Categories
Historic America Reviews

Barbarian Virtues: An Incomplete Critique of American Imperialism

barbarian-virtuesIn Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917, Mathew Frye Jacobson explored the American perception of ourselves and the foreign peoples we came into contact with at the turn of the last century, as empire building and immigration expanded our interaction with the outside world. The title comes from a quotation by Theodore Roosevelt calling on Americans to not abandon their hearty roots in the quest for civilization, and to “keep the barbarian virtues” in order to escape from decadence.

Anxiety over civilization and barbarity characterized American culture at the end of the nineteenth century. According to Jacobson, political culture during this period was “characterized by a paradoxical combination of supreme confidence in U.S. superiority and righteousness, with an anxiety driven by fierce parochialism.” The paradox stemmed from the United States’ economic dependence on an influx of labor from peoples that were considered to be inferior. Popular media characterized these people as barbarian others in need of the fatherly hand of the civilized United States. The labor and resources of the “barbarians” were invaluable in propelling this country to a position of power.

It is not the uniqueness of this relationship that Jacobson finds interesting. As he points out, these attitudes have long roots in American culture. The scale of these endeavors is what sets this period off from the past. Industrial production, mass population movements, expanding and active government, and a developing mass media characterized this time of explosive growth and involvement in the world. But in order to facilitate such involvement, the old attitude Americans had taken toward American Indians and, to a lesser extent, Mexicans, needed to be refashioned for use overseas. The people of Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Panama all had to be seen as “pawns in a vast geopolitical game.” This shift in perspective took a conscious cultural effort to accomplish.

Categories
Historic America

Bread and Gravy

On my recent trip through the South, I played some folk music for the ride and came across this catchy tune, “Bread and Gravy.” I found several different versions online, but couldn’t find the lyrics to this particular one, performed by J.E. Mainer & The Mountaineers with Morris Herbert on the album Appalachian Mountain Bluegrass – 30 Vintage Classics (2007). The song laments the effect of high inflation, as the dollar becomes so worthless his family can only afford to eat bread and gravy, even though everyone is working. At a time when everyone has a smartphone, it’s hard to imagine being so poor things like meat, milk, and butter are unaffordable luxuries. When you think about it, gravy is just melted fat thickened with wheat flour or cornstarch. My grandma used to save the grease from cooking bacon and other meat and reuse it. Imagine pouring that on dry bread for flavor every day of the week!

bg3I read in the paper this mornin’
That a dollar just ain’t worth a dime
We used to pay cash for our roast beef
And can afford pork chops sometimes
We used to eat liver and onions
With these two we never went wrong
But lately I’ve noticed a difference
And that’s why I’m singin’ this song

On Monday we have bread and gravy
On Tuesday it’s gravy and bread
On Wednesday and Thursday it’s gravy on toast
But that’s only gravy on bread
Friday it’s rye bread ‘n gravy
On Saturday it’s whole wheat instead
Sunday’s a treat, ’cause we can’t wait to eat
We have gravy without any bread

[We’d settle for beans after this Sunday.
Kinda cheap, you know…]

My pa’s making more than he ever
My ma’s babysittin’ at night
My brother’s a working, he’s raking in dough
Somehow the picture ain’t right
Now everyone’s working at our house
You can’t count the money we’ve made
The high cost of living has got us
Say, Bill, could you spare a steak?

On Monday we have bread and gravy
On Tuesday it’s gravy and bread
On Wednesday and Thursday it’s gravy on toast
But that’s only gravy on bread
Friday it’s rye bread ‘n gravy
On Saturday it’s whole wheat instead
Sunday’s a treat, ’cause I can’t wait to eat
We have gravy without any bread

Categories
Mysterious America

Split Rock Quarry’s Terrifying Crusher

The site of a tragic and deadly accident at a quarry in central New York has become a popular destination for legend trippers and outdoor enthusiasts.

  • The Solvay Process Company built Split Rock Quarry to mine limestone west of Syracuse in the 1880s.
  • A massive explosion at the quarry in 1918 killed upwards of 50 workers.
  • Since the accident, some visitors have reported strange encounters in the abandoned quarry at night.

On July 2, 1918, a terrible explosion at a munitions factory outside Syracuse, New York claimed the lives of more than 50 workers, injuring dozens more. 15 men were incinerated beyond recognition and over 20 reported missing and presumed dead. Today, Split Rock Quarry is largely abandoned, taken over by hikers, urban explorers, curiosity seekers, and partiers.

Evidence of late night excursions abound, and some of these nocturnal visitors have brought back stories of strange sights and sounds around the old rock crusher. Dark, graffiti covered tunnels excite the imagination. This sinister reputation led the site to be featured on the Travel Channel’s Destination Fear in October 2012.

Split Rock Quarry was originally built by the Solvay Process Company, which was founded in 1880 by Belgian chemists Ernest and Alfred Solvay, American engineer William B. Cogswell, and businessman Rowland Hazard II. The Solvay Process Company manufactured soda ash (sodium carbonate) through the Solvay Process, which combines salt brine and limestone. The limestone was quarried at Split Rock near Onondaga, New York and pulverized in a giant rock crusher.

