Monday, July 4, 2011

The results are in for The Great Victorian Scavenger Hunt 2011!

So is it fame or shame for your Group in 2011???

There was a fair bit of twisting the rules that I didn't let people get away with this time. Pub beer coasters & pie bags do not count as business cards and the "Victoria" signs had to be on Victorian buildings - not on Galleries Victoria, etc... Hand written sings that said "Department of Education" were never going to work.

It does appear that some of you, judging from your pictures, simply treated the day as a chance to pick up men in uniform!! Mmmm

And so to this year's awards:

The Irish Famine Award goes to: Group 4 Lara, Lucia, Lauren, Sarah & Sharon on 633 points. Starving for points in last place, but a brave effort girls - well done!

The Charge of the Light Brigade Award goes to: Group 2 Shanaaz, Connie, Natasha & Jamie on 657 points. Not many left of you standing when the smoke of battle cleared away.

The Prince Albert Award goes to: Group 1 Sophia, Winnie, Carol & Renee on 697 points. A brave effort but your group died way before the end.

The Indian Mutiny Award goes to: Group 3 Maddy, Pearl, Clara & Esme on 745 points. They used every trick in the book, hand made signs, extra group members, fake photos from books, anything & everything to win in the true spirit of the British Empire. But they didn't! Sad really - but the rest of you probably don't think so, lol!

And so....

To first place...

The Queen Victoria Award goes to: Group 5 Bec, Brenna, Kayla & Caroline on 774 points. Congratulations on an outstanding effort. The only group to get to every single location and answer nearly every question correctly. Three cheeers for you!

So have a think about how the game can be improved for the next group.

Hope you had some fun!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Classified: the Secret History of the Personal Column

There is no longer any shame about being a lonely heart. Upmarket newspapers feature columns of classified ads in which men and women, straight and gay, seek wives or husbands or other thing we won't go into. The most literate are in the London Review of Books: “Well-educated 31-year-old London girl with sultry Mediterranean looks seeks sparkling conversationalist to take her out on an old-fashioned date. Age unimportant, opera tickets optional, good manners essential. Restaurant suggestions and your obscure intellectual passions to kismetxy.”

Apparently, more than 26 million British people used internet dating sites in 2007. There were 14 million users of Facebook; 12 million used Bebo. Classified ads make fortunes for newspapers and magazines – or used to – and can transform the fortunes of their lonely readers.

According to H.G. Cocks, who lectures in history at Nottingham University, the personal column has not always been so uncontroversial. One setback involved Link, founded in 1915 by Alfred Barrett and the first magazine devoted wholly to ads for lonely hearts. Six years later it was suppressed for corrupting public morals. R.A. Bennett, editor of Truth and an anti-prostitution campaigner, complained to Scotland Yard about some of its ads. One was from an “intensely musical” 24-year-old man looking for a “tall, manly Hercules”. There were others using similar code words in their quest for illegal homosexual connections. Soon afterwards the police arrested a man who was found to be carrying passionate love letters from another man and it emerged that their love affair had been kindled in the pages of Link. Barrett was charged with conspiring to enable the commission of unnatural acts and with corrupting public morals by introducing men to women for fornication. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.

Link may have been the first magazine for lonely hearts but Cocks shows that advertising for a wife or husband has been going on for centuries. He awards the first classified ad – a statement of ecclesiastical rules for the Easter festival – to William Caxton in 1477. But the first lonely hearts ads were published in the 1690s and matrimonial advertising was booming by the early 18th century. As they still are, they were often used to avoid parents or by men and women who were at odds with traditional forms of courtship and morality – at first homosexuals and lesbians, more recently others.

Those in authority, whether religious, political or military, have worried about what is going on between these consenting lonely hearts.

A few women who answered classified ads have got themselves murdered, for instance. Are the ads being used for white slavery? (In some cases, yes.) The military thought it was good for morale when Pte AC White, of the 1st Rifle Brigade – the loneliest man on the Western Front – was sent 800 presents, including 15 tuckboxes and 15 tins of sausages after a personal ad. But when a driver called Pennery, of the Field Artillery, got three sacks of post, one with 3,000 letters, it was too much and they worried about clogging up the post. They worried too that enemy agents would encourage soldiers to give away military secrets and the government banned advertising that invited officers or men to communicate with strangers.

