Archives for category: History

“In wildness is the preservation of the world” wrote Henry David Thoreau.

A new biography and David Brinkley mark Thoreau’s 200th birthday anniversary.

Take a walk, observe closely and “Live the life you have imagined.”

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.