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
I got irrationally angry today when I read this New Yorker article. It should be obvious by now that I have very strong opinions about history in general and certain topics in particular, one being the Black Death. And so when large publications make claims about the Black Death that I find … problematic … I react strongly. My exact words to the person who sent me this article were “I despise what they wrote”. So, I’m here on my personal soapbox to shout into the void that the Black Death didn’t cause the Renaissance and this kind of silver lining thinking is misguided.Read More
A brief history of mental health over the last 20 years.
Amid the Coronavirus scramble that has left my local Costco completely bare of hand soap, sanitizing wipes, and tissues, I had the completely irrelevant thought this morning that I haven’t washed my hair in weeks. I’ve done plenty to care for my hair – cowash, conditioner, combing, rinsing – but I haven’t used shampoo in an effort to bring my deflating curls back to life. This may sound gross or weird initially, but as the many curl support groups are fond of explaining, I’m just allowing my natural oils to coat my hair again, while only removing dirt and buildup. As disconnected as these two phenomena are, they have a common cause: since the early 20th century, we have been obsessed with disinfectants.Read More
It’s just as unreasonable to think that a piece of paper gauze will stop you from getting sick as it is to think that a plaster mask stuffed with herbs will. But that’s the problem with how we remember major infectious disease events of the past – we remember that people died, but we don’t think a lot about how we might be repeating their mistakes.