Certain themes persist through four centuries of lonely hearts advertising. One is that however sexually advanced the age seems, there are always hundreds of thousands of lonely men and women in search of a wife or husband or partner. There are also thousands looking for other things. Another is that there are lonely hearts in all social classes.

Cocks believes that the internet has continued and accelerated the trends pioneered by Alfred Barrett. The benefits of anonymity and the opportunism involved in making use of new media, he contends, are still a way of getting beyond traditional types of authority, usually that of the family. The teenagers using Facebook are bypassing parental or social authority in the same way as the women who used personal ads in the 1820s – but self-revelation is now encouraged.

In telling the stories of those who use them, Cocks shows how personal columns were not only a vital way of making friends and meeting lovers but also of forging a community when homosexuality was still illegal, when being single past the age of 21 was seen as embarrassingly shameful and when the difficulty of divorce could make marriage seem an intolerable burden.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Queen Victoria would not have been amused.

The enormous Cunard oceanliner Queen Mary was supposed to be named after Queen Victoria.

The head of the Cunard Company visited King George V and told him that the new ship would be named after "the greatest of all English Queens."

Before he could get out another word the king replied, "Oh, my wife will be pleased."

And the "Queen Mary" came into being! lol True story!

Socratic Tea Ceremony! Priceless

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Queen Victoria, or why modern brides wear white!

As a royal wedding approaches it is good to reflect on some of our Year 11 work on Victoria's Empire. You can stun your friends as you watch the coverage - "on every channel"?????!!!! What about Friday night football???

When Jane Austen’s parents were married in 1764, the bride, Cassandra Leigh, wore a red riding habit to the ceremony. Cassandra was not being eccentric or making a fashion statement. Such dress was perfectly appropriate for a young woman from a genteel but not particularly wealthy family marrying a country parson.

Under such circumstances, the wedding dress was a practical garment, expected to be worn again on many occasions. This explained why black was a general favorite for the lower classes. As for the red wedding dress of the ever practical and thrifty Mrs. Austen, it too was used for many years, before being eventually recut as a riding jacket for her son Francis.

Bridal attire in 18th century France was much the same. White was a mourning color, and brides would wear it when they had recently lost a close relative. Otherwise, they dressed in their best finery, and color was a matter of taste and fashion.

But when in 1840 Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, all of this changed. The wedding was of course a momentous occasion, both politically and in terms of fashion.

The bride wore a gown of white satin, trimmed with white lace matching her veil, and a crown of orange blossoms. The only spot of color was the beautiful sapphire brooch Albert had given her as a wedding present.

Queen Victoria was a trendsetter in this regard and soon white became de rigueur for wedding gowns, at least among the upper classes. In France, though, more practical colors remained popular for those of modest means.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Where are we up to???

Year 11 people, did you finish Meiji?

Year 12 people, did you finish Leni?

Friday, April 15, 2011


Dates have a funny way of imposing a preconceived analysis on the past.

They can function by synecdoche: 1776 for the five years of the American Revolution, 1976 for the punk revolution and its aftermath. Or they can work by metonymy: 1789 stands for the dawn of modernity itself. Choosing a date with no such obvious implications can be gimmicky, but it can also serve a useful methodological purpose, drawing attention to the way we process time and give it meaning.

Mathematically and physically, the passage of time is neutral, any chunk of the past equivalent to any other. We give time meaning subjectively and socially: the first weeks at high school in our mental autobiographies, the Second World War in the social memory of so many nations. These periods of marked time swell up and fill our understanding of the past. Picking an ‘unmarked’ date can force us to rethink the unexamined hierarchies of importance that we assign to past ages and past events. What’s more, because we tend to process the past in terms of narrative, we leave out many things that don’t readily fit into the stories we tell.

By focusing on one ordinary, unmarked year, we can often make sense of the things we usually leave out because they just don’t belong; in the process, gimmick becomes useful method.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Civil War photographers completely changed popular perceptions of modern warfare.

