Archives for category: History

It seems we’re at an inflection point, a duality that has significant consequences to our future.

This essay sums up the situation astutely. Competition or cooperation, we must decide.

Facebook’s answer for the future is all Facebook all the time.

Redef’s Set:

Ben Thomson is alarmed:

Manifestos and Monopolies

“One of these days they know they better get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone”

Some days are different from most. This day is one of them. Despite the mendacity, trampled hopes, disgraceful manners and flawed choices, today we must take a stand.

Ultimately, that is as good a definition of democracy as any: the right to be heard, to be counted, and to stand and insist that my voice matters and this is what I believe.

The hierarchy of who sat where at the Four Seasons Restaurant was a barometer of power and social position in New York for nearly 45 years.

The modernist dining room and bar enveloped in an array of shifting curtains, fine and decorative arts and furnishings, and windows reflecting changing light, provided a handsome backdrop for the intersection of Manhattan society and business, revealing public and private dynamics and drama, representing a seminal landmark of the second half of the American Century.

Its New American Cuisine of 1959 was initially innovative and increasingly uneven over time. But always it was an elegant place in which to be seen and to see others. Being there was as important as the quality of the food, and it served as a place and stage to practice the art of public power, social status and upscale living.

The 100th anniversary of the Somme Campaign recalls the unprecedented horror in which a million British, French and German soldiers were killed or wounded between July and November 1916. The British alone suffered 60,000 casualties on July 1st.

The Battle of the Somme is in many ways the inflection point dividing imperial 19th Century Europe from what would become the bloodbath and charnel house of the 20th Century. A new and unimaginably lethal modern warfare on a massive scale became reality. Wholesale death, total destruction and incomprehensible human suffering, would become almost routine in Europe and across the globe. The old world was smashed and the new one emerged shellshocked and delusional from the mud.

Today we see stuttering newsreels and photographs that reveal the ghosts of men, living and dying, amid shattered landscapes in a ruined world in which everything has been reduced to rubble and mud. We can see the monuments on the battlefields, in Europe’s great Capital cities, and in every village in England and the continent. We can pause to read their long lists of young men’s names on achingly sad memorials.

Let’s hope that this perception of American decline is a brief pause and not a trend, but rather a reconfiguration leading to new growth and vitality.

The British obituary is a singular literary expression, combining biography and compelling narrative to convey quality of character and the scope of accomplishment.

The Telegraph’s obituary is legendary, recalling both the remarkable and the quotidian details of an individual life and also expressing the special will and specific choices and opportunities taken that comprised a life and define humanity.

The military obituary is a unique subcategory, uniting British pluck, innate sense of duty, and specific acts of valor and astonishing heroism.


The New York Times “Opinionator Blog” and the History Channel’s App, “This Day in the Civil War” have been a remarkable daily chronology of the Civil War and a time machine transporting us back 150 years to the American Republic of the mid 19th Century. They have provided a fascinating window into the astonishing experiences of solders, leaders, families, and communities of the North and South. As we enter the final historical phase of the conflict we can only marvel at the sacrifices, horrors, and bravery of our ancestors.

These chronologies and commentaries illuminate a rich and complex world that is at once completely different than our own but strikingly familiar in many ways. On a prosaic note this recent account of the importance of coffee to the soldiers underscores the notion that some things haven’t changed over the intervening years.

It was a close thing, my father told me. Over the years much of what seemed remarkable about WWII has either receded into history or is lost in memory. Or, it turns out not to be so remarkable after all. But not D-Day. Its conceptual audacity, the astonishing scale and scope of its planning, and the stunning horror of the invasion itself, only grow in stature and significance over time.

As grand history and drama it is unsurpassed. But in many ways important historical events draw their significance from the individual stories of its participants. These combine and collectively add up to imbue events with a singular power. D-Day is no exception. On both historical dimensions and personal experiences it is the pivotal event of WWII for a generation of Americans who lived it.

One of these stories is my father’s, who was a young army sergeant in England in 1944. He watched and trained as the preparations for the Allied landings gathered traction and force. But his own experience of the Normandy invasion had been determined a few months before when in the fall of 1943 his division arrived in England. His group of 15,000 men were divided into two, each assigned to separate objectives.The group my father was a part of was directed to prepare for the invasion of Southern France in August 1944. The other group was assigned to what would become an early wave of the Normandy invasion forces. This group would land on the second day and fight its way across France to the German border nine months later, suffering high casualties of killed and wounded, seeing the fiercest fighting of the war in Europe.

My father knew that he had been very lucky and that the life he would go on to live likely would not have happened if he had been a soldier chosen for D-Day. I was lucky too.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.