Categories
Reviews

Miss Sloane: Anatomy of a Failure

Miss Sloane (2016) stars Jessica Chastain as a high strung, pill-popping Washington DC lobbyist who takes on the Gun Lobby in this dead-on-arrival political thriller. Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in Washington, D.C., but when her firm agrees to take on an effort to convince women to support the 2nd Amendment, she has a change of heart and joins a lobbying firm fighting for gun control.

According to IMDB.comMiss Sloane had a budget of $18 million and made an embarrassing $59,797 in its opening weekend. As of December 14, the movie had grossed $2.6 million. Ouch. All indications point to a decent film. Good pacing, unexpected plot twists, solid acting–so what went wrong? Well, audiences don’t really want to sit through a 132 minute commercial for gun control.

Let’s start there. It’s not surprising a political thriller would have a political message, but this film wears its bias on its sleeve. It is replete with left wing stereotypes of conservatives, who it portrays as elderly white men enthralled to the gun lobby. When confronted with a plan to create a pro-gun women’s group, Miss Sloane is flabbergasted, unable to believe any woman would support an originalist view of the 2nd Amendment. (Oops, those groups already exist, WAGC and AFA to name two.) Through Miss Sloane’s later exposition, the audience is actually treated to a point-by-point refutation of arguments against gun control, making you feel like you’re attending a lecture rather than watching a movie.

Categories
Reviews

Man and the Natural World: A Meticulous History

man-and-the-natural-worldIn Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800, historian Keith Thomas argued that English sentiments regarding the natural world progressed from exploitation in the sixteenth century to conservation in the nineteenth. Before 1500, the prevailing worldview in England had been that wilderness was something to be subdued and civilized. After 1800, the prevailing belief was that wilderness needed to be saved from misuse by humanity.

The English view of nature prior to 1500 was theologically-based. According to scripture, God created each animal and plant to serve man and subordinate to his wishes and needs. Animals were considered to be automaton without souls, and previously wild animals had to be broken in order to use them as labor and food. Many classical scholars also taught that human beings were unique and separate from the animal kingdom. According to Aristotle, only mankind possessed reason.

The common man used religion and morality to distinguish himself from animals. Evil spirits almost always took the form of an animal, and the devil appeared as a goat. Likewise, mankind’s bodily impulses were negatively equated with animals and considered things to be subdued. Englishmen also labeled outsiders as bestial. Anyone who wasn’t Christian was considered worse than a beast and in need of civilizing. The aristocracy also put the poor into this category. However, Thomas was careful to point out that this “uncompromisingly aggressive view of man’s place in the natural world… was by no means representative of all opinion in early modern England.”

Categories
Mysterious America

A Christmas Story House Offers Holiday Spirits

The filming location of A Christmas Story has attracted tens of thousands of nostalgic tourists, and at least one paranormal investigation team believes it may be home to restless spirits.

Largely overlooked upon its release in 1983, A Christmas Story has since become a beloved holiday classic. Set in the fictional Indiana town of Hohman during the 1950s, the film is based on stories from the book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. This simple tale of a boy who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas was filmed at several locations, including a single-family home in south Cleveland, Ohio.

This 1895 Victorian home is located at 3159 W. 11th St. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood and is open to the public year round  for tours. In 2004, Brian Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur purchased the home on Ebay and restored to appear as it did in A Christmas Story.

Jones, a fan of the movie, had already created a profitable company selling replica “leg lamps,” also from the film. Directly across the street from the house is the official A Christmas Story House Museum, which features original props, costumes and memorabilia from the film, as well as hundreds of rare behind-the-scenes photos.

Categories
Gaming

Hearts of Iron IV Minor Nation Strategies: Austria

Welcome to my first in a series of posts looking at minor countries in the game Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Entertainment. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the events of the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. I have been a fan of this game since the original Hearts of Iron came out in 2002. While the latest version sacrifices historical detail for game play, I’ve been addicted since its release this summer. It’s simply visually stunning.

What I would like to discuss here is not the graphics but the alternative history. What if Germany reverted to democracy? What if France fell to communism? What if the United Kingdom became fascist? Or, what if one of the dozens of minor powers were more aggressive in pursuing their own ambitions? That is what these articles are about–examining, in detail, the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. In this article, I’ll be looking at Austria.

screenshot-70

BLUF: Austria is a small, landlocked country destined to be absorbed into Germany in the 1938 Anschluss. Refusing to submit means fighting an unwinnable war. However, there are tricks you can use to survive and go on to fight World War 2 as an independent country. Can you restore Austria to its former glory?

Austria starts the game in 1936 as a nonaligned autocracy led by Kurt Schuschnigg. The ruling party, Vaterlandische Front, has 48% popularity. The democratic party, led by Karl Renner, and communist party, led by Alfred Klahr, both have 1% popularity, and the fascist party, led by Arthur Seuss-Inquart, has 50%. Austria has a volunteer army, export trade focus, and a civilian economy. Austria is divided into three states: Lower Austria, Upper Austria, and Tyrol. It has 50% national unity. Appointing Leopold Figl, a popular figurehead, as a political adviser will boost national unity by 15%.