The Civil War = black-and-white images of bearded Union generals or mustachioed Confederate colonels posing to one side of the camera, dead bodies stacked on the battlefield or common soldiers around a camp tent.

Looking back 150 years to the start of the Civil War this month, what impact did photography have on the war? On the people who lived during the time? What do these images tell us today about the soldiers and their families?

Photography changed the war in several ways. It allowed families to have a keepsake representation of their fathers or sons as they were away from home. Photography also enhanced the image of political figures like President Lincoln, who famously joked that he wouldn't have been re-elected without the portrait of him taken by photographer Matthew Brady.

Intense images of battlefield horrors were presented to the public for the first time at exhibits in New York and Washington, many later reproduced by engravings in newspapers and magazines of the time.

"Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it," wrote the New York Times on Oct. 20, 1862 about Brady's New York exhibit just a month after the bloody Battle of Antietam.

Photography had been around for over 20 years before the Civil War, but new techniques and commercialization led to its flowering just before conflict broke out. Bob Zeller, president of the Center for Civil War Photography in Abilene, Texas, says the invention of the tintype, which was a metal image, and the ambrotype, printed on glass, allowed for mass production of small photographs usually kept by families in wooden or glass cases.

"It was their most visceral, closest link to their loved ones," Zeller said. "For girlfriends or wives at home, the only thing they had was the ambrotype."

These images were taken by small-town photographers and traveling camp photographers, which combined topped 5,000 by the time war broke out in 1861, Zeller said. More than a million such images were produced during the war.

Officers had their photos taken as well and often passed them out to the men as a morale booster. New ways to reproduce photos gave birth to cards. The Library of Congress has produced an exhibit of soldier's portraits April 12 called "The Last Full Measure," based on a private collection.

The second kind of photo was the carte de visite. The carte de visite, or cdv, was also primarily a portrait photograph, except it was made with a glass, wet-plate negative, which meant unlimited copies could be created. Prints were made on albumen paper, according to the center. These portraits of generals, statesmen, actors and other celebrities were mass produced and given out like trading cards.

Some of the Civil War photographers, including Brady, have been criticized in recent years because it appears they moved corpses to create more graphic images. But Zeller said it wasn't a common occurrence. Given that each photographer need an entire wagon worth of equipment and chemicals, he said, these post-battle photographers faced their own set of challenges.

"Each time they moved, they had to secure bottles of chemicals and plate," Zeller said. "Each time they stopped, it had to be level." Photographers also battled flies that were attracted to photo chemicals, ether that made them woozy, and the stench of death.

"How they were able to look at the scenes of dead bodies and be calm enough to set up their equipment and try to portray reality, there is an unsung heroism there," said Alan Trachtenberg, retired professor of American history at Yale University. "It takes guts to do that."

Trachtenberg said military leaders on both sides also hired photographers to gain intelligence about enemy emplacements, roads, bridges and railroads.

Images of everyday life are also depicted for the first time in the Civil War, men playing cards, playing instruments or cleaning equipment. Black soldiers and slaves were also depicted for the first time, according to New York University professor Deborah Willis.

"The placing of the images was significant in identifying that black soldiers found their place in the war," Willis said. "They were working as soldiers and laborers. The fact is they also placed looked as if there are looking for hope."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I should be a spy!

Had dinner at "Frontline" tonight (the Foreign Correspondents Club in London) and sitting two tables away was Julian Assange the WikiLeaks guy.

The CIA might not be able to find him, but I did. lol

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A 5,000-year-old gay caveman?

Five thousand years after he died, the first known gay caveman has emerged into the daylight.

According to archaeologists, the way he was buried suggests that he was of a different sexual orientation.

The skeleton of the late Stone Age man, unearthed during excavations in the Czech Republic, is said to date back to between 2900 and 2500 BC.

During that period, men were traditionally buried lying on their right side with the head pointing towards the west; women on their left side with the head facing east.

In this case, the man was on his left side with his head facing west. Another clue is that men tended to be interred with weapons, hammers and flint knives as well as several portions of food and drink to accompany them to the other side.

Women would be buried with necklaces made from teeth, pets, and copper earrings, as well as domestic jugs and an egg-shaped pot placed near the feet.

