “a strange illness”, presumably pesticide pollution. The chapter ends with these lines:

    No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the birth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves… A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know. 

    What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America? This book is an attempt to explain. 

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    Wow, thank you for following, guys! I was meaning to catch this one, but I missed it. But yes, thanks!!

    I repeat the sentiment I expressed when I hit my last milestone - the fact that people other than my mom read this blog is pretty satisfying in itself.

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    … do other people do that? 

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    The Calling of Matthew, 1610.

    David with the Head of Goliath, 1607.

    Penitent Magdalene, 1595.

    St. John the Baptist, 1604.

    Narcissus, 1594.

    Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598

    Still Life with Fruit, 1610.

    The Incredulity of St. Thomas, 1602.

    The Conversion on the Way to Damascus, 1601.

    September 29, 1571: Caravaggio is born.

    There was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same.

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    September 30, 1955: James Dean is killed in a car crash.

    James Dean was twenty-four-years old when he crashed his Porsche nearly head-on with another car on the way to an auto rally in Salinas. He was not killed on impact, but the crash crushed his foot and broke his neck. When he was taken to the hospital thirty-five minutes later, he was pronounced dead on arrival. The other driver, Donald Turnupseed, survived, as did Dean’s passenger, Rolf Wütherich. Dean’s car, which he’d nicknamed “Little Bastard”, was rumored to be cursed because it had been loosely involved in fatal accidents both before and after Dean’s death.

    Although he was a rising star at the time, having that year starred in his first lead role as East of Eden’s Cal Trask, his premature death cemented his status as a cultural icon. Two of Dean’s three total films, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant were released posthumously in October of 1955 and October of 1956; for the latter, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the only actor to have ever been posthumously nominated for two acting Oscars. Although Donald Turnupseed would never be relieved of the guilt of having been involved in the actor’s death, it was the car crash that (by killing him) immortalized him. 

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    Andre Castaigne

    Darius III at Issus, mosaic.

    October 1, 331 BC: Alexander the Great defeats the Persians at the Battle of Gaugamela.

    Also called the Battle of Arbela, this clash between a twenty-five-year old Alexander the Great and Darius III, who would be the last king of the Achaemenid Empire, was third in a series of major battles between the young Conqueror and the forces of Persian Empire. The other two were the Battles of Granic River (334) and Issus (333). It is considered one of the most decisive battles in history by many, including Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy, who went so far as to say that “… the ancient Persian empire, which once subjugated all the nations of the earth, was defeated when Alexander had won his victory at Arbela.” You can read Creasy’s (very pro-Western) analysis of the battle here, chapter three. He compares the Western conquest of the East to the British Empire’s ” present mission is to break up the mental and moral stagnation of India and Cathay”.

    The battle was fought on a flat plain, with around 47,000 troops in the Macedonian army and a contested amount (no more than 100,000, but certainly outnumbering Alexander’s forces) on the Persian side. Darius’s army was a diverse group, including warriors atop scythed chariots, thousands of Persian Immortals, and even war elephants, which impressed even Alexander himself, but they were poorly trained and equipped. The battle ended in a devastating victory for the Macedonians, and Darius fled in humiliating defeat before the battle had even been decided. The king was eventually murdered in 330, but Alexander, who had hoped to capture him alive, granted him a funeral at Persepolis after discovering the body. In 324, Alexander married Darius’s daughter Stateira II. 

    Despite having conquered the empire, Alexander (an admirer of the first Achaemenid king, Cyrus the Great) allowed many of the satraps to retain their positions; he also attempted to preserve Persian customs like proskynesis.

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    Thank you so much!! And thank you for following :)

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    Yeah, my rec list is a little outdated. I’ll add those blogs; thanks for the input.

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    I don’t know… I guess it’d be nice to make something off here, but eurghh, ads look ugly, to be blunt. I’ll do some more research into this whole ads thing later.

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    October 2, 1950: The first strip of Charles M. Shulz’s Peanuts is published.

    By the end of its run, nearly 18,000 strips of the comic had been published. 

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    Calvin Coolidge, 1924.

    Adlai Stevenson, 1952.

    Bobby Kennedy, 1968.

    Eugene McCarthy, 1968.

    Richard Nixon, 1968.

    George McGovern, 1972.

    Jimmy Carter, 1976.

    Ronald Reagan, 1984.

    20th/21st century presidential campaign posters.

    Happy election year!

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    V-2 on display in Trafalgar Square, 1945


    October 3, 1942: The V-2 rocket becomes the first man-made object to reach space. 

    At the time of this launch, the V-2 was called the A-4 (Aggregat-4), the fourth and most successful design of Nazi Germany’s “Aggregate” set of rockets. All of this - the V-2 and Germany’s rocket program - was largely the creation of one Wernher von Braun, who, like many other German scientists, made enormous and indispensable contributions to the United States’s own space program. Although von Braun later stated that he had been “interested solely in exploring outer space”, the V-2’s intended purpose by his higher-ups was destruction (later in the war, it was renamed “V-2”, for “Vengeance Weapon 2”). A missile that could reach space could also potentially reach a city like London, which it eventually did, although the rocket’s potential for destruction was severely limited by its inaccuracy and unreliability.

    Three test launches of the V-2 failed before the successful fourth, which was conducted at the Test Stand VII facility along the Baltic Sea. The rocket reached a height of around 90 to 100 km, or just enough to cross the boundary of the Earth’s atmosphere into outer space. Dr. Walter Dornberger, another leading figure in Germany’s rocket program, called that day “the first of a new era in transportation, that of space travel…”. Perhaps he was correct in saying so, but the rocket was to fulfill its role as a weapon of war first. As a weapon, it was incredibly inefficient, despite the fact that its supersonic speed and high trajectory made it almost impossible to touch. In fact, more people were killed building the rockets than by any bombings conducted with them. For this reason and because these bombings began in the summer of 1944, this purported “miracle weapon” had a negligible effect on the actual course of the war.

    After the war, the Allies (mostly the United States and Soviet Union) absorbed German rocket technology as well as the scientists who had developed it, and based much of their own rocket technology on the V-2. For this reason, the V-2 can be described as “the progenitor of all modern rockets”, serving as the model upon which the Redstone rockets (which took Alan Shepard into space) were based. 

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    October 4, 1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1.

    Sputnik 1 (“Satellite” or “Companion” 1) was mankind’s first artificial satellite; its successful launch from the Site No. 1 launchpad in Kazakhstan ushered in a new age of rapid technological advancement. If the beginning of the Space Race can be pinpointed to one particular moment, the launch of Sputnik would be the most likely candidate. Although Sputnik itself was only a simple satellite, it set off a number of events in the United States, including the founding of NASA in July of 1958 and the founding of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency); in addition, funding for education (with an emphasis in the sciences and mathematics) increased dramatically.

    The actual satellite weighed around 184 lb. It was approximately the size of a beach ball, and it was composed primarily of an alloy of aluminum, titanium, and magnesium. Surprisingly, its launch caused more of a stir in the United States than in the Soviet Union, where newspapers (initially) barely commented or waited until after gauging the world’s reaction to comment. 

    Sputnik remained in orbit until January of 1958; that month, the United States launched its own first satellite - Explorer 1. 

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