What to do with Confederate statues?

Could Russia teach us something about how to deal with difficult aspects of our national history?

Many places in the South – from New Orleans to Louisville – are in the process of bringing down statues that glorify the Confederacy. That process raises questions about what to do with these remnants of the past. Do we just toss them into the ash bin of history, purging them as if they never existed?

As a student of southern politics who recently traveled to Moscow, I wondered if we can look to the Russians and how they have treated their Soviet past. The situations are not perfectly analogous. Many Russian people lived through the Soviet experience. Not so for the Confederacy. That said, in both cases, there is the question of whether – and how – to purge the past.

From propaganda to kitsch

In Moscow, and in the former Soviet Union in general, there is Soviet detritus all over the place. Hammers and sickles are chiseled into buildings, bridges and other infrastructure. Sculptures of happy, heroic soldiers, workers and farmers sit on the platforms in the Moscow metro. Seven massive “Stalin buildings” dot the city.

The Russians have done more than just tolerate these leftovers. All the propaganda that the Soviets used to produce and disseminate – and there was a lot of it – is now kitsch. Kiosks sell Soviet T-shirts next to matryoshka dolls and amber jewelry as genuine Russian souvenirs. As one Russian gentleman said to me, “It’s our past and we embrace it. Read the rest

Acting Madly: the secret history of the lost MAD-alike magazines of the satire boom

It's been a bumper year for documentary evidence of the lost, weird history of MAD Magazine: first there was the gorgeous hardcover that uncovered the two-issue, unlimited-budget Trump Magazine (created by MAD's founding editor Harvey Kurtzman after a falling out with publisher William Gaines, Jr, operating with a bankroll provided by Hugh "Playboy" Hefner); now there's Behaving Madly, which assembles a timeline of the short-lived, incredibly proliferated MAD rip-offs that popped up as Kurtzman and his successor proved that there was big bucks to be found in satire.

1,650 year old unopened wine bottle looks like it should stay that way

Josh Jones at Open Culture looks at the Speyer wine bottle, the oldest (and possibly grossest) unopened bottle of wine. Read the rest

Nearly two centuries of yearly evolution of women's high fashion

Over at Imgur, user Q1s2e3 posted a timeline of women's high fashion from 1784 to 1970, focusing entirely on trends in Europe and North America. In fact, it's interesting that the switch in representation to American-style looks happened in the early 20th century. Read the rest

Manipulate a 3D model of the Rosetta Stone

The British Museum has released this nifty 3D scan of the Rosetta Stone, which includes a nice autoplaying audio summary of its significance. Read the rest

1966 space documentary shows earliest attempts to eat in zero gravity

In 1962, the Mercury program sought to find out if humans could eat in space. This interesting 1966 film captures some of the early trial and error. Read the rest

Lost Heroes and Miniature Histories of L.A.

This week on HOME: Stories From L.A., a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network:

"The best historians in L.A. are storytellers. They're gangsters in east L.A., they're ex-cons, they're guys who worked in their garage their whole life, they're guys who've worked at one business for forty years, people who've lived on one street for forty years... "

“All Night Menu” started with a question: What is a well-known photograph of William Faulkner not telling us about his time in Hollywood? Since then writer Sam Sweet has spent four years prowling LA for its most closely-held stories. The result is a lovingly-produced, meticulously-researched and gorgeously-written three volumes of the city’s secret history.

This is the third episode of Season 5. You can catch up on the whole series at the iTunes Store. While you're there, please take a second to leave the show a rating and review. And you can subscribe right here:  

iTunes | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS Read the rest

The first traveling library

Said to be the first example of a portable, miniaturized selection of books, this 17th-century traveling library toured England and was reportedly commissioned by William Hakewill, MP., who liked it so much he made several more.

The miniature library was contained in a wooden case, bound in brown turkey leather, disguising it as a large folio volume, containing three shelves of gold-tooled vellum-bound books.

Now it may not be backlit or be able to use Wi-Fi, but back in 17th century England only four families were lucky enough to have one.

Stella Butler, University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, said: 'The Jacobean travelling library - one of only four made - dates from 1617 and is one of the most curious items in the Brotherton Collection. The miniature books are contained in a wooden case disguised to look like a large book. It's essentially a 17th century e-book reader such as a Kindle.'