The 'gay caveman' was buried with household jugs, and no weapons.

Archaeologists do not think it was a mistake or coincidence given the importance attached to funerals during the period, known as the Corded Ware era because of the pottery it produced.

'From history and ethnology, we know that people from this period took funeral rites very seriously so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake,' said lead researcher Kamila Remisova Vesinova.

'Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual orientation, homosexual or transvestite. What we see here does not add up to traditional Corded Ware cultural norms.'

An oval, egg-shaped container usually associated with female burials was also found at the feet of the skeleton.

Another member of the archaeological team, Katerina Semradova, said that colleagues had uncovered an earlier case dating from the Mesolithic period where a female warrior was buried as a man.

She added that Siberian shamans, or witch doctors, were also buried in this way but with richer funeral accessories appropriate to their elevated position in society.

'This later discovery was neither of those. We believe this is one of the earliest cases of what could be described as a transvestite or third-gender grave in the Czech Republic.'

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Triumph of the Will

Del posted that you have just watched 'Triumph of the Will'.

I know it gets rave reviews from film people for style and propaganda people for effectiveness, but I don't get it! Maybe it's because I am old and so far separated by time, but I find it profoundly boring. To me, you can only see so many swastikas, so many SS men, hear so many rousing speeches, before it all becomes a bit ho hum.

I want you to consider this. A friend of mine who was in car sales once told me that those ads for cars that don't really mention any price or deal, but simply show the car purring along on country roads with beautiful people inside, etc... were not actually intended to "sell" me a car.They were actually made to help reinforce / convince people who already owned that brand that they had made the right choice, that they were part of an exclusive club. So that they would be happy with their purchase and be brand loyal at their next purchase.

If this is the case with 'Triumph of the Will', that it wasn't really designed to sell Nazi beliefs to non-believers, but reinforce the loyalty of Nazis themselves, is what Riefenstahl has done here really that important? Is Riefenstahl really that important if she is only making feel good movies for the Nazis? Is it then really propaganda???

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back in Oxford and Spring has sprung

The daffodils are out everywhere Bec!! It is already beautiful and this is just out our gate.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

This where I am staying in Athens

It is called Fresh Hotel and is located in an area called Monistaraki, all back alleys, little coffee shops and bars, etc... I think it may get a bit seedy late at night . I have heard a few piercing screams come through my window in the wee hours. lol The hotel itself is way too kool for me. It is Wallpaper Magazines pick for places to stay in Athens. So lots of designers, models and fashion people. But I have met some very interesting people.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hi all from "sunny" London!

Shock! Amazement! It is SUNNY in London and it's still only March. Don't tell me there isn't any global warming. lol

I am staying at Paddington this time. Paddington sunny?? What next.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Marvelous Hairy Girls

Maddalena, Francesca and Antonietta were the daughters of Petrus Gonzales (c 1537-1618). Along with their father and their brothers, Enrico and Orazio, they exhibited the symptoms of a dermatological anomaly called hypertrichosis universalis: much of their bodies, including the face and hands, were covered with hair. The condition is extremely rare with "fewer than fifty cases... documented world-wide since the sixteenth century".

Paradoxically, the inconspicuousness of such a noticeable family as the Gonzaleses in the historiography indicates the tunnel vision, according to Merry Wiesner-Hanks, of much historical method, and their "re-emergence is linked with the expansion of history itself, from a largely political and military story to one that explores every aspect of human experience and every type of person".

In restoring the hairy girls to our historical purview, Wiesner-Hanks' project is symptomatic of a shift in the practice of history itself that opens it up to its cognate and constituent branches: "art history, the history of science and medicine, the history of ideas, the history of popular culture and folklore, the history of marginalised groups, the history of human oddities". This enfranchisement of hitherto dispossessed histories both relies upon and follows consequentially the development of "feminist theory, post-colonial theory, queer theory, disability theory, and yes, even monster theory". In this way, The Marvelous Hairy Girls is at once a consideration of the Gonzales' "double identity" (since they were both "freaks of nature" and were regular residents at the court of Henry II of France) and a meta-history, concerned to reflect on the traditional priorities of the discipline while drawing hitherto marginal concerns back to the centre.

