It might sound like I’m making a value judgment here, that traditional is better than historical. Really, I’m arguing for an awareness of context. There are some traditions that don’t exist anymore. There are some things that really are gone. But it’s not as much as you think. Participating in history, appreciating history, shouldn’t come with a disregard for the present. My point is that before you label something as historical, limited to the past, you should investigate whether it actually still exists in some form in the present.
We’re in a semantic age, when battles are fought over the words we use to refer to people or experiences, and lines are drawn through vocabulary. In a non-political arena, I’m having a similar fight over the specific words historians use. How important are these distinctions, really?Read More
After I reacquainted myself with my sewing machine, learned a bit more fundamental sewing skills, and finally understood how to work from a pattern, I spent about a year filling in my wardrobe with everything I’d been missing. I’m still in process with some things, including some everyday shirts, but once the process of making my own clothes got kind of mundane, I started making clothes for other people. And after making the same dress for the third time, I learned what I already knew about myself – I don’t like repetitive activities. So, armed with pretty good sewing skills at this point, a new project started to tug at me. A medieval outfit.Read More
The US had an attempted coup on Wednesday.Read More
It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that coffee sales are down as a result of the pandemic. Like makeup and gasoline, coffee is less in demand when people aren’t leaving their houses, and like the restaurant industry as a whole, coffee shops often rely on foot traffic or at the very least gathering indoors, both of which are currently discouraged. This is a good moment, as coffee is a little less present in our lives, to question why coffee is such a part of particularly American culture and whether it should be.Read More
As a progressive in 2020, you’d have to be willfully ignorant to think that there are no problems with Thanksgiving. But unlike, say, the former Columbus Day, this holiday isn’t just a day off. For a lot of Americans, myself included, this day has been one of the most important yearly events of family gathering for their entire lives. Is there a way to keep that going, or should we let Thanksgiving retire?Read More
There is a conflict bubbling between professional and amateur historians over directly addressing current social issues when talking about history. On one side, people who enjoy hearing about topics like the ins and outs of the Roman Empire claim that there is an unbiased way to present history, without judgement from the present. On the other side, people who write the stories of these topics claim that it’s important to understand the complexity of the past and that all history is biased. I’m not going to make any pretense toward a both sides argument here. History is biased and political, and everyone needs to know that.Read More
How the digital age is democratizing history, and spreading misinformation.
Like most people who’ve seen it, I’m feeling that the new Netflix series on the history of the video game industry is… lackluster. The problem is that it’s a history of the industry. The major points in the story are technological paradigm shifts, legal battles, and corporate marketing strategies. These highlights are filled in with personal stories from people who enjoyed the commercial product as kids, people who are overwhelmingly white or male. But even when the series manages to highlight contributions or experiences from a more diverse group – the Black engineer who developed the cartridge system, the woman who pioneered graphic RPGs, the gay man who made a pride game in the middle of the AIDS crisis – these just feel thin, like drops in the bucket that don’t capture what made video games important. Part of the problem is the storytelling, which seems to assume that its audience is simultaneously middle aged white men who grew up playing games or programming, and young kids who know absolutely nothing about anything. But the bigger problem is one of historical discipline – video games might be an industry, but they are also a cultural phenomenon, and their history has to be a cultural one.Read More
Recently, I’ve seen a couple different variations on this meme:Read More