Is there a good "briefcase 'o books" you can buy nowadays? You can get plenty of sets, for sure, including miniature encyclopedias and classic fiction, but none are designed to travel. Read the rest

Life, Death, Ego and Eternity

This week on HOME: Stories From L.A.

The original Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in the hills above Glendale, may be best known outside California for inspiring the sledgehammer satire of the 1965 cult comedy "The Loved One." For tourists and curiosity-seekers, it's the gonzo life's work of Hubert Eaton, who memorialized himself as The Builder in the park's every corner. For the families of the people interred there, though, it's something more, and harder to joke away: A place of their own, green and quiet, and eternity-adjacent. 

This is the second episode of Season 5. You can catch up on the whole series at the iTunes Store. While you're there, please take a second to leave the show a rating and review. And you can subscribe right here:  

iTunes | Android | Email | Google Play | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS Read the rest

A brief history of Alice & Bob, cryptography's first couple

Alice and Bob are the hypothetical communicants in every cryptographic example or explainer, two people trying to talk with one another without being thwarted or overheard by Eve, Mallory and their legion of nefarious friends. Read the rest

Here's a beautiful map that helped American women earn voting rights

The Awakening by Henry Mayer is considered one of the finest pieces of political art of the 20th-century and is often mentioned as the most beautiful of the "suffrage maps." American women earned the vote from west to east before the right became federal law. Read the rest

Brief guide to what fruit and vegetables look like prior to domestication

From Business Insider; mostly unappetizing. Pictured here is the 17th century watermelon, as cropped from Giovanni Stanchi's c. 1650s painting.

They look rough, but would have tasted great.

The watermelon originally came from Africa, but after domestication it thrived in hot climates in the Middle East and southern Europe. It probably became common in European gardens and markets around 1600. Old watermelons, like the one in Stanchi's picture, likely tasted pretty good — Nienhuis thinks the sugar content would have been reasonably high, since the melons were eaten fresh and occasionally fermented into wine. But they still looked a lot different.

Read the rest

The Roman Empire as a modern subway transit map

Sasha Trubetskoy always makes great maps, like this cool imagining of the Roman Empire road system in the style of a public transit system. Read the rest

Nazi cache hidden behind a bookcase

A secret passageway led to an trove of smuggled Nazi artifacts, say investigators in Argentina, and their collector is in trouble with the law.

They were put on display at the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations in Buenos Aires on Monday. Many Nazi higher-ups fled to Argentina in the waning days of the war, and investigators believe that officials close to Adolf Hitler brought the artifacts with them. Many items were accompanied by photographs, some with Hitler holding them.

"This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects," Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told The Associated Press.

The objects include a device used to measure heads. Nazis believed that one could distinguish a Jew from someone belonging to the supposed Aryan race by head measurements.

[Thanks, Matthew!]

Previously: found a locked safe hidden at the back of a closet in my new house Read the rest

A surprisingly detailed history of choker necklaces

Beauty and fashion expert Safiya Nygaard digs into the long history of choker necklaces, which have been around since at least 2600 BC and have functioned as religious symbols, protective shielding, and, of course, fashion statements. Read the rest

18th century women wore secret, removable pockets

National Museums Liverpool details all the layers 18th century upper class British women were expected to wear each day. The best part? Secret, removable pockets! Read the rest

The Lost Arcade: documentary about Manhattan's last arcade

The Lost Arcade, a documentary about the encroachment of gentrficiation upon the last real video arcade in Manhattan, is now available to watch online.

Directed by Kurt P. Vincent, the story is as much about the Chinatown Fair's community as the games, celebrating the final years of a pop culture phenomenon that moved into our homes so slowly we never realized what we were losing.

"I wanted to create a film that would capture the spirit that hit me the first time I walked through those doors," writes Vincent. "There was a melting pot of a community that congregated there, where all walks of life came together and shared one common interest: video games. It was a microcosm of what New York was all about. Not the overpriced New York we've come to accept, but what this city originally stood for and still does when you look deep enough."

The Lost Arcade sheds a behind-the-scenes light into the demise of arcade culture, as it coincided with the rise of home console and online gaming, and showcases the dichotomy of how gamers connected then vs. now. But more importantly, it highlights the diversity and camaraderie among the competitive gamer community that arcades like Chinatown Fair were so uniquely able to foster.

View links: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, VHX, Vimeo, and Vudu.

Previously: The Lost Arcade: doc about rebirth of legendary NYC arcade Read the rest

More posts