But in attempting to reconfigure conventional historical programmes, particularly where documentary evidence is thin on the ground, Wiesner-Hanks is, from time to time, forced to hypothesise: "I have tried as much as possible (and probably more than I should, as a historian and not a novelist) to include some speculations about what they themselves might have thought, how they might have understood the worlds in which they lived." As she concedes, the book is somewhere between a historical study and a creative fiction. It is thus a work of popular history rather than a scholarly or original investigation.

Much here is familiar. Wiesner-Hanks provides discussions of early modern travel and exploration; marriage and the status of women; European religious strife; the life of the courtier; medicine and childbirth and the rise of the new science. But the book's strength is that all of these topics are discussed vivaciously as contexts or (in the term used in the subtitle) "worlds" that the Gonzales family inhabited and from which their medical condition may have taken on further and unfamiliar meanings. For instance, the fact that Petrus was born on Tenerife is discussed in the light of westward exploration and contemporary encounters between Europeans and indigenous peoples so that his hairiness is another of those exotic or "monstrous" physical qualities displayed by mythical creatures described by Pliny or, in drama, by Shakespeare.

Elsewhere, monstrous births are discussed as prodigies from God in order to warn against or even punish sinful behaviour; Wiesner-Hanks notes that Augustine linked the words monstrum ("monster") and monstrare ("to point to"). What we nowadays consider to be unfortunate congenital deformities were signs of God's anger: clearly, the birth of a hairy child would have carried such a portentous significance.

In setting her discussion of the lives and afterlives of this unusual family within broader epistemic horizons, Wiesner-Hanks provides not only a tantalising glimpse into early modern philosophy, medicine and science, but also a shrewd consideration of the changing face(s) of history.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I will be flying back to London next weekend! Yipee!

H. Rochester Sneath

In 1948, the head of Marlborough College public school received a letter from H. Rochester Sneath, headmaster of Selhurst school, "near Petworth, Sussex". Sneath wished to warn his colleague against hiring a French teacher named Robert Agincourt:

"During his stay no less than five boys were removed from the school as a result of his influence, and three of the Matrons had nervous breakdowns. The pictures on the walls of his rooms made a visiting Bishop shudder and would certainly rule out another Royal visit. His practices were described by the Chairman of the County Hospital as 'Hunnish'. The prominent wart on his nose was wittily described as "the blot on the twentieth century'' by a visiting conjurer. His personal appearance is against him, and, after one memorable Carol Service, a titled Lady who was sitting next to him collapsed in a heap.

He was once observed climbing a tree in the School Grounds naked at night and on another occasion he threw a flower pot at the wife of the Chairman of the Board of Governors. Should you wish any further information, I should be glad to furnish it."

Sneath, and indeed Selhurst School were fictitious products of the imagination of Humphry Berkeley (1926-94), at that time a Cambridge Undergraduate. 'Sneath' wrote to several public school heads. He asked the head of Stowe whether it was advisable to provide sex education for school maids. To the head of Tonbridge he wrote: "Dear Rootie, You will doubtless remember old ‘Tubby’ Sneath — well it will give you a helluva shock, you old bounder, because last year I took on the Headship here. Do you remember prophesying my early death in a South American brothel?"

Most fell for the hoax. One who did not was the head of Wimbledon College, whom Sneath had invited to exorcise a ghost haunting Selhurst. He replied: “It will be necessary for you to have ready for me the usual Bell, Book and Candle, a gallon of holy water and a packet of salt ... These operations usually take some time, and remuneration is at the rate of a guinea an hour. An essential condition for success is that all present (myself excepted) should be fasting for at least 24 hours before the ceremony begins.”

When Berkeley was rumbled he was rusticated for two years, but returned in triumph. In later life he was a Conservative MP and in 1965 introduced a bill to legalise male homosexual relations in line with the Wolfenden Report's recommendations. He later fell out with the Conservatives over the Vietnam War and their support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa and joined the Labour Party. He subsequently joined the SDP, and then Labour again.

Berkeley published a bestselling book about the Selhurst hoax, The Life and Death of Rochester Sneath in 1974.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gotta love the Middle Ages!!!

The next time you're washing yourself and complain that the water temperature isn't to your liking, think how it was for people living in the Middle Ages.

Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good in June. However, they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the sons and other men, then the women, and finally the children - last of all the babies. By then, the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it; hence the saying, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs; thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, rats, and bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof; hence the saying "it's raining cats and dogs." There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This was a real problem in the bedroom, where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. A bed with big posts and a sheet over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt; hence the saying, "dirt poor."

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh on the floor to help their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until it would all start slipping outside when you opened the door. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway, a "thresh hold."

In those days people cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while; hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which was quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread which was so old and hard that it could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed. Sometimes worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burned bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock people out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up; hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small, and they started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and take the bones to a "bone house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 were found to have scratch marks on the inside, and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground, and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 'Black History' Of America's White House (from NPR)

More than one in four U.S. presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery. These presidents bought, sold, bred and enslaved black people for profit. Of the twelve presidents who were enslavers, more than half kept people in bondage at the White House. For this reason there is little doubt that the first person of African descent to enter the White House — or the presidential homes used in New York (1788–1790) and Philadelphia (1790–1800) before construction of the White House was complete — was an enslaved person. That person's name and history are lost to obscurity and the tragic anonymity of slavery, which only underscores the jubilation expressed by tens of millions of African Americans — and perhaps billions of other people around the world — 220 years later on November 4, 2008, when the people of the United States elected Barack Obama to be the nation's president and commander in chief. His inauguration on January 20, 2009, drew between one and two million people to Washington, D.C., one of the largest gatherings in the history of the city and more than likely the largest presidential inauguration to date. Taking into account the tens of millions around the globe who watched the event live via TV or Internet, it was perhaps the most watched inauguration in world history. It was of great international interest that for the first time in U.S. history, the "first family" in the White House was going to be a black family.

Obama has often stated that he stands on the shoulders of those who came before him. In terms of the White House, this has generally been seen to mean those presidents he admires, such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, who all inspired him in his political career. However, he is also standing on the shoulders of the many, many African Americans who were forced to labor for, were employed by, or in some other capacity directly involved with the White House in a wide array of roles, including as slaves, house servants, elected and appointed officials, Secret Service agents, advisers, reporters, lobbyists, artists, musicians, photographers, and family members, not to mention the activists who lobbied and pressured the White House in their struggle for racial and social justice. As the Obama family resides daily in the White House, the narratives of these individuals resonate throughout their home.

The black history of the White House is rich in heroic stories of men, women, and youth who have struggled to make the nation live up to the egalitarian and liberationist principles expressed in its founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. For over 200 years African Americans and other people of color were legally disenfranchised and denied basic rights of citizenship, including the right to vote for the person who leads the country from the White House. But despite the oppressive state of racial apartheid that characterized the majority of U.S. history, in the main, as Langston Hughes reminds us, black Americans have always claimed that they too are American.

At the end of the nineteenth century, when Jim Crow segregation and "separate but equal" black codes were aggressively enforced throughout the South, few African Americans were permitted to even visit the White House. As Frances Benjamin Johnston's 1898 photo on the cover of this book indicates, however, black children were allowed to attend the White House's annual Easter egg–rolling ceremony. Permitting black children to integrate with white children on the White House premises one day a year was acceptable, even though such mingling was illegal in many public spaces throughout the South at the time, including libraries and schools.

The Easter egg–rolling tradition had begun on the grounds of the Capitol, but concern over damage to the grounds led to the 1876 Turf Protection Law, which ended the practice at that site. Two years later, President Hayes — who had won the presidency by promising to withdraw federal troops protecting African Americans in the South from whites who opposed black voting and political rights — opened the White House's south lawn for the event. By the time of Johnston's photo, the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision legalizing segregation had been implemented, the last of the black politicians elected to Congress would soon be gone by 1901, and accommodationist black leader Booker T. Washington, who was also photographed by Johnston, was on the ascendant.

For many African Americans, the "white" of the White House has meant more than just the building's color; it has symbolized the hue and source of dehumanizing cruelty, domination, and exclusion that has defined the long narrative of whites' relations to people of color in the United States. Well before President Theodore Roosevelt officially designated it the "White House" in October 1901, the premises had been a site of black marginalization and disempowerment, but also of resistance and struggle. Constructed in part by black slave labor, the home and office of the president of the United States has embodied different principles for different people. For whites, whose social privileges and political rights have always been protected by the laws of the land, the White House has symbolized the power of freedom and democracy over monarchy. For blacks, whose history is rooted in slavery and the struggle against white domination, the symbolic power of the White House has shifted along with each president's relation to black citizenship. For many whites and people of color, the White House has symbolized the supremacy of white people both domestically and internationally. U.S. nativists with colonizing and imperialist aspirations understood the symbolism of the White House as a projection of that supremacy on a global scale.

Centuries of slavery, brutally enforced apartheid, and powerful social movements that ended both, are all part of the historical continuum preceding the American people's election of Barack Obama. Few people, black or otherwise, genuinely thought that they would live to see what exists today: a black man commanding the presidency of the United States and a black family running the White House. Despite important advances in public policy and popular attitude since the social movements of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, for the many people of color who lived through the segregation era and experienced the viciousness of racists, the complicity of most of their white neighbors, and the callous disregard and participation of city, state, and national authorities, Obama's election was a moment never imagined. It was never imagined, in part, because of the misleading and unbalanced history we have been taught.

From The Black History Of The White House by Clarence Lusane. Copyright 2011 by Clarence Lusane. Excerpted by permission of City Lights.

Monday, February 21, 2011

From Del

I don't think this needs any explanation. lol

From Julianne Lilley

Australian filmmaker uncovers Nazi propaganda films shot in 3D, featuring sausages!!!! Yes sausages!!! Didn't I tell you!!! lol

FILMMAKERS have been trying to make the perfect 3D movie for more than a century, but not always in Hollywood.

Australian director Philippe Mora has found two Nazi propaganda films shot in 3D while searching through Germany's Federal Archives.

The two black-and-white movies were made in 1936 and referred to as "raum film", or "space film". They each run for half an hour.

"The films are shot on 35mm — apparently with a prism in front of two lenses," Mora told Variety.

"The quality of the films is fantastic. The Nazis were obsessed with recording everything and every single image was controlled — it was all part of how they gained control of the country and its people."

Mora was scouring the archives for material for his new documentary on Nazi Germany, and believes more 3D footage will be found.

One of the films is a musical, titled So Real You Can Touch It, featuring close-ups of sizzling bratwurst, Variety reported.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tiergarten Quelle, Tiergarten, Berlin

DISCOVERY FIVE (Well... not really. I always go there when I'm in Berlin.)

I love this pub. When I stay in Berlin I always try to stay near the Tiergarten - it's like Hyde Park in Sydney but much much much bigger! But it is right in the middle of Berlin. I like the Novotel am Tiergarten because you can walk up to the Brandenburg Gate or across to the KuDam really easily. But... also because the Tiergarten Quelle (Cellar) pub is walking/stumbling distance & they serve Lemke Beer - which is my favourite because the Lemkes are the German side of my family.

And....... I almost forgot......... the food is really good.

My wife absolutely hates the place. "It's too dark". "It's too noisy". "It's filled with bikers". Moan moan moan!!! But I love it. It is dark, grungy and ABSOLUTELY Berlin!!! lol

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hitler and the Germans Nation and Crime - The Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin


I visited the first major NAZI & HITLER exhibition at a German museum since World War Two when I was in Berlin a couple of weeks ago.

Curators: Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Thamer, Dr. Simone Erpel, Klaus-Jürgen Sembach

Sixty-five years after the end of the Second World War Hitler and National Socialism still remain explosive issues. Every generation poses similar questions:
How was Hitler’s rise possible? How could Hitler and National Socialism, which were responsible for war, crimes and genocide, count on widespread acceptance by German society until the very end? Why were so many Germans willing to align their conduct with the »Führer« and thus actively support the Nazi dictatorship?

The exhibition seeks answers to these questions by examining not only the phenomenon of Hitler, but also German society and its significance for the rule of National Socialism.

Young Hitler was an unprepossessing character. There was nothing about him that seemed to predestine him to rise to power. Nonetheless he was soon surrounded by devout followers and came to be the most powerful man in Europe. His power can therefore not be explained simply on the basis of his personal characteristics. More important are the socio-political conditions and the mindset of the German people at this time. He mobilized their social fears and hopes and utilized them for his own purposes. The dictatorship rested on mass enthusiasm and approval, but also on violence, murder and physical annihilation.

The exhibition shows the interconnection between Hitler’s personal power and the hopes and interests of large sections of German society. Hitler could not have consolidated his dictatorship without the population’s acceptance of his role as »Führer«. In the process, German society became more and more deeply enmeshed in the politics of the »Führer State«, which promised the people work, advancement, prosperity and the reinstatement of former national grandeur. National Socialist politics packaged these enticements in the rhetoric of the »Volksgemeinschaft«, the myth of a »national community«. Its societal practice comprised the seeming integration of the »Volksgenossen«, the members of this nation, as well as the exclusion of the »Gemeinschaftsfremden« – those »alien« to the community. The Nazi politics led to the erosion of state structures and moral values. It ended in destruction and annihilation.

Follow this link and have a look at how they handled this very big / dangerous task. Excellent for Modern History students & HEX students for the topic of public history. There is an interactive at the bottom of the page that leads you through the various stages and exhibits - almost like the paragraphs of an essay:

I am interested in what you think of it!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Frauenkirche, Dresden


Dresden, Germany, was once a filigree of spires and steeples, depicted in numerous 18th- and 19th-century paintings. But on February 13, 1945, the city center was destroyed by an Allied firebombing so intense that the flames burned for five days and burned thousands of people alive. It still stood after the bombing for three days and people said that it was a miracle and a message from god. And then it collapsed. Mmmm For the next half century, the 1743 Frauenkirche - 'Church of Our Lady' in German - the city's most recognizable landmark—lay in ruins, a pile of charred rubble. The stones were nearly cleared for a parking lot during the Communist era, until a quick-thinking resident convinced the government of the ruin's merit as anti-capitalist propaganda. In the 1980's, demonstrators adopted the site for nonviolent protests against the East German regime. After the Berlin Wall came down, locals campaigned to rebuild the structure, eventually winning the support of the church and the government. The reconstruction project began in 1994. Thousands of stones were salvaged from the rubble and placed in their original positions, determined by computer simulation; the rest were excavated from the quarry used when the church was first built. And now its just Wow!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rusalka @ Semperoper Dresden


First opera I have ever been to that people actually booed. lol It was a bit like a footy match with different parts of the audience trying to drown the other out with either clapping or booing. I liked it and had a great night. But I did slip over a few times on the ice on the way home.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ten things that I discovered during these holidays!


About Thyme Bar & Bistro - 82 Wilton Road, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DL

Great location in Pimlico. Five star food, but nice and casual, not one of those restaurants where you feel uncomfortable if you aren't in Gucci. But it is packed out every night. You MUST book early. Best to do it a couple of days ahead if you can, but if you book on the day you will probably get a table if you eat early.

Where I had:

A dozen Snails Baked in the Shell with Garlic, Brandy, Parsley and Pernod Butter £7.50

Barbary Duck's Breast, Potato Rosti, Braised Red Cabbage and Red Currant Jus £15.50

Tia Maria, Espresso and Baileys Creme Brulee £5.50

with a

Les Jamelles Marsanne, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2006 £17.50

A very yummy discovery and excellent value by London standards.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An Interesting Discovery - The Abandoned Hospital Where Hitler Once Convalesced

This is decaying Beelitz-Heilstätten, a "men's sanatorium" just outside Berlin where Hitler recovered from war wounds during World War I. Today it is abandoned and could be the setting for a horror movie.

Beelitz-Heilstätten is an amazing complex of 60 abandoned and derelict hospital buildings. The oldest buildings are from 1898. The complex became a war hospital during WW1. In 1916 Adolf Hitler recovered here after being shot in the leg at the Battle of the Somme. The movie 'The Pianist' was partly shot here.